Published: December 19, 2014

New UK solo piping judging group set up

The Solo Piping Judges’ Association (SPJA) has been created as the new governing and organizing body in the United Kingdom for adjudication at the major senior solo piping competitions.

The SPJA will be responsible for maintaining the list of judges deemed suitable for judging major contests.

“Discussing judging matters through the Joint Committee for Judging (JCJ) has become impractical as these are often not relevant to competition organizers,” SPJA Secretary Jack Taylor said in a news release, which also shared that “the SPJA is run and managed exclusively by judges and will liaise closely with the Competing Pipers’ Association. The previous situation with three judge representatives was rather informal, and the new arrangements aim to ensure that those best qualified are judging, and that judges have the chance to develop and update their knowledge and skills. The twice yearly judges’ seminars have been successful in doing that, and they will continue.

“There is not a lot of difference from the previous set-up. The Joint Committee for Judging was established to bring together competition organizers, judges, and pipers to discuss matters of common interest. Whilst there were, and are, areas of common interest, it became clear that the pipers had their specific issues, the judges had theirs, and the competition organizers had theirs, and it wasn’t relevant to talk about these within the large committee which consisted of representatives from each group. The pipers were well represented by the CPA, but the judges had no specific structure.  There were three representatives whose job it was to maintain the judges list.  This was a fairly informal arrangement.”

The initial managing committee of the SPJA comprises Andrew Wright, Chairman; Taylor; Colin MacLellan and Ronnie McShannon, with an additional member to be appointed in 2015.

The Joint Committee for Judging has also been renamed the Joint Committee for Solo Piping Competitions (JCSPC) and “will refocus on providing a new, broader platform for competition organizers, judges and competitors to discuss issues arising in solo contests including maintaining standards and encouraging innovation.”

The JCSPC comprises representatives from various major competitions and groups, including the Piobaireachd Society, the Northern Meeting and the Argyllshire Gathering, and will now add representatives from the Glenfiddich Championship and the Piping Live! Masters.

The SPJA’s list of judges are categorized in light music and piobaireachd each as “Senior” or “Approved,” currently with 47 judges based in the UK and 10 non-UK.

Unlike virtually every country where solo piping competitions are available, there is no single association in the UK that governs rules, judges or grading. The traditional solo competition system in Great Britain adheres to only two general classifications: “Senior,” for those 18 and older, and “Junior,” for those under 18.

The Competing Pipers Association grades Senior pipers, but relatively few competitions adhere to the system, with mainly the major events following the classifications.

Also unlike essentially the rest of the world, there is no formal accreditation or testing or training system for solo piping judges in the UK, nor defined criteria or competition success prerequisite for who is eligible to adjudicate, thus enabling pipers who have never competed at a high level to judge even the most major contests.

Taylor, a doctor who had to go through a rigorous training, testing and ongoing education in order to practice medicine and maintain his practice throughout his career, said that there are currently no plans to bring in any form of accreditation.

About 100 pipers in the UK regularly compete in Senior solo contests in the UK.

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