Spring Gatherin’ 2017 abruptly cancelled
The Spring Gatherin’ in Belfast has been cancelled on short notice after the Ulster Scots Agency withdrew its financial support without warning or discussion. The Ulster Scots Agency had agreed to fund the rental of the Waterfront Conference Centre in Belfast, the venue for the April 4th event.
Organizers were informed of the decision to withdraw funds on Thursday, February 16th, after the end of the business day. According to Spring Gatherin’ organizer Colin Wasson, messages immediately sent to the Ulster Scots Agency were answered with an automated statement that the organization would be on “annual leave” until Wednesday, February 22nd. “They have still to contact us about this since their return,” Wasson said.
The Spring Gatherin’ was to be the third annual showcase of piping, drumming and pipe band performances and workshops. The event had already secured Jim Kilpatrick, Fred Morrison, Craig Munro and Stewart Warmington to conduct masterclasses at the Spring Gatherin’ and at schools and community groups in the area.
The event was started in 2015 by Wasson and a team also involved in the organization of the highly popular Belfast Tattoo and, starting last year, the Glasgow Tattoo. The Spring Gatherin’ was inspired in part by the successful Winter Storm recitals, workshops and contests held in Kansas City, Missouri, each January.
The original plan for the Spring Gatherin’ was to include pipe band competitions using rules different from those of the RSPBA, and the contests were not sanctioned by the association. After the RSPBA allegedly pressured bands not to participate in the Spring Gatherin’, the competitions were dropped.
David Scott, the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s Northern Ireland Branch Executive Secretary since 2005, resigned from the association due to mounting pressure from the branch executive over the matter.
The Ulster Scots Agency hosted a reception at its headquarters for those involved with the RSPBANI’s “Live back In Ireland” concert at the Belfast Waterfront on February 25th.
In a statement, the Spring Gatherin’ said, “We will now have a rethink of strategy and consider how best to proceed with this event in 2018, if it is possible at all.”
In the spring of 2016, Mervyn Herron, Contest Committee Chairman, resigned from the RSPBA’s Northern Ireland branch following 30 years of service. Herron alleged that he was pushed out of his position as director in an ouster orchestrated by the association due to Herron’s involvement in and support of the Spring Gatherin’. Herron has reportedly been stripped entirely of his membership with the RSPBA.