October 18, 2022

UK’s Solo Piping Judges Association to launch Mentoring Program for newcomers

At the Solo Piping Judges Association’s online annual general meeting on October 16th the UK-based group reappointed Chair Colin MacLellan, Treasurer Euan Anderson, and Secretary Roddy Livingstone by acclamation.

Jim McGillivray and Logan Tannock were elected to replace Bruce Hitchings and Dr. Angus MacDonald as committee representatives, each serving a one-time three-year term.

The SPJA membership of approximately 60 solo piping judges also approved a new one-year Mentoring Program required for all incoming “Senior” or “Approved” judges that will see a designated Senior judges act as mentors.

The 12-month program will comprise a full season of solo piping competitions and require new judges to attend three hour-long sessions with the Senior judge advising and coaching on best practices gained from their judging experience.

“This new program adds a layer of educational value for new judges.” – SPJA Chair Colin MacLellan

The SPJA plans to approach the organizers of the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting, the UK’s two most prominent solo piping competitions, to allow new judges to sit in as observers. At the end of the one-year Mentoring Program, all participating mentors and mentees will report on their experiences to the chair and the committee, who will then decide if the new judge successfully completed the program or needs further work with a different mentor.

SPJA Senior judges John Wilson, Iain MacFadyen and Colin MacLellan confer at the 2018 Masters. [Photo Alister Sinclair]
“We want to introduce the Mentorship Program as an entrance requirement and as an introduction to best practices in judging under the watchful eyes of Senior adjudicators,” MacLellan said. “While our conditions for entry to the Judges List has always been quite informal, we feel in recent years it has been most successful and so this new program adds a layer of educational value for new judges.”

Associations around the world, including the RSPBA and EUSPBA, have had year-long “shadow” judging programs for prospective judges for decades. Unlike virtually every country where solo piping competitions are available, there is no single association in the UK that governs rules, judges or grading. The traditional solo competition system in Great Britain adheres to only two general classifications: “Senior,” for those 18 and older, and “Junior,” for those under 18.

The Competing Pipers Association grades Senior pipers, but relatively few competitions adhere to the system, with mainly the major events following the classifications.

Also unlike essentially the rest of the world, there is no formal accreditation or testing or training system for solo piping judges in the UK, nor defined criteria or competition success prerequisite for who is eligible to adjudicate, thus enabling pipers who have never competed at a high level to judge even the most major contests.

“We have no plans for exams,” MacLellan said. “We did look into it extensively, but felt that we did not want nor need that level of formality.”

About 100 pipers in the UK regularly compete in Senior solo contests in the UK.

The SPJA was started in 2014 essentially to begin to formalize and improve the judging of solo piping competitions.





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