August 10, 2009

It’s alive!

Livens it up.It’s hard to believe that Piping Live! is now in its sixth year. Those of us who are old enough will remember what it was like to travel to Glasgow to compete at the World’s before the preceding week was chock-a-block, as it is now, with entertaining and informative events.

Don’t misunderstand me, Glasgow is a wonderful city. It’s where my mother grew up and I was there many times as a kid. But back in the 1980s and ’90s non-UK bands would arrive, as they do today, a week before the contest. There would be the one or two band practices a day, and after that you pretty much had to invent your own fun. And to a large extent, that involved consuming massive quantities of costly beverages, often all day long. It was fun but monotonous, expensive, and not exactly conducive to good playing.

All you’d talk about at the pub was the contest: the judges, the draw, the weather, the other bands, the possible result, the chanters, the timing, the weather, the reeds, the draw, the drums, the weather, the stewards, the bags, the judges, the draw, the chanters, the other bands, the weather . . . ad infinitum. By the time the contest actually arrived you were one big ball of anxiety, and you most certainly didn’t sleep much the night before.

I’d imagine that continues now with some people, but it seems that Piping Live!, in addition to the world-class piping and drumming talent and information it provides to anyone who wants to take advantage of it, is a great social diversion for visiting players. It also helps to keep them out of the pub.

I played at the World’s last year, and the week was a completely different experience. Sure, it was a different band, but I found that the Festival provided so many pleasant distractions to take my mind off the Saturday that I didn’t feel stressed at all when the Big Event arrived. The week flew by.

This year I’m heading to Piping Live! again, arriving Wednesday morning, this time as a non-competitor. Those competing with bands may feel differently, but because the three weekdays that I’ll be there are so full of interesting and satisfying variety, the Saturday competition is almost secondary.

Younger visiting competitors today don’t know how good they have it this week.


  1. So right you are Andrew! The first year I went, 2002, was the year before the festival was started. It’s great that there’s so much leading up to the big event. Wish I could be there this year, but alas. I’m making my plans for next year.

  2. You could be forgiven for thinking that the programme for ONE DAY is the one for the whole week, there’s so much to choose from. One thing I particularly appreciate this year is that the events ‘around the festival, ie run by the COP, RSPBA, Strathclyde Univ etc are included in the main programme and so seen and felt to all be part of the same thing. Ditto with the sponsors who are hosting things eg in the Street Cafe. Makes it feel integrated and whole, a healthy thing imho for piping and drumming.

  3. I enjoyed some of the events, some were over hyped too!
    Liked the band performances at George’s Square, well worth the visit.

    The Silver Cap contest was really interesting, the event will be returning next year too and I’ll be there for that one.



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