Council funding crisis hits pipe band championships

Three major pipe band championships are at risk of not going ahead in 2024 as the governing body is still seeking venues.

There are normally five major competitions a year – but so far only the Scottish and World championships have been confirmed for next season.

In a letter to the bands, external, the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) explained that local authorities in UK and Ireland, which typically host the events, have been unable to commit due to a lack of funds.

Chairman Kevin Reilly said it was “very disappointing” and they were working “tirelessly” to seek venues for the British, UK and European events.

“As you are aware many local authorities are finding the ‘money’ situation as difficult as everyone else and they tell us they don’t have the disposable income to commit for 2024,” he added.

Pipers standing in a circle with crowds watching
Image caption,The piping championship season runs from May to the end of August or September

The two events planned for 2024 include the Scottish Championships in Levengrove Park, Dumbarton, on 27 July.

Following this, the World Pipe Band Championships will be in Glasgow Green on 16 and 17 August.

Many in the piping community are hoping that venues for the remaining three championships will be confirmed before the season begins in May.

Pipe band championships are normally held in large parks and are often supported by local councils.

In the 2023 season, only four of the five contests took place – the British Major Championship did not happen.

Robert Wallace, the editor of Piping Press, said: “The worry is that it won’t just be this year. In 2023 we only had four of the five championships for the same reason.”

Mr Wallace said: “The pipe band movement brings millions of pounds every year into the Scottish economy, and yet here we have a situation where the events which do bring money into the country can’t be put on because of lack of money.”

Robert Wallace sits with his bagpipes
Image caption,Mr Wallace worries about the promotion of Scotland’s national music

Lochgelly High School in Fife has a pipe band made up of pupils aged between 11 and 17 years old.

This summer they were first in their class at the UK Major Pipe Band Championship – but the contest is at risk of not going ahead in 2024.

They were also runners up at the World Pipe Band Championships event, and won a Champion of Champions prize for their consistency across the major events.

Greig Canning, who teaches the high school band, said the children were “buzzing” with their successes and that it means a lot not just to them, but to their families and the school as well.

He said the news from the RSPBA was “extremely disappointing”.

There are two bands at Lochgelly High School and they began rehearsing just two weeks after the end of the 2023 season.

“We have already prepared all of our contest material for next year,” he said.

He added: “It’s also understandable at this time that local authorities, during a cost of living crisis, maybe don’t have the spending power to bid for these things.”

“But it’s frustrating that we haven’t found a creative solution to the problem.

“There was a warning last year when there was only four majors. I would have hoped that a contingency would have been in place by now.”

Piping band marching down street
Image caption,Lochgelly High School Pipe Band was “buzzing” with their succcess at the World Pipe Band Major Championship in 2023

In 2023 the World Pipe Band Championships at Glasgow Green had about 30,000 attendees and 190 bands from 15 countries.

In the previous two years, the key events were in the following locations:

  • British 2022: Battery Park, Inverclyde
  • UK 2022 and 2023 Lurgan Park, Northern Ireland
  • European 2022: Bught Park, Inverness,
  • European 2023: Duthie Park, Aberdeen
  • Scottish 2022 and 2023: Levengrove Park, Dumbarton,
  • Worlds 2022 and 2023: Glasgow Green, Glasgow

No events were held in 2021 or 2020 due to Covid restrictions.

Mr Wallace added: “It’s part of Scotland’s culture after all, and what a shame on the country that it can’t promote its pipe bands properly.”

He said: “All is not lost yet, but time is very short.”

The letter from the chairman of the RSPBA, Kevin Reilly, adds that the Board of Directors have a dedicated group seeking alternative options for the 2024 season.

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