I have some sympathy with composer Sir James MacMillan’s stance on Government interference in the arts. ‘Art for art’s sake’ it has to be. Sir James was writing after the latest tranche of grants was announced by Creative Scotland, the Government’s cash for culture coordinators.
Sir James reminded readers in The Times of a meeting called by Fiona Hyslop the Scottish Government’s Arts Minister last May. ‘National Culture Strategy’ was the topic and attendees were re-assured that Scottish artists ‘don’t have to be close to government. They just have to have a common understanding of what the country wants’.
Therein lies the problem. We should all be wary of politicians who presume to know what the country wants. By that they usually mean what the government of the day wants. And this current administration’s attitude to piping is depressingly off-hand. Relative to what we bring to Scotland, piping and pipe bands get dashed little from the public purse.
And it is not just about what we earn for them either. Our music is important. It is Scotland’s music; it is the sound by which the nation is identified. Moreover there is a significant social benefit from the work done by bands up and down the country taking kids off the streets to teach them pipes and drums. Yet what do we get? From Tory, Labour, Scottish Nationalist it’s hot air and second-rate support all the way.
Yes they will stand on the podium at the Worlds taking the salute and issuing the usual platitudes – Ms Hyslop has been there – but when it comes to signing the cheques, cheques that will make a significant difference, she, like the rest of the political class, is nowhere to be seen. £450,000 over three years to the Piping Centre is very, very small beer. Give me £5m disbursed equitably and we might be talking turkey.
Ms Hyslop may be right on one thing however. Being close to the SNP seems not to yield any sort of preferential treatment. Just look at the College of Piping. It was founded in the 1940s by nationalist zealots who called themselves ‘The League of Young Scots’. Read about them and you quickly realise that it was fortunate that they faded into obscurity leaving only their music wing, the College, intact. Despite their antecedents’ zest for independence what does the College get from the SNP today? A big fat zero.
Argyllshire Gathering Piping Steward Torquil Telfer: ‘We are aware that the Oban Games website is not currently appearing in Google’s search pages. If you want to apply for the 2018 Argyllshire Gathering’s piping competitions and you haven’t already done so, please click on this link: http://obangames.com/newsite/piping/piping-competitors-entry-page/ . We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.’
The RSPBA’s Glasgow and West of Scotland Branch has confirmed that the Coatbridge Indoor Full Band and Solo Drumming contest will go ahead this year as before. The date is April 28th and the location Coatbridge High School. Contact Nigel Greeves on 07849354170 or by email. This is a great contest and a perfect warm up for the outdoor season. I hope the many Grade 1 bands in the branch will support the contest. There are more now than for some time: Scottish Power, Inveraray, Glasgow Police, Johnstone, Glasgow Skye and Shotts.
Reader Bob Semple: Hi Rab, Checked your website this morning, a daily visit, and was surprised and proud to see my own full figure in silhouette playing in a luxury flat. I have been piping from the age of eight and played with Eden Pipe Band from Omagh, Northern Ireland. One special piping memory was standing listening to the Muirheads in the wee garden at Cowal in probably their last year or so in competition. I’ve also bought a set of smallpipes from Jimmy Anderson and enjoyed seeing the photo recently recovered by Ian Duncan.
I lived in Cornwall for 30 years and that photo was taken when I was playing for the St Pirran’s Day celebrations at Crooklets beach, Bude. Now back in Omagh, I’m looking forward to getting involved in the piping world again. I had my first night teaching a group of children at Killen Pipe Band on Monday night past, helping friend Drew Forbes rebuilding the band. I’d be happy to be identified as the silhouette piper if you are interested.
Thanks for getting in touch Bob. Cornwall’s loss is Ulster’s gain.