William Grant & Sons Funding for Piping Events Under Review

grants-logoThe news that there is to be a reduction in the sponsorship of piping by Glenfiddich/ Wm Grant and Sons will be of concern to all our readers, writes the Editor. Rumours have been abroad for some time and now it seems the whispers have become fact.

This company’s generosity towards our art is legion. They and their former Chairman Sandy Grant Gordon will forever have a place in the hearts of all lovers our music. Their support over 40-plus years must run to millions.

Wm. Grant’s largesse is now administered on a professional basis by the William Grant Foundation, a non-profit association established by family shareholders in 2014. Its work is funded by William Grant & Sons who are committed to donating one per cent of pre-tax profits each year to charitable causes.

The Foundation is governed by a Management Committee representing shareholders in William Grant & Sons and their families. Decisions regarding grants and donations are delegated to four funding groups. Piping falls under ‘Scottish Culture and Heritage’. They have confirmed that in 2015 their biggest beneficiary was the National Piping Centre which received a total of £180,000, £35,000 of it for the Piping Live festival.

From £145,000 the Centre runs the Glenfiddich Piping Championship and in 2015 administered donations to the following:

  • The Atholl Gathering (one of the first Highland games of the year held in the grounds of Blair Castle)
  • The Captain John MacLellan Recital (I am not sure how much this event receives but I have heard the figure of £7,000 bandied about)
  • The Silver Chanter (a black tie event held each August in Dunvegan Castle, Skye)
  • The Argyllshire Gathering Senior Piobaireachd (one of the two pre-eminent ceol mor competitions in world piping)
  • The London Championship run by the Scottish Piping Society of London (Bratach Gorm, Gillies Cup and a very important date in the calendar)
  • The Competing Pipers’ Association (money used to promote the B&C grades at Blair Atholl, Roseneath, Inveraray, Perth and Blairgowrie games.)
  • The International Bagpipe Conference (held at the Piping Centre earlier this year)

The total value of ‘Scottish Culture and Heritage’ grants paid by the Foundation in 2015 was £442,300. Piping received more than three times the amount given to the next leading beneficiery the National Museums of Scotland. The NMS received £50,000.

It may seem counter-intuitive that a company whose last available figures showed a profit increase of 4% to nearly £140m would be considering reductions in its charitable giving. But we live in tough, economically unpredictable times and Grant’s experienced a near 17% fall in turnover to £933.2m in that particular financial year. The Speyside-based group, which as well as Glenfiddich Malt Whisky produces Hendricks Gin, Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey and Drambuie liqueur, is due to report on its latest profit figures next month.

We do not know where the piping cuts will bite deepest but surely we can expect and hope that the Glenfiddich Championship, the Silver Chanter, the Oban Senior Piobaireachd and the London Competition will escape any drastic reductions. These events are pillars of our piping life after all. But Mr Gordon (Chairman) and Mr Addington (Chief Executive) who run the Foundation, are businessmen and they will want to ensure that all financial aid is carefully targeted and produces the required outcome.

Piping needs to play its part. Every penny received needs to be well spent and properly accounted for, and that includes expenses. I may be wrong here but I’m told the B&C grade league tables run by the CPA are out of date. Certainly we have received no notification on who were the overall winners in each grade for 2015. Not the way to guarantee continued funding for this particular project.

The Glenfiddich Championship itself needs a wash and brush up with fresh tune requirements (Senior and Gold Medal lists) and tuning lights (both would boost attendance) – and a complete overall of its marketing. International Bagpipe Conference – come on. What about helping some kids bands?; much more in keeping with Foundation’s stated aims. I hear that the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championship may be axed altogether. Pipers should not applaud this. Imagine the tables were turned. The fiddle tradition is something we should all support and I hope the Foundation will continue to do just that.

So all in all difficult times ahead and a moment for common sense and good housekeeping to prevail. Funding committees need to be formed by the various promoters to discuss ways of making up any shortfall.

Finally, we will brook no criticism of Wm Grant & Sons. Their benefit to piping has been magnificent and lasting.