New RSPBA Chairman Confident of Association’s Future

Kevin Reilly, the new Chairman of the RSPBA, has spoken of his confidence that the Association will be able to survive another year of pandemic. ‘I am absolutely confident that we will be here and ready to go again in 2022,’ he said.

‘I have known better times,’ he said, ‘but I have also known worse. It was not so long ago that the RSPBA was almost bankrupt.’

His comments come after worries over finances. It looks increasingly unlikely that the Association will have income from any major championships again this year. This sponsorship can be worth up to £100,000 a year.

Three majors have already been cancelled and well placed sources in the Association have expressed doubts over the feasibility of running the Scottish at Dumbarton on July 31.

Crowds are expected to be restricted to 5,000 for outdoor events, even after lockdown more or less ends in June. Given that the Dumbarton venue is the open-access Levengrove Park, there would be no way of controlling numbers other than by very expensive ring fencing.

The worry over the other remaining major, the Worlds, is that bands may not be ready in time, and some officials are voicing the opinion that without overseas bands, who regularly make up just under a quarter of entries, would it really be a World Championship?

‘Both these Majors remain on the calendar,’ added Mr Reilly, ‘but we are monitoring the situation closely. I know the bands are desperate to get playing again and there is a worry that youngsters will lose interest. They cannot even get together to practice at the moment.

‘However, there is still a lot of teaching going on and I can say that the Music Board are examining the possibility of staging some sort of band event in lieu of competitions and we will make an announcement at the appropriate time.’

This will be Mr Reilly’s second stint as RSPBA Chairman. He served for 7+ years between 2003 and 2010. More recently he has been Convenor of the Music Board and has overseen its smooth operation and liaison with the Board of Directors.

‘Despite illness three years ago, I was motivated to put my name forward for Chairman at the recent AGM. My colleagues in the Association urged me to stand again and I was happy to take up the reins once more. I suppose I will bring a deal of experience to the job at a difficult time.’

Mr Reilly is based in north-east England. His Vice Chairman, Mr Paul Brown, is in north-west England.

‘Technology has transformed the way we do business now,’ Mr Reilly added. ‘Geographical differences are becoming less relevant. I would never want to do away with face-to-face meetings or lose the personal touch, but online calls have become the staple for everyone these days.

‘The Board of Directors are on board on the technical side of things and certainly the Music Board operates very successfully using internet communications, saving time and money. I foresee no problem at all having Paul and I based south of the border.’

At the moment RSPBA HQ in Washington is closed with staff on furlough. Chief Executive Ian Embelton attends occasionally to retrieve mail etc. Mr Embelton was due to retire at the end of the 2019 season but has agreeed to stay on on a part time basis until the pipe band world returns to near normal.

  • A recent poll by Piping Press found just under half of respondents were concerned about holding any pipe band contests this year. Check out the story here.

18 thoughts on “New RSPBA Chairman Confident of Association’s Future

  1. Although I am not a top class piper, I still enjoy playing my pipes and attending pipe band contests and championships either as a player or spectator. The early part of this year is certainly teaching me that there is more to life than pipe bands however.

    As for a season, I don’t believe bands would be ready to compete with very limited practice. At the end of the of the day bands prepare all winter for a season, the highlight being the Worlds. Would the Worlds be a proper event without the overseas bands, drum majors and spectators?

  2. Fantastic response from Kevin Reilly, very realistic assessment of the situation and a well reported article.

    1. What kind of even would it be though? Reduced number of bands, possibly low spectator numbers, standard lowered (naturally). It just isn’t the ideal circumstances. Bands practice all year round for the beginning of a season, the best bands might be able to get up to a good standard quick but what about the school bands and lower grade bands who need that extra guidance?

      We all love the pipe band season but just delaying another year would benefit all grades. I have no doubt the top bands would still be really entertaining but others may struggle, plus given the uncertainty surrounding when practices can resume also adds to this situation.

  3. This article indicates that there probably won’t be a season. A very sensible approach from the RSPBA if so. There will be a financial hit to be had. However, cancelling this season and resuming next year will mean bands are better prepared, standard of playing is higher and the worlds will be the worlds, as foreign bands will be in attendance. A world championships with UK bands only and small crowds, if any, would ruin the occasion.

    1. Spot on. Surely the government will assist the RSPBA too so that no financial hardship is experienced – especially since it is bagpipes one of Scotland’s tourist fascinations. So I think the government won’t let the organisation sink, it would be embarrassing for them.

  4. Word on the street is that a few grade one bands have been told to start preparing for the Scottish and Worlds.

    1. Surely not, Harvey? How have grade 1 bands been given insight when others haven’t? That will just be a rumour going about.

      There probably won’t be a season mate.

    2. Intersting comment Harvey. I wonder if all grade 1 bands are still preparing or if some will not given players are overseas and people’s priorities when restrictions lift will probably be outwith pipe bands. For example, seeing their family etc.

  5. word on the street is that a few grade one bands have been told to start preparing for the Scottish and Worlds.

    1. I have no doubt they will be preparing in the background, since it is a different animal at that level. Although, I am quite confident there won’t be a season. Cowal games in cancelled and that is beyond both the Scottish and World’s. It just shows you the prospect of these events taking place so any prep may be just have to be carried over to next season.

      1. Totally agree Daniel. To add to that, we have to remember bands won’t be able to practice indoors. Having been in pipe practices, as a drummer, they are sweaty and clammy during a full blown practice. Not all members will be vaccinated so indoor practices will be impossible. Plus, I personally, and I know others will be the same, would not want to practice in they conditions without being vaccinated. With the weather being so poor, this will really prohibit bands prep, whether they are a grade 1 band or not, indoor practices will just not be feasible. You’d be praying for a good summer, which is never guaranteed.

    2. Sorry Harvey just can’t see that happening. Too many of these players may stay in flats or homes that can’t facilitate playing. I stay in a flat in Glasgow and haven’t been able to practice my pipes for most of the year because the pipes are too noisy.

      Although I don’t play in grade 1, surely some players will be in this situation too and a season, in any form, would just disadvantage some players.

  6. A very dignified response about the potential prospects of a pipe band season this year.
    How the RSPBA would hold a season is beyond me and this article covers the reasons perfectly.

    We all love piping but people’s lives are more important than pipe bands, and I for one have learnt that this year.

    1. Agreed Gordon. Would be sadly missed this summer again. I love going round the events across the country – traveling on the band bus, nights out, the whole antics of pipe bands – but there is more important things in life, at the moment.

    2. Gordon I must say though, if they are supposedly allowing fans for the delayed 2020 football European Championships, where some games are to be played at Hampden, do you not think there is a possibility that a pipe band season might still be possible if they are allowing crowds to they events?

      I must say I think football crowds won’t happen but they are officially saying it could happen so why not pipe band contests.

      1. My club. Coleraine FC, is not expecting to be involved in Euro Championship Finals any time soon so that will let me continue piping this year………in my garage !
        Meantime I offer my congratulations and best wishes to Kevin Reilly in taking on the RSPBA Chairmanship for a second time. The experience of the first stint will indeed be helpful Kevin. However, from my own limited experience in a ‘managerial role’ -“Knowing what to do is not enough rather it is doing what needs to be done that matters most.”

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