Bagpipe Specialists Blog : Covid and Competitions

The Covid 19 Pandemic continues to wreak havoc, and sadly shows little sign of reaching a stage where events such as competitions can be held again. This blog post is meant to have the aims of outlining some simple facts, and hopefully engaging in some conversation and exchanges of views to allow people the opportunity of an insight into whats occurring at the heart of the Piping Industry and Community.

Some of you may have read previously an opinion piece that i was asked to write for the Bagpipe.News news site. This was after i had attended the Cornemuse Festival in Lorient as a member of Bagad Kemper. I wont repeat the elements of that, but I have linked it here for anyone who wishes to have a read.

Without doubt, Covid 19 poses a real and serious risk to Pipe Bands, Musicians, manufacturers, teachers, and all who are in the supply chain for the industry. The salient facts are that we are not permitted by law in Scotland to meet as a band to practice, we are not allowed to mix with enough other households to form a practice and I think most bandsmen and women are probably now in two camps, those desperately missing it, and those who are enjoying the break. As a company, we have been fortunate that during the last 8 months, we have been able to diversify, adapt and modernise to allow us to keep trading, keep the lights on and indeed plan for times when we are indeed allowed to return to playing. We fall into the category now of desperately missing it!

Written by Gary Nimmo

Where we now find ourselves however, is in a position where indeterminate conditions will dictate when we as a society can return to normal, whether that be through the implementation of a vaccine or the likes. This means that careful planning, educated foresight and common sense need to be applied when we look at Piping & Drumming in the short and medium term future. Lets not kid ourselves, life as we know it will not return to normal after Christmas, nor will Pipe Bands.

On the 17th of October as I write this blog piece, Australia has resumed competitions, but has implemented a much stricter and much more successful approach to Covid Restrictions that has been seen in the United Kingdom. The latest reported number of Cases in Australia - 12. United Kingdom was 15,635 so the facts are clear to see.

Sadly I share an opinion now of the majority of people in the Pipe Band world. 2021 will once again be a non starter for mass gatherings, or any sort of mass event. There are several reasons, but namely the rapid spread of the infection, and the inability of the United Kingdom to minimise the exposure and infection, but also equally down to the parts the bands don’t see. Can you honestly see the British Championships held in May in Paisley, going ahead. Paisley currently in one of the worst affected areas of Scotland?

I mentioned about our companies need to plan, and ensure that we use educated foresight and common sense. Well every part of me when applying that would wonder where the possibility of holding a Major Championships would be, when to make the event happen, logistics need to be planned well in advance. These include simple things;

  1. Integral Infrastructure - Fencing, marquees and and structural erections required. These are all sub contracted on behalf of a promoter. Why would they book all these things in advance when that contractor will expect deposits etc and there’s absolutely no guarantees of going ahead.
  2. Parking requirements for buses and public parking.
  3. Vendors and Traders.
  4. Ensuring that adequate PPE is provided.

The last point is one I think is very important. It’s already been publicly stated that the responsibility of providing hand sanitiser, social distancing, temperature checks etc will fall on a promoter. Yet another expense in an already depriving time. Can you honestly look around the band hall and say you know everyone can socially distance after a small shandy after you’ve played?

  1. Travelling on the band bus
  2. Tuning up, setting chanters/drones
  3. How do you deal with someone who becomes ill?
  4. Concert formation - does it work?

All these are also worth mentioning too. Someone in the band organisation has to put their name down as responsible. How would your group deal with these issues? Concert formation may look great in the photos but it does absolutely nothing to help the poor guys tuning, and having competed annually in concert formation I would argue all day that the quality of the performance does suffer with everything being exposed, meaning a slight loss of cohesion. As a player you don’t get the same feeling playing concert formation vs traditional circle.

This blog is meant to offer an opinion to incite conversation and healthy debate. It’s most certainly not a sleight on any organisations working hard on a losing battle to get bands back, but we’d like to hear your views which you can do below. Health and well being should always be of higher importance than having a tune as a Pipe Band. Think of all the professional groups, theatres, events organisers, lighting, sound engineers, recording studios who are all in the exact same boat. I fear it’s going to be tough times ahead for the forseeable future…

All the views above are my own, and thanks for reading!


2 thoughts on “Bagpipe Specialists Blog : Covid and Competitions

  1. Andy Letham says:

    Gary, an excellently written and insightful piece of work, I do agreee that from a health perspective, the current situation does not augur well for next years season, and I dare say zoom practices whilst perhaps not considered by every band this year, may well become the norm for many bands as a way of retaining band members and ensuring playing standards don’t decline..

    • Gary Nimmo says:

      Indeed Andy, online work will likely be the only forward way to engage with bands people for the foreseeable future, but the opportunities to actually play along with each other are going to be extremely limited for sure!

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