Lewis Pipe Band attends European and World Championships

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Lewis Pipe Band is set for summer competitions on the mainland, which began at the weekend with the European Championships in Forres.

The band aims to attend two of the five major championships every year and will be taking part in the World Championships in Glasgow in August as well as the European competition.

The cost of attending these events is considerable, so the band was delighted to receive support from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust which has donated £1,000 for the second year.

Pipe band chairman Sandy Gomez said this money made a massive difference and would allow them to focus on practising instead of fundraising in the run up to a competition.

‘It takes the pressure off fundraising. We can just knuckle down and prepare. Although we have to fundraise, the less time we have to spend fundraising the more time we can spend practising. That benefits the whole band,’ he said.

Lewis Pipe Band currently has 22 members and 18 of them – 11 pipers and seven drummers – went to the European Championships on Saturday June 30.

It costs the pipe band around £3,000 to attend each competition but Lochs Motor Transport offers cheap coach hire.

As well as the European and World Championships, there are also the Scottish, UK and British Championships.

Only two of these are always in the same place – the Worlds in Glasgow and the Scottish Championships in Dumbarton – while the other three move around every few years.

Sandy said the location of the European Championships in Forres had been ‘handy’ for the band as it was so close to Inverness. Fortunately for the band, the championships will move to Inverness itself for the next three years.
The band plays in Grade 3A and Sandy said everyone had been practising hard over the winter so were better prepared for this year’s competitions than they were last year, when they had disappointing results.

‘Things weren’t settling right last year but we think we’ve nailed it this year,’ he said. ‘We’re a lot happier with how practices have gone over the winter. I think we’re playing better as a group.

‘The tunes we’re playing this year are a bit more technical so everyone has had to knuckle down and work hard. Everyone has put in the effort.’

About 120 bands took part in the European Championships, with about 12 bands in Grade 3A – but there will be double that number competing at the World Championship.

This event, on Glasgow Green on August 17 and 18, attracts 220 bands and 30,000 spectators.

Lewis Pipe Band was unable to attend the Worlds last year as Pipe Major Peter Mackay was away. Although it will be exciting to take part, Sandy admitted it was also rather scary: ‘You do feel very nervy,’ he said. ‘There’s more people there, more buzz about the place and just knowing you’re at the Worlds makes you that bit more nervous.

‘It’s the big one and it’s the absolute hardest to do well in. You know that if you’ve done well there, it means even more because it’s the pinnacle of all the competitions.’

Donald John MacSween, Point and Sandwick Trust general manager, commented: ‘PST wishes to encourage organisations like Lewis Pipe Band which is dedicated and deeply rooted in our community. Its Saturday performances during the summer are hugely popular and their winter training programmes ensure young people are encouraged to become involved.’

It costs between £10,000 and £12,000 a year to keep the band running, between the costs of attending competitions and keeping the pipes and drums in good order.

‘We’re grateful for anything we get in the collecting cans,’ said Sandy, ‘and for people who turn up to our fundraising nights.’