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My research looks at marching bands in working-class Protestant communities in Derry, Northern Ireland. I seek to explore the ways certain styles of sound in music and speech come to be associated with certain classed and politicized dispositions. The ‘blood and thunder’ genre of music is perceived by some as loud and ‘rough’ and has connotations of rowdiness and sectarianism. I propose that there are connections between the ways people speak and the kinds of music they play. I look at the way this combined style of speech and music interacts with other styles of political/community representation in Derry, particularly at the work of community groups trying to re-brand this sound style as more ‘respectable’. This therefore draws on acoustemologies and how ideas of representation come to be linked to particular phenomenological experiences of sound.




The East Bank Protestant Boys are a ‘blood and thunder’ marching band, playing on the west side of the city in this photo. Many working-class Protestants in Derry speak about not ‘being heard’ in the city. Marching on this side of the river is one of the times the interlocutors expressed a sense of feeling heard. Being ‘heard’ is literal and metaphorical at the same time: the sounds one makes being heard but also feeling ‘represented’ on an imagined wider political level. Effective political representation in the city often involves an ‘articulate’ style of speaking associated with middle class culture and mainstream electoral politics. This contrasts with the oft-perceived ‘inarticulateness’ of band members. Blood and thunder music can be understood as an alternative style of representation that is very physical, non-linguistic, and intensely affectual – as can be seen to some extent in this picture.


A bonfire in the majority-Protestant Fountain area of Derry which was burnt on the 11th July 2021 to commemorate the Battle of the

Boyne in 1690. A collection of flags representing symbolic enemies are burnt: the Irish flag, the Palestine flag (due to the Catholic community’s solidarity with Palestine and a comparable settler-native dynamic), the Starry Plough (flag of the Irish Citizen Army, an early-20th century Irish Socialist Republican movement), and the Irish Republic Socialist Party flag. To the left is a mural expressing a sense of being ‘under siege’ but remaining defiant. Defiance and stubbornness (locally termed thranness) were often articulated by Derry Protestants as distinctively Protestant qualities. Some interlocutors drew links between thranness and the musical qualities of the ‘blood and thunder’ musical genre as an expression of a defiant Protestant identity.



One of the bonfire builders walks in front of the flames after throwing his drink into the fire. The bonfire builders are often described by community workers as ‘nihilistic’ and depicted as the embodiment of disengagement from mainstream political practices and structures. Many bonfire builders in practice engage enthusiastically with politics, but the intense affect of the fire and its associations with drunken mayhem are abstracted as a symbol of this ‘political nihilism’ by some people.