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.
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.