March 19, 2015

Spring Gatherin’ nixes contests under alleged RSPBA pressure

we would be changing the band format to ensure they could not be sanctioned, hence the showcase format.

“I also pointed out to him that the RSPBANI are a publicly funded body who on their own web site tell the public, they are dedicated to promote piping and drumming in Northern Ireland as well as encouraging arts and culture, the very thing he would now be trying to prevent.

“He told me that the RSPBANI could run these competitions for us and we wouldn’t need a license.

“I pointed out that the vast majority of people we had spoken to from bands, did not want RSPBA involvement as there were concerns about judging standards of RSPBA judges.

“He was shocked that there was a body of opinion who didn’t trust the judging of the RSPBA.

“Why would we want them coming into our event, piggybacking on the work, effort and risk of our organization?

“I also pointed out the competitions he was talking about were, at times, a joke with invariably only two bands turning up for Grade 1 and in some occasions only one Grade 1 band turning up to compete, what sort of competition is that.

“If they suspended the Grade 2 bands they were threatening to suspend this would leave their Grade 2 competition with nobody to compete.

“Again what sort of competition would that be and what sort of excuse would they give their public funders when the top two grades are being decimated?

“I also pointed out the number of bands turning up to their competitions, diminishes each year with Bands finding it more difficult to fund attendance at competitions which were becoming meaningless and pointed out the funding derived from appearing at The Belfast Tattoo was keeping bands together and on the competition circuit.

“It strikes me [that] the RSPBA is an organization ill at ease with itself. It is being passed by, by organizations who are organizing events the public want to buy into, and pipers and drummers want to take part in. It buries its head in the sand, that things need to move on and all they have to offer is a competition format where bands form a circle then turn their backs on the audience who have taken the time to turn up and support the event.

“Their immediate and only reaction is to threaten and bully to protect their perceived status and public funding, which is very substantial.

“We may be more sympathetic to their situation if the bands were benefiting more from this funding. It seems to be juxtaposition. They claim to be promoting and advancing piping and drumming yet offer so little help to bands on the ground.

“We reached out to the RSPBANI to work with us on the Belfast Tattoo, and we again reached out to them to work with us on Spring Gatherin’, on both occasions they were dismissive.

“Our events will continue and grow, with or without the support of the RSPBA, because there is a need for these events.

“George Ussher reported back to the executive of the RSPBANI, on the evening of our meeting. I am told the executive agreed to write to me to offer to discuss working together going forward.

“To date, some two weeks after that meeting, no letter has been received.”

Four bands were entered to compete: Grade 2 Manorcunningham from Ireland and Bleary and Police Service of Northern Ireland from Northern Ireland, and Grade 3A Thiepvale from Eire.

At least one band entered for the planned competition have said that they were verbally threatened with suspension by RSPBA official should they take part.

The RSPBA has often contended that any pipe band . . .



  1. This could be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Roll on a ” Worlds” in the US with real world prize money sans RSPBA involvement.

  2. Call their bluff, have all the bands show up take part in the nonsanctioned event and show that the sky doesn’t fall in. Then hold other competitions on the days of the RSPBA games and show that the RSPBA isn’t all that necessay, it’s the bands and the judges; not the office boys. Take back control of your piping and drumming lives.

  3. Wow! Almost sounds like taxation without representation. How did that work out? It appears that the lords in RSPBA won’t change, but change is coming because the minions are looking to expand what they do and how they do it. This is really sad.

    bob mason



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