Is it Time to Rethink the 2020 Pipe Band Season?

By Robert Wallace

If what I have read this morning is true then I believe it may be time for the RSPBA to consider cancelling or postponing some of the 2020 major championships.

Robert Peston of ITN is known to be a particularly well informed journalist. Today he reports that the UK Government will, within the next 20 days, ban all over-70s from leaving home for four months, order the requisitioning of hotels and other buildings as temporary hospitals, requisition private hospitals as emergency hospitals, order the temporary closure of pubs, bars and restaurants – and this after next weekend’s ban on mass gatherings. 

There is other stuff but that is the essence of what he writes. In a fluid situation all or none of this may come to pass; with better weather things might improve sooner than we think. Yet only a fool would ignore the gravity of the situation we currently face as the Covid-19 pestilence stalks the land.

If we take the four month period as our prospective date for any ‘all clear’ then we are looking at mid to end July. The current RSPBA calendar shows only the Scottish at Dumbarton on July 25 and the Worlds in Glasgow on Aug 15 in the safety zone.

The idea that in the meantime bands should be practising away, crammed together in a band hall, breathing over one another, pipe majors fingering different reeds and chanters, drone tuners clasping top joints, does not commend itself to this writer.

The RSPBA has asked all bands and branches to re-assess the safety of members under the current threat to their health. The simplest response to that re-assessment is for bands to cease all in-person practice until the middle of July. The biggest incentive for them so to do would be if the majors at Paisley, Lurgan and Inverness were cancelled or postponed. 

Of course bands may decide to take unilateral action and tell their members that they are pulling out of these contests anyway and that they should not report for duty until four months hence. That may be the wisest course of action. As far as they can, they remain in control of the situation, and if the worst happens they can say that they did their bit to stem the tide of infection.

The RSPBA have a tough call to make. They did the right thing in cancelling yesterday’s AGM. Should they give a further lead by completely re-thinking the 2020 calendar? That would certainly show concern for the wellbeing of their thousands of band members. And it would provide the ideal incentive for bands to initiate a moratorium on all rehearsing until it is completely safe to do so.

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Retaining the Worlds would give people something to work towards and be a celebration of a return to some sort of happy normality. Three weeks might not be enough to get to peak performance but all bands would be in the same boat and they could be Skyping away in the interval.

There is also the possibility of re-scheduling. Currently the band season finishes too early anyway. Could negotiations with Renfrewshire Council not begin right away to move the British at Paisley to late August or early September? That would take the most at-risk major out of the firing line.

Another point: is anyone’s heart really in band practice right now? Few band personnel fall within the ‘at danger’ age group. But all will have relatives and close family members who do. Their focus over the coming weeks will surely be on looking after them.

Turning to the solo world, some June/July Highland games may have to be cancelled and there are important solo events coming up soon at the Scottish Pipers Association and Highlands & Islands. But if the worst is past by the middle of July then all major events thereafter, I’m thinking of Oban and Inverness, should be in the clear.

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4 thoughts on “Is it Time to Rethink the 2020 Pipe Band Season?

  1. The potential loss of a few contests is a secondary concern to all of the bands when you weigh that with loss of life. The Worlds is on the cusp of that line drawn by health officials. Unfortunately many N.A. bands will be deciding in May whether to invest the $1000s without positive information from the RSPBA that the coast is clear. Couple that with the ”all clear” from Health officials and air carriers, the bands in NA are at a standstill in planning a trip in 2020.

  2. Hi. I had posed the question… Are we heading towards a season with no major championships? A few days ago and a member of the RSPBA made us feel like it was a stupid question to ask with his replies, yet nothing had appeared from the RSPBA that they were even considering why to do this season. So I deleted the post. I don’t see any RSPBA meme we saying your post is stupid! In hindsight I shouldn’t have deleted it and let everyone comment so our governing body would know that we need to know what their options are or at least what they are considering.

  3. Two comments:
    1. the weather and its possible improvement…I live in sunny, warm Florida. As of yesterday evening 4 Floridians have died and over 80 have tested positive for COVID-19. I don’t think warmer weather has anything to do with lessening the impact of this deadly virus.
    2. This post should be read by EVERY pipe band, pipe band association and games organizer throughout the world.

  4. Mr. Wallace:
    Thank you for the update on the situation and for giving us a but of what is being reported in the news in the UK.

    In addition to all that you have mentioned already, you also have the impact of travel bans being put into place which will also, even if only negligible, impact bands and even soloists from outside the UK.

    All the best,

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