Glimmer of Hope as the RSPBA Pull Out All the Stops for Pipe Band Season 2021

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association have affirmed that they are determined to have a 2021 pipe band season if it is at all possible. Their top level planning groups met continuously during the latter part of 2020 and further meetings are scheduled for this month.

The hope is that the UK’s rapid vaccine roll out will save the season, or at least part of it. The Association say the local authority sponsors for the five major championships are fully supportive of their contingency plans and that sponsorship money is not in question.

In another hopeful sign it is understood that the Association’s Adjudicators’ Panel has proceeded to draw up a list of judging allocations for the ’21 season.

The Association has had to go it alone with its planning as they have received, as yet, little guidance from Scotland’s devolved administration, though this is not unusual given the fluidity of the situation.

What are the contingency plans? They could mean a truncated season, with the British Championships at Paisley on May 22nd, and the UK Championships at Lurgan, Northern Ireland, on June 12th, the most threatened by the axe.

Decision day for these early season championships will be the RSPBA AGM in March. A possibility exists that these two majors could be re-scheduled for September, though a three-major season seems more likely.

The Worlds are set to go ahead on August 13th/14th with sponsors Glasgow Live involved in planning a way forward for the biggest day in the pipe band calendar. One suggestion is that as one grade is completed, these bands leave Glasgow Green to make way for the next grade.

Crowds could be limited to 500 with social distancing in place. There would be no March Past with the results ceremony done online. These provisos could be adopted at the other Majors too.

The Association has looked at a number ways of boosting minor contests scheduled for later in the summer, this to help compensate for the possible loss of early season contests and majors.

To make things easier for bands, all playing requirements have been carried over from 2020 to 2021. Check them out here.

  • British Championships – 22nd May at Paisley
  • United Kingdom Championships – 12th June at Lurgan
  • European Championships – 26th June at Inverness
  • Scottish Championships – 31st July at Dumbarton
  • World Championships – 13th/14th August at Glasgow

Branches of the Association have been kept fully informed of all developments and will be notified of decisions as promptly as possible. Bands should ensure their representatives attend branch meetings.

RSPBA Chairman John Hughes said: ‘The situation is very fluid but we are absolutely determined to deliver a competition season for our bands if it is at all possible.

‘Money is not an issue; all costs have been budgeted for. The May and June majors may prove not to be feasible but we are keeping all options open. Our AGM is the cut off date.

‘We do not want to mislead people and are to some extent caught between a rock and a hard place. What we say now could change in a few days. I appreciate the practice problems bands are facing but I know everyone is keen to get out competing again.

‘They may have to prepare quickly but all bands are in the same position and we’ll do everything we can to provide them with a platform.

‘We are looking at all options such as re-scheduling, holding contests with an online only audience through live-streaming. Even the Worlds could be held without an audience and Glasgow Live have said they would be happy with that.

‘We will have some semblance of a season if it is at all possible though we must, of course, follow all regulations and safety instructions. As I say, things are very fluid. Take the situation in Northern Ireland. One week the Arts Council there said bands could resume practising and the next they were put into lockdown.

‘A move to September for the early majors cannot be ruled out though the weather might not be as helpful then. I will not be alone in remembering playing in hail at the Europeans at Shotts many years ago.

RSPBA Chairman John Hughes

‘My gut feeling is that we will have a truncated season in 2021 with the early majors at risk. Any local outbreak could put paid to our plans however. But in closing I want to offer some hope to the bands. There is some light ahead and your Association will do everything it possibly can to lay on as many competitions as possible.’

Following the RSPBA’s last Board of Directors meeting in December it was stated: ‘The planning for a 2021 season needs to be progressed as we all desire a return to normality. The government guidance for the events sector on social distancing requirements to combat the spread of COVID-19 are making the planning of our events difficult for ourselves and our promoters.

‘The prognosis is constantly changing as to when outdoor events will be able to take place and as such, we can only be reactive by preparing ourselves by considering likely scenarios. It is our promoters that must satisfy and comply with the government guidance on running an event.

‘The Association will need to play its part in complying with the promoters needs, but we also need to consider the safety of our members (both facilitating and playing) at an event. The same considerations will be applicable to all our major and local contests.

‘It is hoped that our season will commence as normal, however there is also uncertainty as to when practices both outdoor and indoors can resume. The current rules on numbers from what bubbles can meet are making it difficult for any band to hold practices and this is unlikely to change until early 2021.

‘The events early in the year are likely to be those impacted the most, with hopefully the restrictions / changes needed to be implemented being relaxed as we progress through the year.’

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