Places to Visit in Scotland
- The Piping Centre, Glasgow
This feature on the Piping Centre in Glasgow is based on a contribution by Mike Paterson who has been a journalist for close to 30 years - in New Zealand, Canada and Scotland.
For many years a former Free Church of Scotland building lay derelict on a prominent site at the top of Hope Street in the centre of Glasgow. But a £3.8 million refurbishment by the Piping Trust saw a unique, world-class facility established in Glasgow for the teaching and promotion of piping. The Trust had been established "to encourage and promote the study of the Highland bagpipe and its music" and with the creation of the Piping Centre in 1996 they took a major step forward in achieving that aim.
The idea was for an integrated, self-supporting facility, capable of earning its own way to provide an internationally significant resource for pipers. The work was thorough, functional, state-of-the-art and tasteful. City of Glasgow funding helped to preserve the fine but decaying listed church building on McPhater Street in Cowcaddens, and successful sponsorship appeals made the development possible. The startling transformation of the old church produced a modern and well-equipped auditorium, sound-proofed teaching and practice rooms, offices, museum space and meeting rooms. The centre includes a comfortable, reasonably-priced hotel with its own kitchens, brasserie and bar and a choice of single, double and twin en-suite rooms.
The Piping Centre has had students and visitors from around 40 countries, runs a National piping in schools project and is about to launch Scotland's first national youth pipe band.
"There has never been a facility built to this standard to offer such a comprehensive resource for pipers," says Roddy MacLeod, director of piping. Even the Centre's location helped to promote and lift the profile of piping, he said. "We are surrounded here with organisations like the Caledonian University, Scottish Television, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the Theatre Royal, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and all these people have come to know about us."
The Piping Museum
As well as being an interesting attraction in its own right, the National Museums of Scotland display of pipes in the Piping Centre museum serves as a specialist resource for musicological researchers and pipe-makers from Britain and abroad.
Hugh Cheape, curator of Scottish collections and assistant keeper for the National Museum of Scotland, said "the collection shows that piping was very much a part of a nation's living musical tradition, very much a part of music and song. It was much more in the cultural roots of our society (than is commonly thought). The pipes in the collection are there to be measured and reproduced, and that's happened many times." Pipes from the collection have been reproduced in North America, Australia and England as well as in Scotland.
The BBC's piping archives - an invaluable historical resource - have been deposited with The Piping Centre and form the core of a growing sound archive. Many other organisations and individuals have also made valuable contributions to The Piping Centre's growing collections of historical and reference materials.
The Royal Scottish Pipers Society, for example, gave an extensive collection of early photographs of great pipers to the Piping Centre. These are being thoroughly catalogued, copied, framed and displayed around the Centre.
In 1997, the Centre decided to promote cultural tourism to complement the Centre's conventions and functions business. The following year, having been nominated by the Glasgow Development Agency, The Piping Centre was a finalist on a short leet of three for a prestigious Scottish Tourist Board Thistle Award for its work in "tourism and the arts".
The Piper's Tryst - "Highly Commended" in 1997's Scottish Licensed Trade News' "Tourism Initiative of the Year" awards - is cutting a dash in Glasgow's highly competitive hospitality market. It is one of only two restaurants in Glasgow where you can rely on getting haggis on the menu every day as well as a wide range of other Scottish cuisine.
The Centre is also a popular weddings and a conference venue. Just minutes' walk from the heart of Glasgow, handy to M8 Junction 17, major car parks and key public transport terminuses - rail, bus and underground - the Centre has proved an ideal venue for the smaller event where quality, versatility, convenience and affordability are all important.
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