March 06, 2021

RSPBA Northern Ireland branch gets proactive with schedule

The Northern Ireland branch of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association is proactively proposing an outright cancellation of all of the pipe band competitions it organizes until the end of July, considering organizing “festivals” potentially in August and September.

The RSPBANI executive committee will make a formal recommendation at its branch meeting on March 27th. RSPBA branches can put on their own events and can cancel them, too. The five major RSPBA championships are managed by the organization’s headquarters and board of directors.

There are four competitions scheduled in Northern Ireland from May to July, including the All-Ireland Championships in Lisburn on July 3rd.

The branch said that “the format of the Festivals remains to be determined as the festival is still in the early planning stages, however, the intention is that they would involve showcase performances by the bands who are in attendance.”

The branch was not immediately available to answer whether the festival or festivals would include competitions. They stressed, though, that “events would require considerable planning to ensure that they are organized to be COVID-19 safe,” and invited their member bands to provide feedback on whether they might be in a position to attend festivals in August and September.

The RSPBA and its branches have rarely organized anything except competitions. A non-competition event would be highly unusual. In 2017, a group in Northern Ireland attempted to organize The Spring Gatherin’, an event that envisioned teaching, non-competition performances and contests, but the RSPBA allegedly threatened member bands with suspension if they participated and the event was subsequently cancelled.

The RSPBA has so far cancelled the first three of its championships, with only the Scottish (Dumbarton, Scotland, July 31st) and World’s (Glasgow, August 13-14) on the books.

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life, the organization that licenses the World Pipe Band Championships from the RSPBA, reaffirmed to pipes|drums on March 1st that “All partners involved are following updates to guidance closely but have not set a date by which decisions on the event have to be made.”

After months of problems battling the pandemic, the UK, and Northerin Ireland and Scotland in particular, is racing ahead with vaccinations and expects to have anyone who wants one to be vaccinated by July. But until restrictions are lifted on gatherings, pipe bands will not be able to practice in-person.

Most leaders of Grade 1 and 2 bands responded to a pipes|drums survey in February 2021 that they would need three or more months to return to competition-ready form.



Getting Back At It: we survey band leaders on competition return and other shutdown issues

Spring Gatherin’ 2017 abruptly cancelled




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