March 06, 2015

Crieff Highland Games clarifies piping position

No more sweeties for pipers at Crieff Highland Games.

The recent decision by the Crieff Highland Games of Crieff, Scotland, to drop its solo piping competitions after more than 130 years of them running, is perhaps of tangible impact to about 40 pipers worldwide who might be eligible and actually consider competing at the event.

That the games directly cited the World Pipe Band Championships as a factor in the decline of piping and interest in Crieff, however, will be of concern to thousands of pipes|drums readers, who might have witnessed similar negative ancillary impact on both solo piping and pipe band competitions in their own regions.

The World’s can be one factor in the demise of events, as pipers and drummers and bands are consumed with preparing for and getting to Glasgow in August. But other factors might also be the relatively arcane and clubby nature of piping and drumming and the overall competition for attention and the public’s money when so many more entertainment options are available. Highland games as we know them are under increased threat and, while pipers and drummers might get in high-dudgeon over declining and cancelled events, they might instead consider what pipers and drummers themselves might do to improve the “product.”

We received the following from Ian Stewart, vice chairman of the Crieff Highland Games, published here in its entirety:

Having read some of the nonsense being spouted online regards the suspension of solo piping at Crieff (not by pipes|drums I might add), we at Crieff Highland Games would appreciate if you could update the article with the following response, in its entirety.

Generally we do not like to get involved in the online ramblings of social media, however some of the recent comments relating to Crieff Highland Gathering’s decision to suspend this year’s solo piping, although not deserving of a reply are worth correcting.

The decision to suspend the solo piping was not taken lightly and not taken by a committee of pen-pushers, but by a board that includes many former pipe band members who understand the importance of not only maintaining traditional Highland games events but also the sound of bagpipes on the day. The fact of the matter is that since the World Pipe Band Championship changed to a two-day event Crieff Highland Games has struggled for numbers, both competitors and spectators.

Crieff Highland Games takes place on the Sunday after the 3rd Saturday in August meaning every few years the two events clash on the same weekend. Prior to the World’s becoming a two-day event this was not a problem and Crieff Highland Games enjoyed decent numbers of solo piping competitors, averaging around 12 youths and mid to high-twenties for adults. The drop in numbers started from 2013 onwards, resulting in the youths’ competition for the last two years being cancelled due to insufficient numbers and the average number of adults for the MSR and the pibroch combined only being around 14.

Crieff Highland Games have tried in the past to solve the date problem and indeed two years ago changed the date of their pipe band competition to the following week. This however was not liked by band members or the general public. This proved a financial disaster and although worth trying once was certainly not worth trying twice.

The “shameful” decision to “abandon” piping at Crieff is also not true, the decision was taken to suspend the solo piping for this year and this will be reviewed next year when the World’s does not clash, a point made to the Competing Pipers Association but not highlighted in online comments. In fact such is the abandonment of piping at Crieff, Crieff Highland Games actually sponsored the Junior Perthshire Highland Games Solo Piping Leagues in 2014, something we are looking to do again this year.

Crieff Highland Games have also recently sponsored two young local pipers to the tune of £400 to assist them with the purchase of their first set of bagpipes. Also, the expenses that are being saved from the suspension of this year’s event are being reinvested in attracting local pipe bands to this year’s games, with one of the pipe bands having an area for taster sessions to encourage young and old to take up the pipes.

Rather than abandoning piping at Crieff, we at Crieff Highland Games feel that we are one of the more proactive highland games when it comes to encouraging piping. We trust this response gives a fairer reflection of the position at Crieff and we look forward to seeing you all on Sunday 16th August.

– Ian Stewart, vice chairman of the Crieff Highland Games.

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  1. So you have a healthy open piping competition of 14 competitors (a number a lot of other highland games in Scotland would be more than happy with) and you decide to abandon it. It’s not others who are speaking nonsense, Mr Stewart, it’s you. What a shameful decision to axe one of the oldest piping competitions in Scotland.



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