Mixing Our Musical Talent With Good Causes: Ulster's U-Band

In 2013, a group of Ulster Bank colleagues who wanted to bring together their passion for music and doing the right thing, began their journey as the musical group U-Band, who now regularly perform gigs together.

The diverse musical group contains members from all over Ulster Bank; including people from areas such as Corporate Markets, HR, IT, Property, Customer Services, Catering, and those who are leadership programme coaches. The band isn’t just about having bit of fun for the Ulster Bank colleagues, they’ve been raising money for charity, playing around 12 gigs a year for various good causes. Most recently, the band have been able to raise an astonishing €12,000 for a boy named Finn, who has Cerebral Palsy.

Dublin-based Michelle O’Connell, a member of the band from Ulster’s Operational Risk team, told me about the wonderful work the band has been up to with Finn, and how for her it all got started.

I’m with the band

Michelle explained, “I’m from a musical background, and I’d played in a band years ago, so I was really excited when I found out about U-Band! I missed playing, but now that I had a family, I wasn’t really able to make time for music in my personal life, so I relished the chance to join when I was asked”.

As well as being able to reignite her musical passion on stage, Michelle’s greatest pride in the band surrounded the huge amount of money they’d raised for great causes, and the real differences made to peoples’ lives. They’d already raised a lot of much needed money for the homeless, the elderly, as well as victims of abuse – and there were no plans to stop.

“The sense of achievement we get from playing together is brilliant, with our colleagues being our biggest fans, it’s such a boost to play! Just from having a bit of craic on-stage, we’ve managed to raise over €125,000 for various charities so far!”

Rising to the challenge for Finn

“I’d heard about Finn because he was in my son’s class at school. He has Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, meaning he had very little control over his limbs, and is in a wheelchair. He’s a great boy, and goes to school with a special needs assistant. I saw on Facebook that there was a fundraiser being put together to help raise money for an operation so Finn would be able to walk again. The challenge was that the pioneering treatment was only available in the US, and it cost €100,000.” Michelle tells me.

Michelle contacted Finn’s mother and told her about the band. She asked if U-Band could play a gig to raise some of the money for Finn’s operation. Finn’s mother was thrilled, and said she was so grateful that the band had offered to help.

“The local community really got behind us, and they went above and beyond for Finn. The local printer provided posters, and a concert venue even offered us the use of their venue for free, the support was fantastic” Michelle told me.

The band met weekly for rehearsals ahead of the gig, and they invited Finn to join them at the studio.

“His favourite show was The X Factor, so you can imagine how happy it made him being there in the studio watching us play!” said Michelle.

The big night

“The gig went really well! Finn, the band and the audience had so much fun. We’d done a lot of gigs for good causes, but this time was very special. We’d really bonded with the person we were raising money for, it was very moving to see Finn really enjoying himself, and the massive amount of money the gig brought in” Michelle explained.

After the gig, Finn was invited to make a speech to everyone.

“His speech was amazing” says Michelle, “At the end of the gig, we all knew we’d done something that’s going to make a real difference to someone’s life, and the best part was that we did it together as colleagues, so we became closer too”.

The aim was to raise at least €4,000, but the band ended up being able to raise €12,000.

“That amount made a huge difference to Finn and his family; it was so brilliant, we were able to do so well with the backing of the local community. We had a wonderful amount of support, including from Ulster Bank, who allowed me and some of the band members to leave work early on occasion, working more flexibly so we could find time to practice”.

Michelle credits her colleagues, adding that without their support, it wouldn’t have been possible.

“They’ve donated money, as well as helping to promote the gig, and of course enthusiastically attending it themselves!” she tells me, “I’m so proud of everyone who got involved”.

Finn’s Future

A month after U-Band’s gig, enough money was raised, and Finn was on an aeroplane travelling to the US to finally have his operation.

“His operation was a big success, and to have had a part in raising the money for him was amazing, we’re all so happy for Finn” said Michelle.

Finn now has better control of his legs, and is now able to walk up the road on his own with no wheelchair and only a walker to assist, which is something he and his family could only have previously dreamed of.

“Finn has returned to school, and loves showing off his much more active legs, for the first time in his life, his heels can touch the ground.”

Michelle explains to me, “For the band and I, it’s so rewarding to be able to play in front of a crowd of people, who are all gathered together to make a difference to someone. It’s wonderful to know that after we do what we love, making music and having fun, there’ll be a cheque going to people that really deserve our help”.

Finn is looking forward to his bright future, and there’s no doubt U-Band will be continuing their great charity work. You never know, you might even see them in the charts soon!

Career opportunities in Ulster Bank

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