It seems a lot later than usual but the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association Northern Ireland Branch have finally been able to put in place the contest venues for the 2015 season.
To be fair this is not always a straightforward task. New venues are put forward by councils that may need to be visited or agreed dates for certain competitions may no longer be suitable. This time the introduction of the new super councils has also played its part in holding things up.
However, this week I received a list of the venues for next year that have been confirmed so far.
The season is due to start on May 16 at a venue yet to be confirmed followed by the Co Fermanagh Championships and then the first major of the season, the British at Bathgate.
In June there is the annual visit to Cookstown for the Mid-Ulster Championships before the UK Championships in Belfast, the Craigavon and District Championships in Lurgan and the European Championships at Forres.
July begins with the All-Ireland Championships which return north after being staged in Co Wexford last year. This is a milestone in the history of the competition as it is the 70th anniversary event and the town of Omagh has been given the honour of hosting the competition.
The Co Antrim Section competition will be held on July 18 at Glenarm. After the cancellation of this year’s competition due to terrible weather conditions I’m sure everyone will be keeping their fingers crossed for much better fortune in 2015. July ends with the Scottish Championships at Dumbarton.
August marks the business end of the season and after a visit to Lisburn the bands will move on to the Ulster Championships when Rostrevor will be the hosts of a competition for the first time since the 1990s.
The World Championships take centre stage before the climax of the local season at the traditional north coast venue of Portrush.
A mixture of old and new in amongst the venues but I’m sure there will be plenty to look forward to in 2015.
Several members of Bleary and District Pipe Band were in Scotland last weekend for the announcement of the MG Alba Scots Trad Award Pipe Band of the Year Award.
The award, which formed part of the MG Alba Scots Trad Awards Ceremony in Inverness, was the gala climax to weeks of voting across a range of categories.
Unfortunately the prize didn’t go to Bleary and was won by West Lothian Schools.
However, the level of support the band received from far and wide was very impressive.
The band’s Facebook page has been flooded with messages of support and I think this goes some way to highlighting the standing the band has not only within its local community but further afield.
Bands all play an important role in their own areas whether that is taking part in events such as concerts and parades or teaching young people.
We may be in our winter recess as far as competitions are concerned but on the other side of the world the action continues.
In New Zealand, Canterbury Caledonian were the convincing winners of the Jenny Mair Highland Square Day. The band won both the MSR and Medley sections to take first place overall ahead of Manawatu, Auckland & District and the New Zealand Police.
The last round of regradings announced by the RSPBA did not feature any local bands and focussed mainly on the lower grades.
In America, however, there has been some movement with the elevation of the Stuart Highlanders to grade one status. This decision comes some six months after the band was regraded to the top level by the RSPBA ahead of the World Championships. A decision justified by their performances on the day.
The grading variations between different governing bodies can sometimes lead to problems so it’s good that this one has been resolved.
Finally I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.