June 06, 2005

Grade ?

It’s still early in the 2005 outdoor season (in the northern hemisphere, anyway), and it seems as if non-Major Grade 1 contests are rapidly vanishing.

So many events that used to attract a decent crowd of Grade 1 bands now seem to stop at Grade 2. If they have a “Grade 1” contest, it’s made up of mostly bands from Grade 2 that are playing up against the one or two Grade 1 band(s) that bothered to attend.

The trend started when Shotts & Dykehead about a decade ago decided that it would compete only at the Major Championships in the UK. It was too much effort and cost too much to get to the minor events.

Sure. But I think that what was really at stake was the fact that at the smaller contests there was much better chance of a “big” band getting beaten by a “small” band. Not only that, but in Scotland – presumably for no other reason but to save a few pounds – the RSPBA appoints only one piping and one drumming judge at the small competitions. No additonal piping and no ensemble. Those two judges therefore essentially call the contest. Two piping, one ensemble and one drumming judge are too few for any event, and having only one piping and one drumming borders on ridiculous. Who can blame a top band for avoiding the risk of damaging their reputation? All it takes is just one of the two judges to miss something or have a hate-on or be in the back pocket of some manufacturer or other. Not that that ever happens.

The non-attendance of top bands at small contests is resulting in gridlock in the UK. The big-name bands stay away from the smaller contests, so the bands that don’t normally get into the top six at Majors don’t get a chance to beat those perceived top bands except at Majors. Consequently it’s desperately difficult and takes ages for bands to break into the upper ranks.

What is it going to take to get the top Grade 1 bands back to the smaller events? More judges? More prize money? Appearance fees? Prestige? Better toilets? A rule requiring them to attend at least X number of non-championships in order to compete at the Majors?





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