December 26, 2021

Alison Burke appointed RSPBA Chief Executive/Operations Manager

After a prolonged search, the board of directors of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association has settled on Alison Burke as the organization’s next Chief Executive and Operations Manager, replacing Ian Embelton who had held the role for 20 years.

Burke is the first woman to lead the RSPBA and one of few to head a pipe band association of any kind. Her academic background includes a PhD, Master of Letters, and a Master of Arts in Classics and Theatre from the University of Glasgow, and until August 2021 worked as the Park and Project Manager at Dalkeith Country Park southeast of Edinburgh, a historical estate featuring a kids’ adventure park, a cafe and a gift shop.

She also worked with the National Trust for Scotland for eight years, receiving several awards for her work, and is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, allowing her to list “FSA (Scot)” in her title.

Alison Burke

The RSPBA announced in September 2020 that Embelton intended to retire and that a search for a new chief executive was underway. The search was prolonged due to the pandemic, and Embelton reportedly stayed on to assist the association.

Embelton helped to guide the RSPBA through two decades of incremental change, and oversaw the reinvention of the World Pipe Band Championship from being a slightly bigger version of a typical RSPBA major championship to the multi-million-pound extravaganza that it has become. He also led the organization through the controversial renovation of its Washington Street headquarters following a fire that nearly destroyed the building.

Despite the culmination of the well-publicized lengthy search, the RSPBA made the announcement on Christmas Eve via a post to its website.

The association listed Burke as “designate” for the roles, meaning that she would go through a trial period, and could mean that her appointment would have to be formally approved by “shareholders,” which, in the case of the RSPBA, would be the member bands.

The post was reportedly advertised through a private employment agency with a view to finding a candidate from outside of the pipe band world.

Burke was not immediately available for comment and RSPBA Chair Kevin Reilly had not responded to questions at publication time.



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Opinion: Clean Break – a call for change – Part 2

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