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Rona Macdonald

Earlier in the year we asked members to complete a survey, which we hoped would give us better information about the make up of the membership itself and an indication what your wishes were for the future direction of the Society. In all we have about 300 members and nearly 100 of you responded, which is fantastic and makes the exercise a valid one. So, thanks to all who sent back their form.

This is what we learned: The average age of Society members is 57.

Other instruments played. Highland pipes 40, Northumbrian pipes 12, Uilleann pipes 5, whistle/flute/recorder 25, Accordion 6, piano 7, guitar/mandola/banjo 15, fiddle 6, oboe 2 and a whole host of other instruments had one player each

60 people indicated they would like to receive email newsletters and communications, but you were not so sure about an online payment system, with 36 of those 60 people saying they would not use this.

It seems that the majority of LBPS members still come from the Highland piping commu- nity: Highland 55, Other pipes 6, Other instrument 17 and those coming from scratch 12.

How you found out about the Society however, is altogether more diverse. The one thing which did come out of this question is that word of mouth seems to be the most effective means of communication - so we are responsible for our own survival - please make sure you tell your piping friends to join up.

Awareness of bellows pipes in general

From early members 33 (names cited included H Moore, R Greensitt, G Mooney, M Rowan, J Agnew, J Goodacre and A Jones)

Through Northumbrian related activities 9 (B Pigg, C Ross, J Armstrong) From Highland pipe sources 3. Piping Times adverts 2. Media (radio/TV etc) 10. Books 3. Other 6

Awareness of the LBPS showed the same tendency with word of mouth outstripping all other methods of communication, although the website, as a very recent addition, is catch- ing up fast. From early members 26, Northumbrian sources only 4. Classes of instruction 5 (this includes ALP, North Hero, Glasgow and London classes). Highland pipers 4. PT or other adverts 8. Website 11. Other 8

The next question was on how long members had been playing a) pipes in general and b) bellows pipes. While averages mean very little here, it is clear that most members have played other types of pipe a lot longer than bellows pipes - 27 years and 11 years respec- tively.


Members seem to have been rather modest about their own playing ability since only 10 indicated that they are professional players, 27 play mainly in sessions or occasionally in public (paid or unpaid) while 42 claim to play rarely in public or for own/family entertain- ment. 7 people play seldom and prefer to listen and 1 person said he is now inactive, and 1 a complete beginner.

When it comes to pipe making, it is interesting to note that not many people have experi- mented except with reeds, yet people are willing to try and fix faults with the instrument themselves. The stats are: 10 have tried to make drones, 12 to make chanters and 30 to make reeds, while 45 people said they would be willing to try and fix a fault if their pipe was not working (many did add the caveat that they would only tackle simple problems be- fore reverting to the maker). 28 would take their pipe back to the maker or seek advice and 10 people said they had not had any faults thus far.

Maintenance workshops seem to be popular - 40 people would like to attend one of these (only 14 said they would not find this useful). A slight problem with this question was that many of those who responded live overseas, so it may be necessary to engage an overseas instructor.

It became very apparent (although the committee were already aware of this) that a tiny minority of members support the actual activities and events that the Society lays on, and thus are the lifeblood of our survival. We recognise of course that many people live outside Scotland and can’t possibly come to the events on a regular basis, but it still came as a bit of a shock to discover how many members have never been to a single event and we appeal to you who don’t live too far away to support the Society - not just by paying your member- ship fee, but by attending events whenever you can. Here is the table:


Every year

Several times



Burns Supper















Melrose w/end











When we asked about the Society’s core activities, there were some suggestions given and most people did not exert themselves to think further than those suggestions. These in- cluded teaching, research, playing in public, running events, publishing, making money etc. “All of the above” 23 - although 5 people said making money should not feature highly.


vEvents, teaching and publishing all shared 18 votes while playing in public and research had 4 each. Those who wrote any further comment all said that we should be furthering interest in the instrument and its music, although did not specify how.

Our main links (fairly obviously given the background of our members above) are seen to be with the Highland piping community (at least as far as the music is concerned) 26, while the instrument is felt to be more closely associated with the Northumbrian tradition, 14.

31 people said both were important, 10 said neither, and 5 didn’t know.

Should we be establishing new links with any particular group?

No - 28, NPS - 9, Highland/pipe bands - 4, Folk groups - 4, College of Piping - 2, Uilleann pipes - 2. So no clear direction there, except from the people who think we should stand alone.

Why are you a member?

This was an interesting question with an important set of answers, which depend on whether you are a local or overseas member. Local members want to meet and share experiences (15), attend events (7) and support the tradition (15). Other members were more inclined to look at membership benefits as being information and published resources (36), Common Stock (18) and keeping up their enthusiasm (7). Non-members would join to get access to experienced players and makers or if they thought they could get financial help for buying a set of pipes.

The committee has been concerned that overseas members cannot come to events and may be a long way from other players, and so wondered what they would like to have as an added benefit of membership. The answers here will give pause for thought and we will try to action some, if not all, of them. 6 people enjoyed the recordings of the competition we sent out in 1999 and want more, 3 want more on the radio about bellows pipes, 10 want the website expanded to include a bulletin board and recordings/clips etc. 7 people indicated that teaching outside Scotland would be helpful, although the problem of distance does present itself. 1 person wanted to have overseas branches - which is certainly something allowed for by the constitution. 1 person also went on at length about the importance of promoting and making more of the Border tradition.

The overwhelming comment from members at a distance was the importance of receiving Common Stock as a forum for discussion, information and research.

We hope you find all this of interest and thanks again to those who took part.