‘The Wee Govan Pipers’ documents the first 18 months of the new Govan Schools Pipe Band. Along the way the kids meet legendary piper Rona Lightfoot and bag-rockers the Red Hot Chili Pipers.
The band consists of ten years old. They’re Scottish, Chinese and Nigerian. They can reduce a grown policeman to tears and might just be the future of Scotland’s urban bagpipes.
The heart-warming documentary which offers a sense of humour and buckets full of charm, is narrated by Ewen Henderson of the band Mànran, who also wrote the original music for the film.
The entertaining adventures of five Govan children, Damilola Fadun (Nigerian), Brenda Sheng (Chinese), and Scots Thomas Rankine, David Rice and Scott McCormick, kicks off with their first foray into competitive piping at the world’s largest Schools Pipe Band Championships.
Retired policeman Iain Watson from the famed Greater Glasgow Police Pipe Band (13 times winners of the World Pipe Band Championships), is one of the tutors of the new Govan Schools Pipe Band and is unashamed that the children make him cry as well as laugh.
Iain said: “I’ve won the World Pipe Band Championships and felt emotional, but to see what the Govan kids have done in such a short time is absolutely amazing. And this is just the start. It’s not just a pipe band, it’s the community coming together as one, regardless of your ethnic or religious background, and playing the Scottish national instrument.”
Craig Munro of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers said: “On my old school report cards on every single subject it was ‘Craig must realise that bagpipes won’t see him through the rest of his life’. If I never practiced so much when I was back in school then I would never be where I am today. I judged the Govan Pipers at their very first competition. They did better than I expected to be honest.”
Solomon Fadun (father of Damilola), who came to Scotland with his family from Nigeria to study for his PhD, said: “In my wildest dreams I never imagined that my boy would play the bagpipes! In fact if somebody told me some two years ago, I would just have said no, that will never happen. I think teaching children how to play bagpipe is very good for Scotland. It’s good for the Scottish culture, to keep the heritage of the Scottish.”
Sandra Clark, (mother of Scott), said: “No one in my family has ever played the pipes. Scott’s the first. It is very, very loud… but luckily we’ve got good neighbours! Being in the Pipe Band has really boosted Scott’s confidence – he’s got something that he’s proud of doing. I didn’t think it would get this far. It’s just amazing how far this has taken them already.”
Ewen Henderson of Mànran said: “My own grandfather was one of the Gaels who came to work in Govan, though later the family returned to the croft on Skye. The story of these youngsters in Govan inspires me. When I was young, I was surrounded by pipe music all the time. It’s not like that in Govan. I stand out round here as a piper. When I play my pipes in the window, I watch people in the street looking back at me, walking the streets and going “Jeez, what racket is that!?””
‘The Wee Govan Pipers’ reveals a sparky controversy about funding music teaching in Scotland’s schools. The Govan Schools Pipe Band is funded by charities, to give children in deprived areas the chance to learn Scotland’s national instrument (The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust and the Govan Weavers).
David Johnston of the Fair Play for Pipes campaign says: “It’s quite shocking that 90% of pupils in State schools in Scotland do not have the opportunity to learn the pipes in the classroom, whereas in private schools virtually 100% of pupils do have that opportunity.”
Glasgow City Council has 138 primary schools, 38 secondary schools, and one Council-paid piping tutor.
Rona Lightfoot 79, the first woman to win a major piping competition, said: “Nearly every school has a choir – but it would be great if every school had a pipeband as well – whether it’s a tiny or big band that wouldn’t matter. The pipes come from Scotland, and belong to Scotland, and those governing us should be putting money towards the schools so that the children can progress on the pipes.”
Producer Louise Scott of media co-op said: “The film shows the changing face of inner-city Glasgow. The multi-cultural wee pipers demonstrate the contribution of immigrants to Scotland. Govan was once a hotbed of bagpipes, the cradle of the serial award-winning Police Pipe Band. Now the area is home to migrants from all over the world. The film draws parallels between the today’s incomers and earlier waves of migrant Gaels who arrived in Govan from the Highlands and Islands – bringing the bagpipes with them.”
‘The Wee Govan Pipers / Pìobairean Beaga Bhaile Ghobhainn’ is produced for BBC ALBA by media co-op. The one-hour documentary will be broadcast on New Year’s Day, 1st January 2016 at 8pm.
BBC Article December 2015