July 31, 2007

Cowal hopes to regain appeal

The Cowal Pipe Band Championships in Dunoon, Scotland, is hoping to recreate the magic that it once possessed on the Scottish games circuit. Once the home of the unofficial World Championships, Cowal has lost luster with competitors in the last 20 years, with the venue having trouble accommodating the increasing number of competing bands.

Cowal Games will be held this year August 23-25, with the Cowal Pipe Band Championships, one of the RSPBA’s five major championships, on the Saturday. Organizers have announced that a new “Ceilidh Tent” will be available on the Saturday evening for the first time in the event’s 113 year history. The Ceilidh Tent will feature performance from Celtic folk musicians.

The event has also announced changes to its stadium layout that promise to allow listeners to get closer to competing pipe bands. Cowal had built a reputation for not accommodating would-be listeners, with the world’s top bands competing well away from the crowds.

Organizers have also indicated that pipe bands can compete in the “Most Entertaining Pipe Band” event, with both musical ability and “entertainment value” being assessed by judges.

“As the world’s largest Highland games, it’s really important for us to move forward and listen to our audience and I can’t wait to see what they think of the improved Cowal Highland Gathering,” Cowal Gathering Manager Malcolm Barclay said.

The solo piping events will continue to be held on the Friday, with no apparent changes.

The Cowal Pipe Band Championships were considered by most bands to be the ultimate prize in the pipe band world, but the stature of the event gradually declined after the Scottish Pipe Band Association decided to hold an annual official World Pipe Band Championship in 1947, with an aim to ensure that the event would move to a different location each year. Except for 1985 when the event was held in Hamilton, Scotland, the World’s has been held in Glasgow every year since 1981.


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  1. Too little too late with lack of attention to the REAL issues. Exhorbitant ticket pricing, inadequate and filthy toilet facilities, theftuous pricing by vendors, over-zealous stewarding and over-policing of bandsmen are what make Cowal suck! I’m all for Cowal retaining a competition, but it’s ran way past it’s ‘sell by date’ as a viable or credible venue for a major championship. A Ceilidh tent and another ‘doon the street prize’ don’t change a thing. Why not add a different major pre-Worlds, make the Worlds a fitting climax to the competition season and have a big party tent there instead? Now that would be a dream end to the season!!!… or pipe dream?

  2. It will take more than a party tent to change Cowal Games. Its just not a good contest for bands to get to and when they are there the tuning space is the pits doesn’t exist. The R.S.PBA needs to put the foot down and give them the warning to make this better for bands are they loose status as a major. BUT good for them for at least trying to make it better. Long way to go.

  3. Rubbish. There is no other major with the tradition of Cowal and every time I go there with the band I appreciate that. Cowal is the same park that the greatest pipers and bands in history played on. To play on the same pitch where Alex Duthart did is an experience that can not be compared to or bought.

  4. Good to see some very valid criticism of the conditions at the ‘Cowal’ competition. How many people who have heard the stories of the ledgendary Cowal games have attended and found it to be a drunken nonsense. Most people who still rave about today’s ‘Cowal’ are the band drunks anyway – it’s far from being a quality musical experience – that is not a criticism of the bands who still trudge there because their season depends on it, the music is of top quality, it’s the conditions that players and spectators have to contend with that is the problem. Can anyone genuinely listen to any of the competitions? Spectators are so far away from the rings! Och! marchin doon the street at cowal – different class mahn, ye cannae beat it! Oh yeah – dozens of drunken half-wits throwing beer at you!!?? Take a trip to North Berwick or Bridge of Allan have a grand day out – have a few beers with your friends and enjoy the music. Cowal? It’s a joke! The Worlds should be the last major of the season, in fact reduce the Championships to 4 with the Worlds as the last then see how many bands would still make the journey – a true reflection of how reasonable people view ‘Cowal’. Cheers!

  5. It’s good to see it being changed in one way or another, it is and will always be a **** of a lot better than most games. I think at Cowal and all other majors especially the worlds they should halt everything when the grade 1 competition (final) is happening. I’m fed up of hearing announcements for the local cycling tournament over a quality pipe band performance. In Cowals defence, at least it has a managerie of events going on and has a great atmosphere- that couldn’t be said for Ballymena this year, with only a pipe band competition and a lack atmosphere

  6. Cowal – the epitome of the dead hand of tradition. Any other half aware sporting organisation would have done something about the dog’s breakfast that is Cowal years ago. The best that can be said for it is that, as the last contest of the season, it can be a good party.



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