March 04, 2015

World’s and apathy kill off Crieff solo piping

Vale of Atholl performing at the Crieff Highland Games.

The solo piping competitions at the Crieff Highland Games in Crieff, Scotland, have been held since the 1880s, but gradual erosion of attendance due to the traditional date coinciding with the World Pipe Band Championships and waning interest by Scotland’s solo pipers in competing at “small” events have resulted in the organizers pulling the plug on the events.

Crieff Vice-Chairman Ian Stewart said in a statement to the Competing Pipers Association, “The number of both participants and spectators at Crieff Games piping competitions has dwindled over the past few years. We believe that this is down to the World Pipe Band Championships now taking place over two days on the same weekend.”

Stewart said that his event had “little or no support from the RSPBA,” and despite trying to make changes to garner more interest from pipers, they determined the events were “financially sustainable.”

He added that, if the World’s were to change dates in the future, Crieff Games might bring back solo piping.

The Competing Pipers Association told its members, “This serves as a further warning that if we competing pipers do not support the games, the organisers will simply cancel piping events due to lack of interest.”

While the World Pipe Band Championships are enjoyed by thousands of pipers and drummers and have been a financial boon to City of Glasgow, the negative ancillary impact of the World’s has been felt around Scotland and most of the rest of the piping and drumming world. Bands have focused on the World’s and other major championships, often avoiding perceived pitfalls of competing at smaller games in Scotland due to perceived questionable results. In non-UK piping and drumming countries, bands have limited travel budgets to more regional events so that they can compete at the World’s, often resulting in lower attenadance at smaller Highland games.


  1. This is unfortunate. I played there last year and it was a good competition with paneled adjudication by senior judges in both the light music and Piobaireachd.

    It is also rather confusing. Sixteen played in the professional events last year! In that number was a player who ended up competing at the Glenfiddich and a piper who won multiple A-grade light music prizes this year and will be playing in the former winners next year. Not Oban/Inverness numbers, but it doesn’t really seem like a bad, poorly attended contest.

    Perhaps part of the draw back is simply because they don’t allow field entries. I know a few other folks who would have come to compete, but they hadn’t signed up in advance.

    Worlds or not, I do hope they reconsider. 16 entries is a big contest in this part of the world.

  2. Additionally, I can’t imagine the games enjoyed much more than 16 open competitors for the majority of its competitions, 1880s to present. Perhaps the solo piping boom has all games organizers expecting that 35 players turn out?

    Regarding spectators, there were not many watching the light music, as it was tucked away, next to an archery stand and a folk band… But the Piobaireachd, which had three or four benches, enjoyed many spectators, and even a few during the on-off bouts of rain. They did something more games should do – staging piping events with spectator seating. If people can sit, they will watch, it seems.

    Sad to see a well run contest which treated its competitors well disappear.



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