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(London and the South of England Branch)

Branch AGM 2020

The Branch AGM was held on the 29th of November 2020 via Zoom




This time last year we had just completed our busiest and most successful season of delivering contests across the region, Branch training days were firmly established  and there had been enquiries from some new bands, so the picture looked very rosy.


And then along came Covid-19.  Slowly but surely all our planned events were cancelled, and in the first three months of lockdown there was nothing we could do.  As restrictions started to ease, with ever more complex rules being applied to performing arts, amateur versus professional musicians, players of wind instruments, sizes of groups, we did our best to advise on what was possible in the way of meeting and practising.  I am extremely grateful to Richard Smith in Reading Scottish Pipe Band, who became my expert advisor on every frequent change in Government advice, however small.  Updates were sent out to bands and placed on the website and Facebook page.


By July it was clear that there would be no chance of a real contest in 2020, so we offered an Online Solo Contest for Pipers and Drummers.  With no experience of running such an event, it was a complete guess as to what the response would be.  In the end we had 104 entries from 51 players, half of whom were juveniles.  Rather disappointingly only 4 drummers entered. Almost all entries were from our local bands or solo players, only a handful from elsewhere. The Branch now has its own YouTube Channel and the top 3 performances in each adult class are available to view.


We are most grateful to Roddy Livingstone, Hugh Jamieson and Gordon Craig, not only for giving freely of their adjudication services, but also for participating in numerous planning meetings as we worked out how to manage the event. All three took great pains to provide constructive critiques to help players develop, and a considerable number of spontaneous thanks were received after the event.  We all felt that it was important to give players something to aim at and provide a reason to keep playing during lockdown.


I personally feel that this is a model we can continue with now we have ironed out the technical problems of transferring large files over the internet.  For those with long memories, we used to run three indoor contests, starting with trios and quartets. We could run trios/quartets online both within the "Rule of 6" environment and in normal times.  It has the merit of being accessible to all bands wherever they are based, gives us a chance to invite a range of different judges, and saves the cost of hiring a venue.  It does not though provide the opportunity to socialise with fellow players over a cup of coffee. It’s also hard to comment on tonal quality from a mobile phone recording. Your thoughts on this as a possible way forward would be welcomed.


Unfortunately the RSPBA Music Board is not in favour of online contests.  They would like to see a training and development event linked to the stages in the PDQB/SCQF syllabus and courses available from the RSPBA college.  We await their proposals on a way forward, and hope we can find a way to continue to offer some sort of competitive challenge to maintain our members' interest in such an uncertain environment. 


As a by-product of the Online Contest, our Branch Secretary has now set up a system to initiate a DBS check for all those involved with Juveniles who do not already have DBS clearance, and this facility is available to those bands teaching juveniles who do not already have DBS checks in place. I would like to thank the tutors at the three main centres of juvenile piping and drumming; Iona Scotson at Gordon’s School, Bill Copland at Reading Scottish Pipe Band and Tom Fleming at East of England Pipe Band.  Their help in organising their students was invaluable.


At last year's AGM, members suggested that the Branch Facebook page should be open to the public.  This has been done without any obvious downside and over 100 new members have joined since last year.


Although it has been a quieter year than usual, I would like to thank all the members of the committee for their continued support, their work behind the scenes and their representation of the Branch at national level.  Our Director Walter MacGregor has been asked to join the RSPBA's finance committee, and Iona Scotson has actively participated in the Music Board. Forcing RSPBA to move to online meetings has had some advantages! 


Let us hope that 2021 will see something more like normal working.  Be assured that whatever shape it turns into we will continue to do our utmost to help our individual players to develop their musical skills and to encourage and support pipe bands across the region.



Branch Chairman

November 2020


Further Reports are available through the following links:

2020 AGM Minutes

2020 Secretary's Report

2020 Director's Report

2020 Music Board Representative's Report