Wave of support for Lambeg drummers restricted by council

The Sterritt family of Markethill, Co Armagh has been limited to one hour's practice a week by a council order
The Sterritt family of Markethill, Co Armagh has been limited to one hour's practice a week by a council order

A family of Lambeg drummers ordered by their local council to keep the noise down or risk a £5,000 fine say they have been “overwhelmed” by an outpouring of support from locals and fellow musicians.

A list of restrictions was hand delivered by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to widowed mother-of-six Kelley Sterritt, from Markethill in Armagh, earlier this month.

The Sterritt family has a long tradition spanning generations of playing Lambeg drums at the property close to Gosford Forest Park, but a recent “noise nuisance” complaint has resulted in an order that limits drum practice to a total of one hour per week.

Mrs Sterritt’s five sons were taught to play by their late father, Richard, who was described as an “internationally recognised” expert in Lambeg drumming.

Depending on the day of the week, drumming at the Sterritt home is restricted to between 10am and 2pm, and between 4pm and 7pm, but only on two chosen days and for no more than 30 minutes in total on each of those two days.

Mrs Sterritt, whose husband passed away in 2016, has notified the council that her family will not abide by the restrictions as her sons need to practice and tune the instruments immediately before each competition or event.

She has been given the backing of, amongst others, the Irish traditional music group the Armagh Rhymers.

Dara Vallely, who founded the group in the 1970s, told the News Letter the boys must be allowed to practice to keep the cultural tradition alive.

He recalled fond memories of Richard Sterritt and described him as an “internationally recognised” musician.

“The Armagh Rhymers and Richard, the whole family really right back to Richard’s father as well, had so many great occasions coming together,” Mr Vallely said.

“I have fond memories of Richard. We were over at the Smithsonian (Museum) in Washington DC together – this was for an event run by ethnomusicians at the Smithsonian Museum.

“The marvellous thing was that when the Troubles were going on, it seemed like every time we got together with Richard and the rest of them in Markethill it was just about singing and the music. It was like an oasis. Any politics were left outside.

“He had an international reputation.

“You don’t get to that level of international recognition without practice, and without competition. You have to practice, and Richard’s kids need that. Even the expertise in putting the drum together – you can’t have any break in that (tradition).”

Mrs Sterritt told the News Letter: “I’m overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve been getting. But we knew people would support us, we knew we could count on people who had told us they would be with us 100% – even strangers, people from all over, and posts on social media.”

A spokesperson for the council told the News Letter earlier this month: “The council can confirm an abatement notice in respect of a statutory noise nuisance has been served and is part of an ongoing investigation.

“Councils have a statutory duty to investigate noise complaints and if a nuisance is established the council is obliged to serve an abatement notice.”