The calendar will conspire against non-UK pipers once again in 2012 as the two major gatherings of the year for solo competitors will be a full two weeks apart. The seemingly insignificant separation of dates puts pressure on players to juggle finances, vacation schedules and family commitments to attend both the Argyllshire Gathering at Oban, Scotland, on August 22nd and 23rd and the Northern Meeting at Inverness, Scotland, September 6th and 7th.
Approximately one-third of contestants at the events are not from Scotland, and the large majority of those are from North America, Australia and New Zealand.
The reason for the change is mainly because of circumstances. The Northern Meeting is routinely scheduled for the first Thursday and Friday of September.
“Unfortunately, next year, this will be two weeks after the Argyllshire Gathering, which makes it difficult for overseas competitors to attend both,” said Alan Forbes, an organizer of the event. “We considered moving the Northern Meeting to the previous week, and would gladly have done so, but Eden Court have advance bookings for these dates and the venue is not available.”
The competitions are held at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, a popular venue in the Highlands for concerts and plays.
“The extra week in between the events makes it very costly, both in terms of vacation time and money, for overseas pipers to stay in Scotland for both events,” said one North American competitor who spoke on condition of anonymity. “If you add on the extra expense that goes along with attending a qualifier for the Silver Medal (if it is still used), the result is that attending both Oban and Inverness may be financially difficult for overseas pipers. I would like to see the organizers of the Argyllshire Gathering, the Northern Meeting and the Competing Pipers Association get together to figure out whether there is a way to bring the events closer together.”
Entry to the competitions entails a detailed process in which most pipers who are accepted for the events are tacitly expected to compete at both Oban and Inverness to maintain their good standing for the following year.
Both of the competitions feature the Highland Society of London Gold Medal and the Silver Medal for piobaireachd, all of which have maximums of between 25 and 35 for the number of pipers who are accepted. In 2010 and 2011 an additional qualifier competition has been held in Glasgow several days before the Argyllshire Gathering to determine who will be allowed to take a handful of extra spots in the Silver Medal events.