Published: December 04, 2020

Glasgow Life confirms World Championships could be Aug. 13-14

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association is reportedly “gearing up” to hold competitions, but most likely only in the second half of the UK summer, according to sources within the organization.

The organization has gone ahead and announced tentative dates for various events, including the five major championships, including the World’s, which would be held on August 13-14.

“We work closely with the RSPBA to deliver the World Pipe Band Championships and these are the dates they have indicated,” a spokesperson for Glasgow Life, the organization that partners with the RSPBA on the event, said. “We can’t predict what life will be like next summer, but continue to prepare for the events Glasgow is due to host.”

The World Pipe Band Championships, typically held in August in Glasgow, will need a go/no-go decision by April if bands from outside the UK can realistically plan to attend. The city of Glasgow stages the massive event at Glasgow Green, with significant payments coming from Glasgow Life, plus music licensing fees from the BBC for live and recorded television, radio and digital broadcast rights.

“Many variables have still to come into play,” one inside source who spoke on condition on anonymity said. “Band finances, individual finances and time off work might affect the appetite to travel far away. Cost of flights, including additional costs of vaccine or COVID test paperwork to confirm fit to fly. It’s not going to be easy for global representation for sure. I think it’s safe to say the season, if it happens, will be shorter with less competitors and less of a global presence. We can only hope.”

A recent pipes|drums discussion with the pipe-majors of three of the world’s top Grade 1 bands revealed their own doubts about returning to competition quickly, with concerns about standards and member attrition across the grades.


P-Ms Video Forum: Armstrong, Bevan and Tully on pipe band life in the pandemic – Part 1

Government health measures to combat the coronavirus forced the cancellation of pipe band competitions in the northern hemisphere. More recently, Australia and New Zealand have started live contests after they have addressed the pandemic more effectively, with most regions reporting zero cases of the virus.

Tentative RSPBA Championship dates:

  • British, Paisley, Scotland – May 22
  • United Kingdom, Lurgan, Northern Ireland – June 12
  • European, Inverness, Scotland – June 26
  • Scottish, Dumbarton, Scotland – July 21
  • World’s – August 13-14

Several effective vaccines have been reported and are awaiting approval from health organizations, but the UK has already approved one, with rollout expected to start the week of December 7th, beginning with essential care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Widespread vaccinations are not likely to occur until well into 2021.

Despite the announcement of dates, association President George Ussher and Chair John Hughes reportedly informed members attending the recent Northern Ireland Branch annual general meeting that plans are being made only from July on.

The association said that it had tentative dates for several small contests, including the Bridge of Allan Games that are popular with bands as a World’s warm-up.

“Bridge of Allan Highland Games can confirm we are planning to hold our Games on Sunday, 8th August 2021,” said games secretary Gary Scott.

The RSPBA has also reportedly put its search for an Executive Officer to succeed the retiring Ian Embelton on hold.

Because of the Scottish government’s current work furlough scheme, the association would not receive financial assistance, making candidates less likely to apply much less accept the job, which carries an annual salary of up to £59,000.

In September, the RSPBA confirmed that Embelton would retire at the end of November after nearly 20 years as Executive Officer.

Embelton was part of the £1,200,000-plus renovation of the RSPBA’s 45 Washington Street, Glasgow headquarters, which followed a significant fire in the Victorian structure.

Over the last few months, the RSPBA has asked member bands to lobby their members of Scottish Parliament to give special dispensation to pipe bands as Scotland phases in post-lockdown policies.

The organization also asked bands to pay their 2021 membership fees to safeguard its financial future and “continue to function as an organization.” The Glasgow headquarters renovation left the RSPBA with a significant debt, which in late 2019 Embelton said would be covered by payments to the association by the five major RSPBA championships’ organizers.

The association revealed in its 2019 Financial Statement an impairment loss of £585,553 applied to the headquarters’ value. The value was assessed at only £500,000, even after the £1,200,000-plus renovation.

To pay for the renovation, the RSPBA bypassed its written policy at the time of maintaining a minimum cash balance of £261,009 at all times – the amount that the association has identified it needs to operate in a typical year.

While associations around the world have come up with various online solo piping and drumming competitions to keep their members motivated, the RSPBA has been for all purposes dormant. Several grassroots online solo events have popped up around the UK.

Hughes had not responded at publication time to a request for comment.

 


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