Pipe Band Competition Rout Complete – Is There Hope Left for 2022?

Yesterday’s cancellation of the Worlds and Scottish completed a rout of all major championships for two years in a row. Don’t be so sure that there will be a return to normality for pipe bands in 2022.

The reasons for the call-offs were financial, organisational, musical and international. Smaller crowds, distance controlled crowds, would have meant less revenue at the Worlds and numbers would have been impossible to control at open border Levengrove Park, Dumbarton, for the Scottish.

By The Editor

It is disturbing given the current data surrounding the pandemic here in the UK that restrictions are likely to remain in place throughout the summer. It is equally disturbing to read on social media how many people welcomed the decision as being ‘for the best’. A genuine, understandable, deep-seated fear stalks this land. It will take many months, perhaps years to eradicate.

Uncertainty over likely summer restrictions made it impossible for the RSPBA to confidently stride ahead with their usual efficiency and get everything ready for the two remaining showpiece events four months hence.

Moreover, thought officials, not having struck a blow since August 2019, would the bands be ready in time? What would their playing standards be like?

This last was the first deal breaker. Could you really have a World Championship when the bands were not at their best? Should we tolerate a sub-standard Worlds? In my view yes. When, and if, they come back next year we should not expect them to be playing as well as they did in 2019, so what’s the difference with this year?

The second deal-breaker was the probable absence of overseas bands. Apart from the loss of revenue from a Worlds with the number of competitor bands cut from 220 to 170, there would be negative voices raised once more. Did the winners truly win a World Championship, a Worlds without its international dimension?

It is this last point that makes me wary of having any confidence of a full restoration in 2022. The virus is currently badly affecting our cousins in Canada, though they will soon get on top of it; new variants are springing up around the globe; sealed off Australia and New Zealand will not be lifting their international travel ban any time soon.

Will everything be sweet and lovely come this time next year even with the vaccine roll-out? If the lack of overseas bands scuppered us in 2021 could the same not hold true in 2022?

Pipe band history buffs might like to peruse the programme for the Worlds at Stirling in 1974:

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The RSPBA Music Board are planning some sort of event(s) for this summer and details will be released next month. Whatever it is, it will be most welcome but in no way will it replace what we have lost these past two years. Pipe bands need serious competition to survive.

Tattoos, ceremonials, gala day parades will always ensure a small, amateur continuation of what is left of the art. But if we are to maintain any sort of professional standard we need competition.

Some point out that bands had a competition gap of eight years during and after WW2 and the pipe band tradition did not die. True, but bands at home still did the parades, though depleted in numbers, and the Army had active pipes and drums throughout hostilities. And back then there were nothing like the counter attractions available in our 21st century world.

This is a bleak, black time for our bands, our manufacturers, our tradition, and, let’s not forget, for the RSPBA. Two years without any revenue flow is not good for anyone.

But my immediate core concern is that youngsters will drift away from us. There are so many distractions these days, so many things with which boys and girls can fill their time, and not always constructively. Will they really think all the practice and study necessary for piping and drumming success worth the effort?

I hope they do, and teachers need to do everything to encourage them to hold out for better things in 2022.

2 thoughts on “Pipe Band Competition Rout Complete – Is There Hope Left for 2022?

  1. A well reasoned article regarding the possibilities of competition for the Pipe Band tradition during the remainder of 2021 and more than likely 2022.
    Homing in on an absolute essential for the future health of the Pipe Band movement – the continued development of young pipers and drummers. Observing changes in bands, in the past couple of decades particularly, reminds me of the ‘pond which has had a steady and increasing outflow’ of mature and experienced members. However, at the same time, the inflow across the various grades has been rather patchy.
    The time for replenishment may be NOW!
    Many people, and children are people, have been glad to find new hobbies or indeed return to past interests during the seemingly never – ending Covid Restrictions. Therein lies the hope for the future. I really hope Piping and Drumming tutors will choose to focus fully on Youth Development within their band/s during the ongoing, enforced ‘calm’ in competition. Today there are many ways open to tutors to deliver effective teaching. Yet none better than one-to-one, whether online or with the ease of Covid Restictions face to face. Furthermore, now is a good time to creatively use other experienced band members to assist the ‘Youth Development Team’. Let’s fill the pond again !!! The Competition Scene, when it returns, will then find us ready and renewed.

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