July 31, 2012

Games cancellations disrupting summer; weather, finances, apathy hitting contests

Horrendous weather. Financial constraints. Increased competition for attendance. All are creating a perfect storm for several Highland games, with Luss and Stirling in Scotland and Haliburton in Ontario each cancelling their 2012 events.

Most importantly, the scenic Luss Highland Gathering, one of the world’s longest-running piping competitions, has announced that, due to terrible weather, the July 7th event has been cancelled altogether. Luss games were started in 1875. Luss had planned to re-introduce a piobaireachd competition in 2012, with the new “Cuach Nan Creagadair” cup added to the traditional light music events.

Meanwhile, in Central Scotland the Stirling Highland Games have also decided to cancel outright due to weather, but the event had already nixed the solo piping competitions because of apparent financial constraints and perceived lack of interest from spectators in the events.


In information obtained by pipes|drums, Stirling organizers stated that they needed to focus budget on attracting spectators, concluding that the solo piping and pipe band competitions did not make a difference. The event had also cancelled pipe band competitions in 2008 after creating a larger pool of prize money in 2003 in an attempt to create buzz with bands and in turn spectators.

Since 2008 Stirling games had opted instead for hiring four pipe bands each year, each performing for 20 minutes on their own and 20 minutes together, resulting, according to sources, in a savings of “almost £4,000 and much better visitor satisfaction.” Stirling also cancelled the entire event in 2009, reportedly due to financial issues.

Meanwhile, in Ontario, the Haliburton Highland Games scheduled for July 14th was cancelled due to financial constraints.

“Unfortunately the committee has decided to reduce the event to just a [Highland] dancing competition this year (insurance and sponsorship issues),” said Andrew Mansfield, Entertainment Coordinator for the Haliburton Highland Games, adding, “we will be working hard to make our 25th anniversary in 2013 a bigger and brighter event.”

Haliburton phased out its solo piping and drumming and pipe band competitions in the early-1990s.

The Ontario Highland games circuit has been hit hard in recent years by events eliminating piping and drumming competitions or ceasing altogether. Since 2000 several Ontario events have withdrawn from the scene, including Fort Erie, Sarnia, Chatham, and Hamilton. Remaining competitions such as the Kincardine Scottish Festival and the Cambridge Highland Games have implemented a cap on pipe band entries to reduce costs or limit the size and scope of their event.




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