Bagpipes could be facing 'silent decline', charity warns

Bagpipes could face a 'silent decline' unless schoolchildren are given the opportunity to learn, a charity warned.

Thursday, 26th December 2019, 5:11 pm
The charity estimated that five times as many youngsters would like to learn to play the pipes and drums if they had the chance than are already doing so. Picture: Shutterstock

At the moment 6,000 pupils at Scots state schools are learning the pipes and drums.

But charity the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust (SSPDT) warned that opportunities for children to learn were diminishing, with community pipe bands folding and schools axing tuition.

The charity estimated that five times as many youngsters would like to learn to play the pipes and drums if they had the chance than are already doing so - an estimated 30,000 schoolchildren.

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But some communities have seen a revival in the traditional instruments after children were given the chance to learn and play together, with the charity helping 47 school pipe bands to form.

Alexandra Duncan, chief executive of SSPDT, said: "It's clear that there is a huge unmet demand to learn pipes and drums amongst Scotland's pupils.

"When bands in our towns and communities vanish quietly, and when there is no tuition in local schools either, we lose a precious cycle of teaching and learning - and it's this silent decline that we're trying to address with partners."

The charity instigated tuition being introduced in Moffat, Dumfrieshsire, and Girvan, South Ayrshire, after realising there was a demand.

It also supports existing youth and school pipe bands with grants and the free loan of bagpipes, and is working with 22 local authorities.

Ms Duncan said: "Both Moffat and Girvan had local pipe bands which folded in recent years.

"But by helping to introduce tuition to surrounding schools we hope to be able to resurrect these pipe bands together with the communities.

"In the Garnock Valley, a pipe band was last heard more than 60 years ago, until more than 100 pupils began to learn and now play together.

"In areas like Lossiemouth, Elgin, Forres, Duns, Kinross and Blairgowrie, new tuition programmes are being set up to boost community pipe bands.

"Piping and being part of a band gives young people a sense of belonging and develops a wide range of life and employability skills including teamwork, individual and shared achievement, discipline, commitment and self-confidence.

"We believe it can change lots of young people's lives for the better.

"We believe that traditional music should be cherished and the skill to play the pipes has the potential to become one's lifetime pleasure.

"The demand we have seen so far proves that piping and drumming is still popular but the lack of opportunities for learning puts it at risk -there is still a lot of work to be done.

"We are grateful to the parents, schools and local authorities that are working with us to overcome this disadvantage."