Mr Hamill’s comments come on the eve of what is the first ‘major’ of the season at St James Playing Fields, Paisley. He wished all bands success in their endeavours and pledged that his officials would do everything to make sure arrangements were geared to allowing them to give of their best.
In an interview with Piping Press, Mr Hamill began by looking at the contest in general: ‘We have over 140 bands tomorrow, a similar total to what we had last year. If we get the weather we will get the crowds. This year the layout is slightly different in as much as the car park for the buses is at the opposite end of the park, the Glasgow end rather than the Greenock as it was last time.
‘This will be our second year at St James Playing Fields. Whether we are there next year or not I’m not sure. There is a possibility that the promoters may move it to the King George V Playing Fields at Renfrew for the last year of the three-year contract, but that is very much up in the air at this point.
‘We have bands flying in from abroad and these include, in Grade 1, Simon Fraser University and Dowco Triumph Street from the west coast of Canada. Obviously the airport is handy for them but it says a lot for their dedication and devotion to the art that they are prepared to fly all this way to compete. With these bands and the three bands promoted last year, Johnstone, PSNI and Buchan, it means this will the first time we will have 16 Grade 1 bands at a major outwith the Worlds; that is excellent news.
‘We will have something like two to three stewards on each arena. We have one or two stewards we are blooding so they will be learning the ropes on their first time out. We will also have our Chief Executive Ian Embelton plus nine directors in total in the rings over and above myself and the Vice Chairman John Hughes. John, as Vice Chairman, is in charge on the day of a major championship.
‘My message to all bands is that the Association is here to help you, to try to help you give of your best. Anything we can do to that end will be done. As an organisation we have to be strict about performance times however; this is very important. If bands are late to the line then that has a knock-on effect on the bands lower down the playing schedule and that is clearly unfair. There is a reason we issue playing times and if everyone adheres to them then there is never a problem.
‘That’s something that we have to stick to. But I would not want people to think we are at all heavy-handed about this. We like to keep a light hand on the tiller. The stewards do a tremendous job for us, I have got to say that. Very seldom do we as directors need to get involved. There may be the odd rare occasion where, for whatever reason, we are radioed and asked to solve a problem about a band not coming forward, but that is extremely rare.
‘The bands co-operate brilliantly with us. They respect the stewards and the job they have to do. I think maybe 20 years ago they didn’t get the respect they were due. Not so nowadays. We could not run any competition without our stewards. They are an integral part of the set up and the bands and their pipe majors appreciate that.
‘The major championships all come very quickly now with three within a five-week period. The season is compressed – unfortunately in some ways – but we have to go with what our promoters want. This puts a degree of pressure on Headquarters but again the staff there cope superbly with that. Once we are through those first three majors things settle down and we have a bit more breathing space before the Scottish and the Worlds.
‘I will enjoy welcoming all bands tomorrow, especially those who have travelled great distances to get here. The main thing is for them to enjoy their day. Hopefully the effort made during the closed season will pay off. As everyone knows the hard work is not done on the day on the contest field, but in the practice hall; that’s what counts.
‘Ultimately success or otherwise is down to the decisions of our hard-working adjudicators. Everyone appreciates that. All we can do as an organisation is provide a venue suitable to the bands, one that provides a good atmosphere. I am sure we will have that tomorrow and know that the bands will respond by providing us with performances to remember. I am sure all their hard work over the winter will bear fruit on the competition field. I wish them all the very best of luck.’
• Get the first results from Paisley by signing up for the RSPBA’s Twitter feed. Summaries of results will be provided by the Association within minutes of the end of the Championship. Check Piping Press later for reports. Going to Paisley? Click here for more spectator info.