William Grant Foundation Funding For Piping – 2016 Report

The William Grant Foundation reduced sponsorship cash disbursed through the National Piping Centre in Glasgow from £145,000 in 2015 to £140,000 in 2016. Further cuts to this figure have been hinted at for this year as the Foundation, the charity wing of the whisky giant, re-aligns its contributions to deserving causes in Scotland, writes the Editor. 

William Grant & Sons’ generosity towards our art is legion. Their largesse is now administered on a professional basis by the William Grant Foundation (WGF), a non-profit association established by family shareholders in 2014. Its work is funded by the parent company who are committed to donating one per cent (1%) 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’.

The total value of ‘Scottish Culture and Heritage’ grants paid by the Foundation in 2016 was £369,933 down from £442,300 in 2015 but still a laudable amount and vital to Scotland’s arts/ heritage sector. The Foundation report confirms that in 2016 their biggest piping beneficiary was the National Piping Centre (NPC) which received a total of £175,000, £35,000 of it for the Piping Live festival. One other significant piping donation in 2016 came in form of a £10,000 grant to the Scottish Schools Pipes & Drums Trust (SSPDT) for a teaching programme based at Girvan in South Ayrshire.

This is surely the way forward. We need more spent on piping and drumming education – and that would certainly fit with the WGF mission statement. So whilst the block grant to the Piping Centre has been cut, if we add the £10,000 given to the SSPDT to the overall figure, the Foundation’s assistance for piping has actually increased from £180,000 to £185,000. So well done to them for that and well done to them for starting to spread the cash independently rather than have it all channelled through one prism.

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From their £140,000 however, the Centre does a good job of running the Glenfiddich Piping Championship and, in 2016, efficiently 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 – to be held in Edinburgh next month, tickets £37.50.
  • The Silver Chanter – a black tie event held each August in Dunvegan Castle, Skye, this year on Aug 9.
  • The Argyllshire Gathering Senior Piobaireachd – one of the two pre-eminent ceol mor competitions in world piping this year on Aug 23.
  • The London Championship run by the Scottish Piping Society of London – Bratach Gorm, Gillies Cup and a very important date in the calendar this year on Nov 4.
  • The Competing Pipers’ Association – money used to promote the B&C grades at Blair Atholl, Roseneath, Inveraray, Perth and Blairgowrie games.
  • Glenfiddich Fiddle Championship – now discontinued.

In his introductory message in the report, Wm. Grant’s Chairman, Mr Grant Gordon, says, ‘Having established the William Grant Foundation to manage our giving in 2014, our approach contnues to evolve…..We remain in ‘learning mode’ listening to our grantees to understand how they are achieving impact and how our engagement could best add value….we are striving to ensure that the William Grant Foundation is as effective as possible in delivering our mission.’

A couple of points then that the Chairman may like to consider: Should not ball park figures of the actual amounts disbursed to piping grantees be outlined in the WGF’s annual report? One broad brush amount for all piping is contrary to the transparency and openness that William Grant seem to display in all other aspects of their business. Looking through the report I see that the Foundation is quite specific in the amounts it gives to other individual projects. Lumping piping altogether in one homogenous group in a financial sense is rather unsatisfactory and could even be seen as demeaning. The various piping events all have their own unique character and involve widely different individuals and committees and as such should be treated as separate funding projects. This would improve efficiency and accountability too, I feel.

We do not know where the piping cuts will bite deepest this year but surely the Glenfiddich Championship, the Silver Chanter, the Oban Senior Piobaireachd and the London Competition will escape any drastic reductions Mr Gordon. These events are central to the solo piping calendar after all. And more cash for our piping and drumming kids too please.

• Tickets for this year’s Glenfiddich Piping Championship are now available via the Ticketweb website here. The picture up top was taken in the Great Hall at Blair Castle during the Championship.

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