Fighting the bagpipe battle
Female piper has seen it all

by Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 10/98) - There's something unique about the NWT Pipe Band -- three of the 15 members are women. And according to piper Lori Crawford, this sets an unusual standard in the world of bagpipes.

"There's discrimination like you wouldn't believe. During the 1970s and '80s when I was actively competing in Ontario, I was told to my face, 'I'm not going to put you in the competition because so and so will be upset,'" says Crawford.

"Or I wouldn't be placed in top level bands because I'm a woman."

While Crawford found the blatant discrimination annoying, she didn't let it stand in her way.

"I've piped most of my life and the level I reached when I was in Ontario in solo competitions was the professional class. There's not many women in there," says Crawford who started learning how to pipe when she was just four years old.

"My dad pipes and my older brother pipes. He started me...and I got my own set for my 10th birthday," says Crawford.

She says she was more than happy to move North and join the NWT Pipe Band where other females participate and sexism is non-existent.

"It's not a problem here. If you have a pulse, you're in," says Crawford.

She says it is this attitude that makes the whole atmosphere of the NWT Pipe Band more relaxed.

"I don't know how to describe it. Our pipe band here is very much a recreational pipe band. Most pipe bands that exist in the provinces exist for competition so the structure is competitive."

Crawford says that even the feelings towards this summer's Whitehorse competition are a little playful.

"It's just people getting together to play. The bands are all at our level and it's kind of fun. The guys don't get too intimidated," says Crawford.

Pipe Major Floyd Adlem says the competition is part of a larger celebration of Scottish culture.

"They usually have one there every year and we got a hold of someone. It's actually a Gathering of the Clans, the Scottish Games," says Adlem, a member of the band since 1976.

Drummer Chris Spence says that playing in a competition doesn't really phase him.

"It's not much different than playing in public except we play a little cleaner in competition."

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