January 28, 2022

Few non-UK top-grade bands plan to attend a 2022 World’s

Knock on blackwood, but the chance of an in-person 2022 World Pipe Band Championships looks good.

Provided the current wave of Omicron infection dissipates and a new variant doesn’t scuttle plans again, national and regional health authorities in Scotland and piping and drumming prominent regions worldwide are suggesting a return to some normalcy could return by March.

The UK recently eased many restrictions, although face coverings continue to be required in most regions, the British government has made it clear that it doesn’t want the country to continue to be held back by the virus.

With the exciting thought of an August World’s at Glasgow Green, we reached out to the pipe-majors of the world’s Grade 1 and Grade 2 bands not based in the UK or Ireland to gauge their current plans.

The result? Four Grade 1 bands and as few as three in Grade 2 are planning to attend the event.

Grade 1

  • 78th Fraser Highlanders, Ontario, Canada
  • City of Dunedin, Dunedin, Florida, USA
  • Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada
  • Thomas Alumni, Houston, Texas, USA

Grade 2

  • Los Angeles Scots, USA
  • North Stratton, Alberta, Canada
  • Peel Regional Police, Ontario, Canada

No top-grade bands from Australia New Zealand said that they planned to attend the 2022 World’s. Both Bagad Brieg and Bagad Cap Caval of Brittany said they will not be attending and, regrettably, Antwerp & District of Belgium appears to have largely disbanded in the last two years.

Assuming all active UK and Ireland bands attend, that would make for a World’s Grade 1 competition of 16 bands.

By our count, there are 23 Grade 1 bands active worldwide, with 12 from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. (Glasgow Skye Association will be in hiatus until they recruit a pipe-major and lead-drummer.)

Assuming all active UK and Ireland bands attend, that would make for a World’s Grade 1 competition of 16 bands.

The scene at the 2019 World Pipe Band Championships, the last year when the event was held. [Photo Alister Sinclair]
It’s interesting to note that City of Dunedin and St. Thomas Alumni, both from the US and both still to make their debut in the premier grade at the World’s, have been able to practice in-person regularly for a year or more. Florida and Texas rules – or the lack of them – have permitted residents of those states to hold in-person gatherings.

Bands from the UK and Canada have not had the benefit of in-person practices pretty much since the pandemic began in February 2020. With things finally promising to open up, they would only be able to resume in-person practices in February or, more likely, March, giving them around seven months to prepare for the World’s.

How this will play out for the two new Grade 1 bands will be interesting to watch but, one can assume, that Dunedin and St. Thomas Alumni will be at the top of their game come August, setting up a solid debut on the biggest stage in the pipe band world.

Pipe-Major Alex Gandy of the 78th Highlands (Halifax Citadel), the Nova Scotia-based Grade 1 band, said, “All of the factors you would assume are playing into it. Two years of rust aside, the financial implications alone of planning a trip for a contest that might not happen seems crazy to me. I wouldn’t feel right gearing up for the World’s with the amount of uncertainty that there is at the moment. If the World’s does happen, I look forward to hearing and hopefully seeing the bands compete but it won’t be the case for us.”

Even at the best of times, a trip to Glasgow from New Zealand is a massive undertaking for a band in terms of both time and money. Add the uncertainty of travel and probable restrictions still in place, and the prospect is Herculean.

“The New Zealand border still requires all return travellers to enter managed hotel quarantine for 10 days at a cost of around NZ$3,000 per person,” said Pipe-Major Jamie Hawke of 2021 New Zealand Champions Canterbury Caledonian Society. “Until this is lifted with certainty, [a trip to Scotland] is unviable for us to consider.”

Of the non-UK/Ireland Grade 2 bands, Peel Regional Police is one of only three bands determined to attend the World’s if it’s on. The band has a relative advantage of direct flights from Toronto and a monetary sponsorship. Both Peel and the LA Scots were in Grade 1 only a few years ago, and keen to return to the top grade.

North Stratton of Edmonton, Alberta, is planning to go, and Pipe-Major Hugh Armstrong said they have even purchased several plane tickets already. No other North American, New Zealand or Australian Grade 2 bands said that they planned to attend the 2022 World’s.

The Grade 2 Portland Metro of Portland, Oregon, was on the ascent before the pandemic, but they, too, plan to stay home.

“At this point Portland Metro is not planning on attending the World’s this year,” said Portland Metro Pipe-Major Mike Tomasetti. “We had to shut down for the past few weeks due to the recent surge, and we have many players in Canada, which makes it difficult to plan when we have uncertainties at the border due to COVID. We do not believe it is worth the monetary investment to go over if we can’t put our best performance forward.”

While disappointing, we all agreed that there were just too many what-ifs to commit full-on to a trip to Scotland. – Grade 2 Rocky Mountain P-M Sean Somers

Similarly, Sean Somers, pipe-major of Grade 2 Rocky Mountain of Alberta, Canada, said, “The band has decided to not attend the 2022 World Championships. It was felt there were just too many variables and uncertainty at play. For instance, we had a long chat about the scenario of someone in the band getting sick while in Glasgow: does the band pay for additional hotel (quarantine time, if required, etc.) and subsequent costs, or would that be up to the individual members? While disappointing, we all agreed that there were just too many what-ifs to commit full-on to a trip to Scotland.”

Ben Peterson, pipe-major of Grade 2 Greater Midwest of Michigan said, “It was our original plan to, as we have been planning to go each year since 2020. However, things are just so uncertain with international travel. It being already a significant logistical venture to go under normal circumstances, it just felt as though there is too much risk.”

In April 2021, many more non-UK bands in the top grades indicated that they had their sights set on attending a 2022 World’s. But it’s clear now that the crushing Omicron variant put paid to many of those plans.

While numbers will be down significantly for the 2022 World’s, should it take place, many Grade 1 and Grade 2 bands confirmed that their sights are set on making the trip next year.

With that, we can look forward to and hope for a 2023 World Pipe Band Championships that could break all records for the number of international bands participating.

Knock on blackwood.



World’s 2022 could be an international blockbuster




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