There has been some discussion recently amongst the Bagpipe Society committee about the state of the Society and just where we go from here.
This was initiated by Andy letcher - “The problem, as I see it, is that the BS is failing to live
up to it’s purpose, which is to support and promote bagpiping in Britain. Thus while the number of people playing the pipes is clearly increasing (as evidenced by the number of makers) Society membership remains steady, and steadily greying. We are not attracting a new generation of pipers and it’s pretty much the same faces at the Blowout, year in year out. The biggest band in English folk right now, Bellowhead, have a piper – by rights we should be inundated.”
“If the BS wants to be a viable organisation in twenty years time then we shall have to work a bit harder to attract new members. Like it or not the BS carries an image of being a bit fusty, geeky and full of pedants (yes, I’ve asked). I own up to being all three, so we have some work to do!”
“At present the Society consists of an extended
group of friends, joined by a love of the pipes, who get
together once or twice a year to talk shop, play a few tunes together, watch bands and pick up a few tips. In that it functions wonderfully and there is no reason or compulsion to change. But if we are serious about promoting the pipes I think we do need to change, not massively, just a shift in approach and outlook. If we decide to keep things as they are then I don’t really see the need for a publicity officer. If we choose to push things more proactively then, obviously, I’ll do what I can to make that happen.”
Well, I’d agree with all of that except for the statement that the Society’s membership remains steady. I’ve been the editor of Chanter for 5 years now and when I took over I was posting out about 250 copies per issue. It soon became apparent that
quite a few of these were going to people who hadn’t actually renewed their membership for two or even three years, so we had a change of policy and if you don’t renew you get no more Chanters after the spring issue. Membership instantly fell to just over 200 and each year declines a little more. Of course, the Summer issue is the lowest number as we always gain a few new members through the rest of the year. Our posting for the summer issue this year, however was the lowest ever at 134. And that includes all the free issues to other organisations such as the NPS and LBPS.
This is clearly not a good situation, and speaking personally I wonder at what point I decide that Chanter is just too much work for the numbers who will be reading it.
Andy has suggested revamping the website and has already started a Bagpipe Society Facebook group - which currently has more ‘members’ than the actual Bagpipe Society, some of which are full members of the Society, but many, like many of the regulars at the Blowout, who are not.
I would suggest that if a Bagpipe Society was being created from scratch now, it would almost certainly be internet based (and hence mostly free). The current membership fee goes almost entirely on the cost of producing Chanter.
So do we go in that direction? - and what about all the members who don’t have internet access? It seems to me to be an inevitable move, but that is just a personal opinion. Or do we somehow find a way to increase our current membership and regain a bit of vigour that way?
I think it’s over to you now, the membership. Discuss…