Anyone who thinks my opposition to the recent judges/pupils decision by the Solo Piping Judges Association was solely based on concerns over adjudication would be wrong. What is also at stake here is teaching; one generation passing on to the next its knowledge and experience.
Anything which impedes this process, as I believe this retrograde decision does, has to be bad for our music. Senior figures in the piping world who wish to judge will be less inclined to teach. And I now know of at least nine, yes nine, who are opposed to this new rule with varying degrees of vehemence, the majority due to their concerns over its negative educational impact.
All good rules and laws are formed when intelligent individuals collectivise their thoughts and ideas, filter them by analysis and discussion, and after suitable deliberation on the pros and cons, announce a proposal to the field for a decision. That field will have been furnished with all available data (transparency is everything) the better to inform their view and ultimately their ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. After all of this, even post-consensus, amendments and fine tuning will be allowed for.
Consider then, the position of the Solo Piping Judges Association. Here they were with a controversial proposal driven hard by individuals with their own burning agenda. The committee of six is won over and agrees that the matter be put to the membership at the Association AGM for a decision on its adoption. In the interregnum three senior members, who cannot attend, respond to the prospectus as of right. In their letters important points are raised, points of law, possibilities of impact and outcome, all lucidly set out with considerable erudition and thought. These were reasonable ideas from professional men with knowledge not only of piping, but of how matters such as these should be conducted – and the frustration and division that results from ill-conceived dictat. In short, they argued, we needed to get it right.
Did the committee circulate these letters to the membership prior to the meeting the better that they, the judges, understood the points advanced and some of the alternatives available to them when it came to the vote? No; the letters, from two retired lawyers and myself, were deliberately stymied, a scant reading at the AGM the only acknowledgement. How on earth were the membership, all 17 who attended the AGM out of 52 I am told, going to be in a position to properly evaluate their contents? Worse, and more reprehensible, was the decision not to circulate the letters at all. Was the committee concerned that the ideas they outlined could swing things against them, that sufficient of the judges’ consciences would be pricked to prevent this ruling from going forward? And there’s more unseemly stuff I could tell you about too, but let’s not make matters worse than they already are.
What does all of this say about this association? Does it not speak ill of its ability to properly superintend our judges and their rule book? Is it, indeed, fit for purpose? I will leave readers to make up their own minds but I would ask all my fellow adjudicators to think hard about what has gone on here. Think hard and consider the future.
• I remind readers that this article is my responsibility alone and has not been written in collusion with anyone else. RW