For all sorts of reasons, I have taken my time to think back over the World Pipe Band Championships 2016 before posting my traditional round up blog.
The main explanation was that this was the first year in a long time when I was attending in Glasgow as a player, rather than simply an observer. There is no doubt that this casts the whole event in a different light. One significant difference is the response to the Finale. Over past years, I have most often located an abandoned seating area at one of the other arenas from which to listen to the announcements of the prize winners. This year I was standing in the queue to enter the arena for an age, dandering past the podium and then loitering in the centre of the Green, occasionally waving randomly at the cameras to see if we could appear on the big screen (which we did - a lot).
It broke up the boredom a little. Just a little. For a bandsman, the finale is not enjoyable - and that's despite the fact that we collected a prize, thanks for asking.
For the average spectator, it is interminable. This year it seemed to drag even worse than usual. The whole thing ran on until the light was going, leading to calls for floodlights to be installed before next year's event!
This can't go on. Bandsmen and spectators spend the guts of (at least) two days on their feet and frankly, once the finale comes round, just want to sit down. A couple of hours of hanging about in the gloom isn't exactly a fitting end to the showpiece of the competition year.
Of course, the problem is easy to identify - the solution less so. It is a well known fact that a sizeable proportion of the competing crowd hits the bar after playing. This may well make them less easy to marshal. I suspect that the notion (which I have read elsewhere) of attempting to corral them into groups of massed bands and then cattle-prodding those groups into the arena simply wouldn't work. In the knowledge that their own band's poor attendance wouldn't be immediately apparent, squads of players would simply stay in the bar! "Give me a call when our Grade is being called, so I can listen in". You know it would happen. You might even do it yourself!
Maybe the thing to do is to simply nominate about twenty to thirty bands to take part in the formal march past and let other players join in the massed band if they want to. Left to their own devices, a decent proportion of players would likely amble down towards the front as the prizes were about to be announced. If any band particularly wants to be a part of the march past, they would not be stopped.
I started to write this post last year and then lost interest half way through (I think). I'm posting it anyway as I have just located the draft. I have no idea what else I was going to add, but doubtless it was a lot of stuff about the Grade One results. I'm guessing I'll get the chance to do the same thing in about a month's time....