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Canadian bagpipe busking ban lifted

A BAN on buskers playing bagpipes in a Canadian city has been lifted after an international outcry and anger among the world's top pipers.

NUMBER ONE: The Simon Fraser University Pipe Band triumphed in the world championships in Glasgow in 2009.
NUMBER ONE: The Simon Fraser University Pipe Band triumphed in the world championships in Glasgow in 2009.

The ban by Vancouver City Council, which was highlighted by The Herald (see previous coverage), prompted such a response that it led to a phone call between the Canadian city's mayor and Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop who happened to be in the city as part of Scotland Week 2012.

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However, Ms Hyslop was assured by Mayor Gregor Robertson that the ban had been rescinded following complaints from leading figures in piping circles including Pipe Major Terry Lee of six-time world champions, the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band of Vancouver.

Ian Embelton, of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, also criticised the move yesterday, on the day he helped launch the 2012 World Pipe Band Championships which take place in Glasgow in August.

Following the protests the ban – revealed by a busker who found bagpipes were prohibited – has been confirmed has having been lifted.

Ms Hyslop said: "Having personally spoken to Mayor Robertson, I can confirm that Vancouver's ban on bagpipes has now been lifted.

"I welcome the fact that common sense has prevailed, the mayor has acted decisively and bagpipes will once again be heard on the streets of Vancouver.

"Mayor Robertson and I both recognise bagpipes are part of the cultural heritage shared by Scotland and Vancouver.

"With more than five million Canadians claiming Scottish roots – many of them here in British Columbia – and Simon Fraser University home to one of the world's leading pipe bands, I am delighted people in Vancouver can continue to hear bagpipes played in public places."

The mayor's aide said that when he was made aware of the staff regulation change that recently implemented the restriction, he immediately asked senior staff to review the matter.

Mr Robertson said: "Buskers play a very important role in making Vancouver's streets lively and dynamic, particularly in our vibrant downtown. The council won't support an outright ban on specific instruments. The restriction on bagpipes has now been lifted. Staff will continue to gather noise level readings, monitor complaints and work with musicians and performers to see how these instruments can be permitted in a way that is acceptable to the public."

Mr Lee, of the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band – who are again expected to attend the world championships which they last won in 2009 this year – had urged that "clear heads prevail and the music is allowed to be put out there".

Mr Embelton had warned there would be a public outcry if the ban was not rescinded.

He said: "It's excellent news that the Scottish Government have successfully lobbied the Canadian Government to recognise the importance of piping music to people all over the world and that the ban in Vancouver has been lifted. This year some of Canada's top bands will play to 40,000 people in Glasgow as part of Piping Live! and The World Pipe Band Championships and we look forward to welcoming them."

Scotland Week 2012 runs until April 14, with ministerial engagements taking place in New York, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Chicago, San Francisco and Houston.

Video: the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band in action in Glasgow in August 2011.

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