So they called a bunch of WOMEN and they had it done in half an hour – Research: Women in Piping and Drumming in Scotland
Research: Women in Piping and Drumming in Scotland
National Piping Centre
11:45 am, August 16, 2023
Just after the first Covid-19 lockdown, the National Piping Centre staff was inspired to consider and understand the landscape of women in piping and drumming in Scotland. Despite the equality legislation passing in 1976, there have not been significant advancements in the numbers and level of participation in piping and pipe band drumming across all genders. The hope is that research will result in being better able to understand the landscape of women in piping and drumming in Scotland and move forward based on the findings.
Several interested audience members gathered for an intimate presentation and conversation during this midday session on Wednesday of Piping Live! Seated in tartan armchairs on the NPC auditorium stage, Helen Urquhart, Ailish Sutherland and Andrew Bova, described the premise of the research being conducted in collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
The National Piping Centre says that it is taking the lead, Piping Live! being one of two festivals in Scotland identified to have considered gender equity, diversity and inclusion, particularly with regard to bullying and harassment. The panel notes that there are very currently few top-level bands with female pipers and no female Grade 1 pipe-majors. There have only been two female pipers and one female judge in the history of the Glenfiddich. There is encouragement, however, in that there was recently an all-female judging panel with Patricia Henderson, Rona MacDonald and Anne Spalding. It was also noted that the influence of Rona MacDonald has resulted in an estimated 70% of female pipers currently in South Uist.
Taking the lead on an evidence-based approach to understanding the landscape for women, in particular, is a first step to understanding and addressing the current environment and influencing policies to shape the future.
It has been well more than 30 years that pipes|drums first identified the discrepancies for women in piping and has hosted many discussions and forums for the advancement of women in our art.
Grounded in scientific principles, the survey has been approved by the Royal Conservatoire’s ethics review board and privacy and anonymity are assured. Likert-based questions form the basis of the quantitative analysis accompanied by open-field text boxes to gather qualitative responses to understand the experiences of those who identify as women and have been involved in piping and drumming in Scotland at any time.
What is your experience with piping and drumming in Scotland with particular respect to learning the instrument, opportunity and visibility, treatment, safety and social environments? The survey is open again until September 8th, and all women with any connection to piping and drumming in Scotland at any time are encouraged to participate
As a woman in piping in Canada, playing at the Grade 1 level beginning 35 years ago with Simon Fraser University and now with 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel), and with all the years in between alongside our family in City of Regina, I am so grateful for the opportunities I have been afforded. It has been well more than 30 years since pipes|drums first identified the discrepancies for women in piping and has hosted many discussions, forums and articles on the involvement and advancement of women in our art.
There is no doubt the National Piping Centre research will contribute to an evidence-informed understanding of the environment in Scotland through the publishing of the report that will ensue. The big question is what action will be taken to truly dismantle the power and privilege that perpetuates marginalization (see UBC wheel of power and privilege) of those on the outside of the circle, goes beyond putting a tick mark beside diversity, inclusion and equity boxes, and creates a space where women can thrive and where we are not still attempting to understand the context thirty years from now. If research is the way forward, then make the next step for the vision and ideas for a better future.
Ask us. Our daughter, Eilidh, an outstanding piper, was raised on this foundation with her dad telling her at a very young age: “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; ALL the king’s horses, and ALL the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again . . . so they called a bunch of WOMEN and they had it done in half an hour.”
Barbara MacDonald has had a lifetime of piping playing at the top level in Grade 1 with Simon Fraser University and the 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel), as well as being pipe-sergeant with the Grade 2 City of Regina for several decades. She lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.
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