Reports from the RSPBA AGM – Medley Review After 50 Years in Same Format

The Annual General Meeting of the RSPBA was held last month online. To help bands bands stay focussed during this difficult period, Piping Press is carrying highlights from the various reports in the Association’s AGM order paper. The picture above is of the last ‘live’ RSPBA AGM in 2019.

Chief Executive Ian Embelton reported: The number of bands in membership throughout the UK in 2020 was 275 and 51 affiliated from overseas.

This past year has been very challenging for all of us. We have had some success in attracting funding and have kept our costs to a minimum by taking advantage of the government furlough scheme for staff since April 2020.

After discussions with our promoters, and on advice from the Scottish Government, the decision was taken to cancel our five Major Pipe Band Championships and the World Solo Drumming and Juvenile Tenor Drumming Championships. These decisions were not taken lightly, however with the restrictions imposed on us by the global pandemic, it was impossible to proceed with any band competitions during the year.

We are continuing to liaise with our Major Sponsors and will keep our membership updated when the situation regarding the 2021 outdoor season becomes clearer. [All band competitions have since been cancelled for 2021; a decision on the World Solo Drumming has yet to be taken.]




John Wilson on behalf of the Adjudicators’ Panel Management Board: I am pleased to submit for your approval this annual report for the year ending 31 December 2020.

The scope of the business year for the APMB was curtailed due to the COVID-19 crisis and the resultant decimation of our entire 2020 outdoor season. As a Board, we did, however, recognise the need to move forward from the inactive outdoor season and continue with our scheduled meetings from 12 August onwards to discuss outstanding current business/reports, agree a preferred option for the 2021 allocations process and prepare the format for our November AGM. The AGM was successfully held online on 1 November 2020 with 47 attendees participating.

Panel Convenor John Wilson

Allocation Process: Under the Chairmanship of the Chief Executive, the allocation process was carried out in the early part of the year. As is well documented, an agreement was reached at that meeting that a reduction from five adjudication teams to four teams would take place at the Belfast and Inverness championship venues – which historically attract a smaller band entry. 

It is unfortunate that we didn’t get the opportunity to evaluate this change during the 2020 season and, if we are able to have some form of outdoor season next year [2021], I have no doubt that the question of the number of adjudication teams assigned to a contest will come back into sharp focus.



On the basis of a proposal submitted by the APMB, the Board of Directors has approved that, when the Allocation Group meeting takes place in 2021, the 2020 allocations list will be used as a starting template in the process. This may well have to be adjusted based on adjudicators’ updated availability, however, the benefit in retaining the 2020 list as a starting point is that we can maintain continuity within the cyclical aspect of the allocation process.

[The Allocation Group’s job is to select judges for the various championships during the season. It is likely that the 2020 allocation will be used as a start point for the 2022 season.]

Current Establishment Levels: Whilst as a Panel we are currently 67 strong, forward planning must continue. The Piping & Drumming Course, which was scheduled to begin with a week-end workshop on 28/29 March, was cancelled due to the Coronavirus crisis.

To reset the training programme for the six candidates concerned (three Piping/ three Drumming), the ADG has been working towards a programme whereby the training modules originally selected for the first weekend workshop can be delivered online. 

The presenters have been identified and it is anticipated that the presentations will be recorded so that they can additionally provide an ‘off the shelf’ bank of training reference material for future courses.  If there is an outdoor ‘season’ in 2021 then, hopefully, the candidates concerned will get the opportunity to undergo practical experience trials.

The APMB is also committed to aligning Drum Majors’ training with that provided to Piping/Drumming candidates.  In this respect, the ADG has already created parallel presentation modules and slides.

I believe we should not lose sight of the fact that the strategic focus behind adjudicator training is to develop the art of adjudication for all our adjudicators and there are clearly generic areas within the training modules which are equally pertinent to Drum Major candidates.

I believe we should not lose sight of the fact that the strategic focus behind adjudicator training is to develop the art of adjudication

– John Wilson

I would also like to place on record our grateful appreciation of three stalwarts of our panel, Gordon Craig, Harry Stevenson and Sandy Steele who officially retired from the Panel at the end of 2020. 

They are a shining example of the level of knowledge, experience and professionalism which the Adjudication Panel can provide for the needs of the Association – and hopefully we can recognise their services personally at some pre-arranged point during 2021.

In early 2020 the APMB made a proposal to the Music Board to form a Working Group to consider how best to progress the development of the Grade 1 Worlds Medley content as a musical showcase. 

The proposal was based on an observation made by an adjudicator at a previous AIMs meeting that the Grade 1 medley had been in place for around 50 years without any significant development in format.  That proposal, along with other proposed changes to format is being progressed by the Format Group through a phased approach and the APMB will subsequently be involved in that process.

….the Grade 1 Medley has been in place for around 50 years without any significant development in format

– John Wilson

The APMB has also nominated two adjudicators to represent adjudication interests/initiatives on the 2021 Season Working Group which has recently been formed to plan for the implications of Covid-19 and social distancing measures on RSPBA events during 2021.

In closing, I would reiterate that, as an Adjudication Panel, we will continue to strive to deliver to the bands the best adjudication service possible.

We are an experienced and knowledgeable group and our contribution to the strategic direction of the RSPBA can be significant especially if the pipe band community experiences another barren outdoor season and the Association is consequently faced with considering how stronger online engagement can be achieved with member bands.

1 thought on “Reports from the RSPBA AGM – Medley Review After 50 Years in Same Format

  1. A word of caution to the “experienced and knowledgeable” ones don’t forget the members who walk the boards; their views matter too. The members, and I mean the band members, of the RSPBA together with the supporters and the spectators, do have opinions which I suggest need some consideration too.
    Change by all means is healthy and positive in any organisation provided ALL CONCERNED are constructively integrated in the process from the beginning.
    Best wishes to those within the RSPBA whose task it is to GUIDE/STEER Grade ! Medley or any other related change. Remember it is Pipe Bands in competition that the ‘people’ have supported for the past fifty years and I’m certain the ‘people’ will have opinions worth hearing.

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