February 21, 2009

The people’s band

Hands off.Maybe it was all the bad news mounting. Maybe the pipe band world had had just about enough, thank you, and this was just too much. But public reaction to the apparent threat to the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band was nothing short of phenomenal. The members of the band have been under pressure for the last few years, with new police management seemingly giving them stick for committing too much time to being great musicians, and too much devotion to ensuring the band was a symbol of excellence that was representative of the excellence of the Strathclyde Police force itself.

Friends of the band worked the media to communicate the story of the band’s threatened status, and when news of the dire situation hit on pipes|drums and then the Glasgow Herald the piping and drumming world reacted with a 24-hour PR wildfire. I’ve never seen anything like it. Before Facebook group petitions were even a day old the force had reacted and quelled the angry mob, publicly assuring us that it’s status quo with the band, at least for now. We will hold them to that.

Sponsorships start and stop. Bands come and go. When established top-grade bands go under the response is generally a few days of disappointment and sadness by most, but the issue is generally quickly put out of mind, as other bands become the beneficiaries of the suddenly available talent.

But why was the Strathclyde Police situation different? Perhaps it’s this: Apart from the fact that the band is more than 120 years old and the winner of dozens of championships, the Strathclyde Police more than any other top band is a band that belongs to the people.

Certainly the people of Scotland’s Strathclyde region pay taxes that go to the funding of the police and thus the band, but anyone who has visited Glasgow also has a financial stake in the band. Those who have gone to the World’s or Piping Live! or Celtic Connections or just a visit to see auld auntie Senga in Knightswood have helped to sponsor the band. They may not realize it, but the Polis are truly a band of the people. We all help to fund it.

So when our band is threatened, it’s reasonable that we all get our collective back up and set about the folk messing with our investment. We’ll give you what for.

I saw somewhere online a suggestion that each person employed by the Strathclyde Police force could just give another pound each year to go towards the band. In truth, all of us who have spent any money in Glasgow have helped to sponsor this band. Our vested interest. Our band.


  1. I do find it interesting that the reactions to the demise of bands like Polkemmet, David Urquhart Travel, and perhaps (I daresay?) Victoria Police were not as amplified throughout our little world. You also make a good point about how our visits and taxes sustain the band, I’m sure most don’t realize it. That aside, I am curious as to how much name, image, branding and even reputation affect our feelings toward a band – would the public outcry be the same if House of Edgar stopped sponsoring Shotts & Dykehead? Ditto ScottishPower, SL78thFH, and SFUPB.

  2. With no disrespect to three bands you mentioned, the Strathclyde police band has been in existence for a very long time in comparison i.e. covering three centuries. Naturally visitors to Scotland and in this case Glasgow are very welcomed but I would guess no less than the plane loads of visitors coming into Canada and the U.S.A. from Glasgow. I would even suggest the numbers are even greater in that respect. These people spend money also and in return help the North American economy. With respect to last four bands you have mentioned. Sponsors are great but they don’t pay all the bills. These bands appreciate any funding provided but they also work very hard organizing concerts, festivals and so on. It’s not all a bed of roses and the economic times is proving more and more difficult to get sufficient funding in order to keep these bands with the proper gear and traveling expenses.

  3. It’s not about sponsorship, piping or the band in general, it’s all about saving heritage and preserving the culture.

    The strathclyde Police Pipe Band is part of the land and should be protected from these corparate ladder climbers who are only passing thru. It’s so easy for these Bean Counters who know sweet FA about morale, to dismiss the real value of what the band brings to the police organization and the local community as well.

    I’m sure the tax payers appreciate their money being put toward a good cause instead of being squandered on corporate lunches and the endless programs for losers that will never kick their addictions.

    If it were not for the internet, the band could have easy been put out of service.
    Perhaps it was all a reflection of the attitude towards the intrument’s reputation, it’s just bagpipes so who is going to care?

  4. Funny how bands, or even names of bands, come to mean different things to different people. People have associations to the names. For some, Strathclyde Police Pipe Band is of course associated with their history and great success, and for others the association might be to do with the solidity (or perceived solidity) of the Police Force as an Institution, something to do with protecting us all and keeping us all safe. Scottish Power to me means Electricity Bills,which makes it plummet- but also Chris Armstrong -which brings it way up again. Difficult to think of Strathclyde Police PB as anything other than a solid, dependable, serious, consistent, standard setting group of people. The ‘high heid-yins’ should actually pay more attention to that, because the qualities the band displays are surely the best possible advert for the whole Institution. And isn’t that the very thing they might spend thousands on trying to achieve (through other projects, advertising, protions etc) in terms of how they as a Police Force are seen in the community? -ie, solid, dependable, serious and consistent in what they do, and doing it to a high standard.
    The band seems to me to be one of their greatest assets, if only they could A) see it, and B) make use of the fact and capitalise on it. The hope is that the huge reaction to the news, in a short space of time, has made somebody, somewhere, think.

  5. strathclyde police have inspired many a piper and pipe band in there hayday of the late 70s and the 80s,especially the 6 in a row at the worlds.they are 1 of only 4 scottish bands that can actually win a major(shotts,boghall.and scottish power the others)any pipe band that goes of the road is a sad loss,but if you ask anybody at the games name a grade 1 band,atl least 50% will say strathclyde police.

  6. I think there is a fundamental difference between brand sponsoring and “full time funding” so to speak. Scottish power do not provide full time jobs with salaries paid including practice time. House of Edgar have only been involved with Shotts for about 6 years out of about 100 years. Notice that they didn’t drop the name Shotts from their handle indicating nothing is forever when it comes to money. I think both of these bands would continue after the brand terminates. It almost sounded like a no money no play situation with the Strathclyde. Which begs the question. Do you live to play or do you play to live? Thankfully the Police band will continue.

  7. I would also like to add that the civilian guest members of the band also devote considerable (and unpaid) time to the band, as you would expect in any other top class band. These guys play an important role and work every bit as hard to maintain and improve the standard to achieve the goals – goals that the pipe major and all the members strive to achieve for no other reason than to win whatever they can, irrespective of whether they are cops or not or who is supporting them or otherwise. From my point of view, I definitely felt a sense pride and responsibility that comes with being member of a publicly-owned band with such a history of great players and success. Also, to discontinue support for a band which in its very essence brings the police and civilians into a single, world class unit to work together is just ridiculous. It should be used as a model and example of how the police force should work, not as a disposable commodity. Mon the polis.



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