Skirl of the pipes to encircle the world

IT ALL started with Rolf Harris heading a 3,500-strong parade along Princes Street.

The success of the pipes and drums extravaganza in 1995 led to the event being replicated and expanded several times in Edinburgh and on to various locations around the world.

Now the organisers behind the "Pipefest" events have unveiled plans for their most ambitious project to date – a 24-hour global piping celebration.

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Concerts and parades will be held at 20-minute intervals in at least 70 towns and cities around the world on 31 July, 2010.

It is hoped at least 12,000 pipers and drummers will be in place for the event, which will start and finish in Edinburgh.

A worldwide TV audience of more than 100 million is targeted, equivalent to the annual TV audience for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The event is planned to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for cancer charities around the world, while raising global awareness of Scottish traditional music.

The 2010 Pipefest, dubbed "Around the World in 24 Hours", is expected to get under way in Edinburgh at 2pm.

Among the places pencilled in to take part are Inverness, Belfast, Dublin, Reykjavic, New York, Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dunedin, Perth, Osaka, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Islamabad and Cape Town.

Epic Concepts director Magnus Orr said: "Our big aim is to have more than 10,000 pipers and drummers taking part, which we've not been able to manage in previous events. We're actually hoping to get 12,000 from all over the world involved.

"We had players from 27 countries in the last Pipefest in Holyrood Park and we want to build on this success.

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"We want to unite pipers from all over the world with a 24-hour programme, with each segment starting 20 minutes after the last one, so that piping will eventually circumnavigate the world."

Mr Orr said the contacts built up by the company over the last 13 years would be the foundations for organising the 2010 event. Epic Concepts has a database of more than 1,800 pipe bands.

It is hoped special concerts and parades will be staged at "iconic locations" in participating cities.

Mr Orr added: "We think it'll bring an enormous amount of publicity and goodwill to Scotland.

"However, the principal objective is to help raise money for cancer care charities and to unite countries around the world whose cultural identity is enriched by the pipes and drums."

A spokeswoman for the national tourism agency, VisitScotland, said: "Pipefest 2010 will be a great opportunity to enhance the stay of many visitors to Edinburgh in 2010 and to attract more potential international visitors as the groups go piping all over the world.

"Edinburgh already boasts a year-round programme of world-class events and festivals but additional, quality events on this scale help to showcase Scotland as a must visit, must return destination."

Simon Thoumire, organiser of the annual Scots Trad Music Awards, said: "This sounds like an absolutely fantastic event, which should do a huge amount to promote playing of the instrument.

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"Not everyone knows bagpipes are played all around the world, not just in Scotland, and this event will help raise awareness of that, as well as create an amazing event on the day."


THE organisers of Pipefest 2010 have staged three massive piping parades in Edinburgh city centre over the last 15 years, as well as major events in Paris, New York, Rome, Shanghai, Indianapolis and Barcelona.

Rolf Harris famously agreed to learn to play the pipes for the first event in 1995, which set a world record after 3,500 musicians took part. However its success was dwarfed by the 2000 event, fronted by Scots rugby legend Gavin Hastings. Ewan McGregor had been lined up for the honour, but had to record a special contribution on the drums because of commitments on Star Wars.

The last big event put together by Epic Concepts, the events firm behind the spectaculars, saw more than 8,000 pipers and drummers converge on Edinburgh's Holyrood Park three years ago for a massive parade around the beauty spot.

More than 500,000 has been raised for cancer charities since the initial event. However, it is hoped the 2010 Pipefest will see fundraising top 1 million.