A letter to all bands issued yesterday by Mr Kevin Reilly, Chairman of the RSPBA, confirms that so far only two major championships have been secured for the 2024 pipe band competition season. The letter follows a Board of Directors meeting last weekend.
The letter reads: To the members of the RSPBA….I said I would get a message to you as soon as it became clearer to the Board of Directors the situation regarding Major Championships in the 2024 season.
At this moment in time, I can only confirm that we have the Scottish Championships at Levengrove Park, Dumbarton, on the 27th of July 2024, and the World Pipe Band Championships at Glasgow Green, Glasgow, on the 16th and 17th of August 2024.
I can imagine the disappointment that this will bring to many of our outstanding bands who support the RSPBA year on year.
It is very disappointing to the Board of Directors who have worked tirelessly to secure Major Championships. For the last two years we have been working with many local authorities and private entities, not only in Scotland but England, Ireland, and Eire.
As you are aware, many local authorities are finding the ‘money’ situation as difficult as everyone else and they tell us they don’t have the disposable income to commit for 2024.
Many of the meetings we have had are looking towards local authorities hosting Major Championships in 2025/6 and onwards. We will continue to be involved in these discussions. One local authority has indicated they won’t be able to tell us until January if they intend hosting a 2024 major championship.
The Board of Directors have a group in place to look at some alternatives for the 2024 season, more information will be distributed when I have it. All the very best for 2024 season have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Kevin Reilly, Chairman.
The Editor Responds…
We will have more on this story tomorrow, but for now I am sure this confirmation will send a shiver down the backs of all pipe band members and enthusiasts.
The whole movement seems to be facing an existential crisis. Without major championships there is no competitive pipe band world. With only two, standards will inevitably fall. Interest will drop off.
Competition is the life blood of pipe banding, and pipe bands are the lifeblood of the RSPBA. Minor contests are already on their knees. The bands themselves are somewhat to blame for this. They simply don’t support them in sufficient numbers.
And don’t talk to me about the costs of getting there. Fifty plus years ago and more we all struggled to the likes of Lesmahagow and Dunblane and Markinch with pieces our mammy made for us and the hope of a cup of tea from the band primus stove.
We did it because we wanted to play, to test ourselves against our fellow bandsmen. We loved the sound, the excitement, the possibility of success and, when we were older, the beer tent joshing.
It didn’t matter that it cost us money or that prizes went unreported. The minors fed the majors, the majors the crowds, the crowds the sponsors, the sponsors the RSPBA.
We face a shocking state of affairs and it is not only the Association that is to blame. Our local authorities here in Scotland have had their budgets slashed in real terms over the past several years by the Scottish Government. Whatever your politics, that is a fact. Schools and social services have first call on available cash.
It is hard to convince nervous councillors that Majors make money, last year’s Europeans at Aberdeen included, this event now subject to a worthy recall petition.
If local authorities cannot be persuaded to take a punt on a pipe band championship then we need to change our thinking completely, to go elsewhere. A different, sustainable model, must be found.
Isn’t it ironic in this age of social media, when pipe band people spend hours on their phones every day messaging millions of words on the latest gossip, when performances are beamed around the world in a whizz, that here we are unable to fulfil the basic, non-virtual need of getting brogues on the grass?
Is this the way pipe bands are going – a massive online juggernaut but with very little happening in the real world? What a profoundly troubling situation.