Tomorrow, Saturday March 10th, will be the first ever International Bagpipe Day.
There are events happening up and down the UK, from concerts and dances to a big International Bagpipe Conference at SOAS in London organised by the wonderful Cassandre Balosso-Bordin. There will be speakers from Sweden, Portugal, Gallicia and even a paper on the bagpipes of Rajasthan.
And I've heard of things happening as far away as America and Athens. The idea seems really to have taken off and is generating some not-inconsiderable media interest (I think Cassandre will be on Breakfast TV tomorrow too).
I'm going to be helping out at the conference tomorrow, but in case you're not as spoddy as I am and, ahem, won't be there, I thought I'd share my introduction to the programme notes.
Up the bagpipes! Vive la cornamuse!
In June 2010 I was driving home from the Bagpipe Society’s annual festival, the Blowout, when I hit a traffic jam on the motorway. I’d just been elected Publicity Officer, and as I stopped and started down the middle lane my mind turned to the question of how to get more people involved. Just before the traffic cleared I had it - an annual bagpipe day!
Initially I was thinking of a purely English affair but this quickly struck me as far too parochial. Since its revival in the late 70s, English piping has gone from strength to strength but there are correspondingly exciting things happening in Wales and Cornwall, not to mention the already thriving scenes in Scotland and Northumbria.
Furthermore, even a cursory look on Youtube demonstrates that all over Europe, North Africa and the Near East, people are championing their indigenous bagpiping traditions with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. Here in the twenty-first century, the bagpipe, in all its glorious diversity, seems more popular than ever. It deserved an event that was truly international.
I am delighted that thanks to modern technology so many people around the world have seized upon the idea, not least Cassandre for organising this conference, our flagship UK event. It will, I hope, be the first of many more International Bagpipe Days to come, so do keep the second Saturday of March clear in your diaries and think of events that you might organise next time.
Today promises to be both exciting and groundbreaking, and here in London we have a unique opportunity for diverse makers, players, enthusiasts and scholars to mingle, share ideas and forge new connections. And that, after all, has always been the point of bagpipes – to bring people together, whatever their differences, in an effervescent spirit of fellowship. That they have been doing so since ancient times, as part of our common heritage, is surely something worth celebrating.