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the central council of church bell ringers

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Ringing History and Future Trends

Saturday 27th February 2016 – 10.00am – 4.30pm

Wellesbourne Church Centre

Go to archived webcast and other papers.

Library Committee logo Biographies Committee logo

Ringing has a long heritage. It has survived centuries of social upheaval, with modern ringing more advanced than our predecessors might have dreamt. But ringing also faces major challenges for the future. What lessons can we learn from our history to helpus face the future?

The study of history itself is changing thanks to new techniques and technology. But is it changing enough or has it changed too much? What will the future of ringing history look like? What challenges will future ringing historians face?

Come to this thought-provoking day, where these ideas and more will be explored with the help of three guest speakers and open discussion.

<< Read more about the main sessions >>

There will also be ample time to browse and/or buy items of interest – between sessions and over lunch – all in the friendly surroundings of Wellesbourne Church Centre, with tea/coffee and home made hot lunch are all included.

  • There will be updates on the work of the Library Committee and Biographies Committee
  • Library publications will be on sale, including: Ringing World DVDs 1911-2000, Order & Disorder 18/19C.
  • Other participants may have items for sale.
  • The historic records of the Biographies Committee and other artefacts will be on display

This event will be of interest to anyone with an interest in the history of ringing – direct or indirect – including ringing society librarians, archivists and ringing historians.

Download the programme (PDF) 

The cost for the day is £12 including lunch and refreshments. Booking is required but payment can be made on the day.

To book your place, please email:

For those who cannot be present in person the event will be streamed live over the web. Details will be announced nearer the day but the aim is to stream sound and video of the proceedings live on the web and to receive remote input via e-mail and/or social media. It would be helpful to know how many people intend to use this facility - please let us know, contact as above.

  Pictures from previous events (click to enlarge):

Listening to one of the speakers
One of the displays
Discussions during a break

The day is jointly organised by the Central Council Library Committee  and Biographies Committee 

For more information contact: or John Harrison

More about the main sessions

Ringing's future - sacred or secular? (Richard Johnston)

Why is football abundantly financed, but not bellringing, when it was once the other way round?

The past:

  • Why do churches have towers and bells? What were bells intended for?
  • What do music, dancing, beer, church bells, bonfires, and cannons have in common?
  • How did cultural elites, prevailing social norms and general public attitudes affect the creation and preservation of churches and bells through centuries of profound social change?
  • Was full-circle bellringing always mainly about ringing for services?

The future:

  • Given the uncertainties facing the Church - church closures, and reduced demand for service ringing - is the current social and cultural context fundamentally different?
  • WHow can churches and bells be funded? Are villages different from towns and cities?
  • Can bellringing become, once more, culturally relevant to the general public? What are the barriers?
  • Are bellringers afraid of, and disengaged from, the general public?
  • Should entry level bellringing be easier, embracing more ways of ringing bells?
  • Should bellringing become, like football, professionalised and primarily to serve public aspirations - if so, for what purposes and in what way? - or a voluntary private recreation for practitioners?
  • Which futures are sustainable?

Contrasting modern and historical issues in ringing (David Jones)

The opening sentence of L P Hartley‘s 1953 novel The Go-Between sums up one approach to history; ”The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." Some in the ringing community may echo this idea. The issues that confront ringing may appear new and unrelated to past trends. Declining numbers, an aging demographic, dealing with complaints, ringing politics, the struggles of the geographical ringing societies and the role of the Central Council may appear current problems but are they? Can we look at the past to see if trends are more long term than we think? Can the past possibly offer some answers? Or can history be misused to push us towards the wrong answers?

So far, the history of bell ringing has largely been written by, and for, ringers. Why is this? How has the historiography or ringing developed and can or should this be challenged? Is ringing history applicable to a wider study as part of academic history? Where should ringing history fit in a more general view of academic historical study? Finally, can a wider focus of ringing history attract people to the exercise?

Women in ringing — the past, the present and the future (Steve Coleman)

Steve is the leading researcher and writer on the history of women in ringing as well as being a compelling and entertaining speaker. Not only will he be revealing all sorts of fascinating details — and putting them in the historical context of the times — he will also be drawing out the parallels with the present, and the needs for the future. As a lifelong campaigner against sexism — in ringing as well as in the world in general — he welcomes heckling from both bigots and feminists.

<< See archived webcast and other papers. >>

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