Piping and Pipe Band Season Looks Likely to Start in July

Well, what do you think? Chance of a season? Given what the Prime Minister announced on Monday we can start living again from June 21. And, if we can believe anything from the tartan collective in Holyrood these days, we in Scotland will be more less in step with that, writes the Editor.

This means we can forget any band contests or Highland Games in May and June. I’m told one of the latter has already switched to online planning for their piping and we have seen cancellations of band contests at Strathmore (June 13), Cupar (June 20), Banchory (May 9) and Girvan (June 6). Of the Games, Drumtochty (June 26) and Stonehaven are also off. I think some of the July Games such as Tomintoul (July 17) have been a little premature in announcing their postponement but there may be other reasons why these events have called a halt.

If I were a band pipe major I would pitching at the Scottish at Dumbarton on July 31 and the Worlds in August thereafter. I can’t see the first three majors surviving (British at Paisley, May 22, UKs at Lurgan on June12, Europeans at Inverness, June 26). We’ll know for sure in a couple of weeks time just prior to the RSPBA’s AGM on March 13.

Set against this, we’re told Wimbledon tennis, the Open golf and the European Football Championships will all be allowed with crowds of perhaps 10,000 and these are all in England in July. In my imagination I transfer that optimism north to ‘we’re all doomed’ Scotland and for the first time I feel more optimistic than hitherto. Get those fingers and wrists moving chaps and chapesses! Later than usual, but the fun could be about to start all over again. We should have a clear run for most of July, August and September and if we do, I hope that that gloomster from Events Scotland who predicted a summer wipe out is suitably contrite.

It could all go belly up of course with new virus variants sprouting up seemingly at will, but our brilliant scientists and medics are on to them. Looking at the details of the vaccine roll out and its consequences, all the early indications are of very high levels of effectiveness. As I write, outdoor gatherings four months hence look safer by the day.

Surely, too, Oban and Inverness (late August and early September), and other indoor contests such as the Lochaber Gathering, will be OK? They may still have to follow some guidance, but I would be very surprised if they can’t go ahead in some form.

Yet mine is a purely domestic outlook. Foreign travel is still up in the air. Will SLOT manage over from the republic? Fly-ins from Canada, Oz, the US, South Africa? There will be no-one from Castle Kiwi, where the drawbridge is rigidly perpendicular. Still, the southern hemisphere countries will have had some local summer stuff going on so won’t feel totally bereft of their bagpipe fix.

In closing you might like to read this latest from the RSPBA’s Board of Directors. They’re not expecting too much. It reads:

‘Most, if not all, areas of the UK are in full lockdown until mid-February. The vaccination programme is underway, with a view that everyone will have had a vaccination by the end of September 2021, and the top nine groups that should free up NHS resources by the end of April.

‘Promoters will have to ensure that the government guidance for the events sector is followed, and we will have a part to play with regards to our members and the running of the contest.

‘We are all waiting for the government guidance for the events sector and how this is influenced by the exit strategy, the covid 19 levels, as well as the scientific concerns regarding ongoing transmission.

‘With the current situation, the contests in May and June are probably most at risk at this time. In 2020 we announced the first cancellation in March and would look to do something similar this year if necessary.

‘The association is working with the promoters and it is anticipated that a joint decision on at least the first three majors could be announced jointly (and through Marketing and Media Committee) in early March prior to the association’s AGM.

‘It is recognised and accepted that some physical distancing requirements are likely to remain in place during the second half of the year, and the wearing of face coverings is also likely to continue. It is hoped that the February review of the current lockdown measures will update the events sector guidance on time frame and criteria for opening the sector, this may help in the early decision of what events are likely to take place, as well as when band activity could resume,

‘It was asked if release/transfers were being processed at the moment. Two members of staff are working a 1⁄2 day per week in preparation for the year end audit. They are progressing transfers (about 30) at the moment within the time available. It has been suggested that there may be an influx once clarity on any contests taking place is available and we should be prepared to manage this.’

2 thoughts on “Piping and Pipe Band Season Looks Likely to Start in July

  1. While it might be possible for a few competitions to be put back on the calendar remember that the majority of bands haven’t even been able to meet to practice together so how many will actually be up to competition standard again by then?
    Time IMHO to call a spade a spade and cancel the 2021 competition season as other responsible Associations have already done!

  2. Thankfully, its looking like part of the pipe band season can be salvaged. Wonderful news. Here are some humble suggestions for the RSPBA (just for this 2021 season):
    1. drop all playing requirements for Grades 1 and 2 contests, i.e. bands own choice for MSR and medley
    2. dispense with the dreaded march-past at all contests. Even prior to the pandemic, it was becoming outdated, tedious, and hated by many bands themselves (taking over 2 hours at the Worlds)
    3. increase appearance money/prize money for bands, to incentivise their preparation & participation in what will be a very short season
    4. consider what extra assistance/support can be provided for overseas bands to attend the Worlds (by the RSPA, Glasgow Life and Tourism Scotland)
    5. look into live streaming all contests (on a pay-per-view basis) as there is a real possibility attendance could be limited at these contests

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