S. A. confirms no pipe band season for 2021

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Pipe bands in South Africa have been given certainty that there will be no competition season there this year. The Pipe Bands’ Association of Southern Africa (PBASA) informed its members of this decision yesterday.

In a statement, Greg Hurly, PBASA President, said: “Over the last few weeks, there has been consultation with the various gathering committees, member bands and medical professionals to gauge the general opinion of going ahead with the 2021 Gathering Season. Obviously, legislation as it currently stands does not allow for us to get together in any gathering-type format at all but, the constraints of legislation aside, the message received loud and clear was that the personal safety of all involved should be our first priority.

In light of the above, the PBASA Executive Committee regrets to advise that the 2021 Gathering Season has been cancelled. Once legislation and personal safety allow for any gathering-type events, we shall reassess the situation and, in consultation with all key persons and organisations, get some form of contest format back on the road.

“We are going to continue with the online solo contests that were started last year and, are also investigating other forms of online engagement to keep our community alive and involved. We sincerely regret that this is the decision that had to be taken but, under the circumstances, it is the only correct one.”

The pipe band season in South Africa usually runs from the middle of February to the middle of October with around a dozen events taking place.

African Skye Pipe Band.

There seems to be a gradual acceptance from pipers and drummers around the world – with the exception of those in New Zealand – that there may be no pipe band competition season this year, or at least until late summer. Publicly, the RSPBA is still working on the assumption that competitions may be able to go ahead in some form and, indeed, announced tentative dates for some competitions including major championship. However, sources tell Bagpipe.News that the organisation is reluctant to simply write off the season at this stage nor, crucially, does it wish to second-guess any decisions promoters may take in the months ahead. The thinking is that to do so at this stage would potentially result in a diminished season for 2022, as bands may see a potential loss of members before then, some of who may not return to the pastime. Working on an assumption that some contests may take place gives bands a reason to practice even if via videoconference software.

Dollar Academy’s Novice Juvenile band competing at the ‘British’ in Paisley in 2019.

In Scotland, the popular contest at Banchory in the northeast was cancelled last weekend. It had been scheduled for May 9. A spokesman for Renfrewshire Council, promoter of what is the first ‘major’ of the year, the British Championships on May 22 in Paisley, would not be drawn at this stage on the likelihood of the event going ahead or not. However, with only three months to go, virtually no band is in a position of readiness.

Meanwhile, sources tell us that the promoters of two of the three major solo piping events are working on the assumption that their respective competitions will take place this year in some form.

The Argyllshire Gathering and the Northern Meeting are expected to announce details shortly. It is believed that Oban has already made the decision to at least hold the MacGregor Memorial Competition again, even if it has to be online as it was in 2019.

The 150th Argyllshire Gathering is scheduled to take place on August 25-26. The Northern Meeting is due to take place the week after.

* Bagpipe.News will shortly begin posting a comprehensive series on the history of The Argyllshire Gathering. Piping historian, Jeannie Campbell has compiled a comprehensive and fascinating chronology of what is one of solo piping’s iconic events.