53rd Highland Gathering underway

2018-05-02 06:00
Excitment mounts for Highland Gathering.PHOTO: Supplied

Excitment mounts for Highland Gathering.PHOTO: Supplied

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THE coastal town of Amanzimtoti on the KwaZulu-Natal Upper South Coast will once again be kilted out in tartan as the popular South Coast Highland Gathering returns to Hutchison Park on Saturday, April 28 from 8 am to 5 pm. Organised by the Amanzimtoti Lions and supported by Sapphire Coast Tourism, this year’s family-friendly festival fund-raiser welcomes international judge, Paul Brown, to adjudicate the 30 pipe bands performing on the day.

“We are extremely excited to have Paul Brown join us at the 2018 Highland Gathering,” said Amanzimtoti Lions member, Carol Botha. “Paul is an established pipe band performer with experience at world championship-level and his wealth of expertise really demonstrates the level of talent set to feature this year.”

Brown, 44, has been playing pipe band drums since the age of seven, starting his career with Ballingry School pipe band under the leadership of Pipe Major, Bob Shepherd MBE. Brown — a resident of Fife, Scotland — went on to win numerous championship titles before progressing to the ranks of Grade 1, aged 13, with the world-famous Dysart & Dundonald Pipe Band.

He continued to perform throughout his career — winning 13 major Grade 1 drumming titles including a Grade 1 World Championship and ‘Champion of Champions’ title — while also passing on his artistic insights to the many students who studied under him. Brown is the only Grade 1 drummer in history to hold six Grade 1 all Ireland drumming titles, outside of Ireland.

Brown is currently a qualified Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association Drumming adjudicator, tutor and assessor for the Piping & Drumming Qualification’s Board. This year will see him join a group of adjudicators for the Grade 1 World Championship Qualification heats.

Alongside the 30 performing pipe bands that Brown will be adjudicating at this year’s Highland Gathering, will be some 100 dancers from across the country performing the entrancing Highland Dancing as well as shows by the Warner Beach Steel Drums. The entertainment continues in the main beer tent — one of two beer tents — where 10 local bands will be taking to the stage at various intervals.

Children will be kept entertained in the kids’ arena where KZN inflatables will be providing a variety of jumping castles and other inflatables for a day of bouncy fun. The cost for entrance into this arena is R120 per child for an all-day pass (9 am to 4 pm).

There will also be a Mr and Miss Highland Gathering contest running throughout the day and more than 160 flea-market stalls featuring a range of products including crafted items and foods. The Horse and Dog Units will also be in attendance, putting on a spectacular performance for audiences.

The show finale will be the Mass March Band performance, accompanied by young singing sensation, Keely Crocker.

“We’re expecting more than 10 000 visitors to this year’s event,” said Botha. “This is understood to be the biggest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It has grown from a school fund-raising initiative in 1963 to a really expansive gathering but, despite this, the central focus has remained — to raise much needed funding for various community causes as well as boosting the local economy through tourism.”

Romy Wenzel from Sapphire Coast Tourism agreed, saying: “Visitors get the chance to enjoy a really comprehensive event while also visiting any of the numerous tourist-friendly sites within the Sapphire Coast Region, including gorgeous beaches and nature trails.”

All funds raised will be donated to the local community through a number of charitable initiatives including:

• Monthly diabetes testing

• Food parcels for needy families

• Funding for glasses and hearing aids

• Maintenance assistance for Jona Vaughan Home

• Exchange programme for a student from a disadvantaged background

• Sun-shading by the pool for the local school for the deaf

• Sponsored library and books for a local school

Tickets to the Highland Gathering will be available at the venue. The ticket prices are: adults – R0, pensioners/students – R30, children 10 years and over – R10 and children under 5 years – free.

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