April 19, 2023

NPC taking a look at women in piping and drumming with six-month DEI research study

For more than three decades, pipes|drums has consistently worked to highlight the contributions by, pioneering work of, and, sadly, inequitable conditions for women in piping and drumming, including feature pieces, interviews and advocacy campaigns to bring better participation by and equality for females in the art.

Back in the 2000s, our exposing the Royal Scottish Pipers Society’s antiquated males-only membership helped to pressure the organization to join the 1920s. Our in-depth look at the #MeToo movement in our art raised consciousness worldwide. Our spotlight on trailblazers like Gail Brown, Patricia Henderson, Rona Lightfoot, Edith MacPherson, and Anne Spalding celebrated the contributions to piping by these courageous women.

Now, the National Piping Centre, in collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, has launched “Women in Piping and Drumming: Equality, Inclusivity, and Diversity,” a six-month research initiative to understand the “underrepresentation of women in Scottish piping and drumming” in Scotland.

The anonymous and secure online research piece is available to anyone who identifies or has identified as a woman in piping and drumming in Scotland. The non-Scottish can also contribute provided they have participated in piping and drumming in Scotland.

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The survey will remain open until June 2nd, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Ethics Committee has signed off that rigorous and proper ethical practices have been followed.

Like many sub-cultures, piping and drumming communities worldwide have varying degrees of equality, acceptance and welcome for non-male, non-white participants.

While woman have been welcomed since at least the 1950s in most countries, the UK has been relatively late. Women were not permitted to compete at the major solo competitions until anti-discrimination laws in the 1970s essentially forced their hands. As recently as the 1990s, many pipe bands tacitly or openly excluded women from their ranks, including several prominent upper-grade groups.

While they were by no means alone, Pipe-Major Iain McLeod of the legendary Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band, wouldn’t allow women to step foot on the band’s bus, never mind play in the band.

Despite highlighting the fact that there are few women in the senior solo piping competitions at the major gatherings at Inverness and Oban, the numbers have actually declined to only three in 2018.





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