President’s Blog #30

Google Glass was a piece of wearable tech which could have had implications for ringing but never did. Launched in 2013, these clever glasses had the capability of projecting content onto the back of your retina to present head-up information to the wearer. In a ringing context it would for instance have enabled the wearer to see the line of the method, or the composition, while ringing. Imagine the possibilities! And the suspicion of anyone wearing them. That was the problem – the consumer product was dropped over privacy concerns.

I have long had a dream that something like that, or a virtual reality (VR) headset, could be developed as a ringing training aid. You would be ringing your bell or simulator and see the other ringers as if they were there. You might not even need the bell. Challenging times drive innovation, and Giles Wood, developer of the Ding ringing platform, has already integrated a VR headset to take the place of Ding’s computer display.

Exciting news from the Schools and Youth Workgroup. Two schools in the Worcester area, one primary and one secondary, have agreed to beta test Jason Hughes’s ringing lesson plans after Easter. This cross-curricular scheme of work, with completed modules for Maths, History, Geography, Music, and PSHE (English is done) for years 5 and 7 will be combined with trips to the Worcester Cathedral Teaching Centre at the Cathedral for ringing lessons. The key point here is that the ringing material can be delivered in schools without the teacher needing to be a ringer.

There are a number of ringing associations and groups where members share a common interest that isn’t ringing or beer drinking. We have the Police, Railwaymen, Medics, etc. For a long time the Guild of Clerical Ringers was like that, a group of ringers with another common bond wanting to ring together. However, what the Guild has now done in its new constitution is recognise its members’ unique position of being both clergy and ringers and thus be able to help in building relationships between ringers and the church, something that is becoming increasingly important and a strategic focus. Last week their President Tony Ellis and two colleagues met Mark Regan and me for an initial brainstorm and plan of action. One thing they are going to do is work on a publication on ‘the Theology of Ringing’ to explain ringing in its widest sense to non-ringing clergy.

Entries are now coming in for the ‘Virtual Call Change Festival’ – the Ringing Room call change contest on the Saturday of Easter weekend. This is open to experts and novices alike, but with the emphasis on groups who ring regularly together as a focus for practice, as opposed to mercenary bands of superstars (although some of those apparently think it’s too hard). There is still room for an international entries. This is the first time I have taken the time to understand exactly what 60 on 3rds is. It has logic.

A number of people have asked about whether air purifiers might make smaller ringing chambers safer as we come back to ringing, and we have been doing some research. Such machines could have a part to play along with other measures – labs and other enclosed spaces are using them – but they are the very expensive, noisy, and currently sold out. Technology is bound to develop and increase the feasibility. (Some teams with late draws in some summer striking competitions might happily pay!)

I expect the last time so many engagement compliment footnotes came from people who had never met the couple was when Prince Harry got engaged to Meghan. Bryn Reinstadler and Leland Kusmer celebrated their engagement with a major and game-changing new release of their Ringing Room platform, integrating the ringing bot ‘Wheatley’ and adding support for motion controllers.

I am guessing that quite a lot of ringers took part in the National Day of Refection in aid of Marie Curie, hopefully with eventual consensus on how many times to ring. The next single bell ringing extravaganza is the NHS Frontline Day on 5 July, which we have been asked to ring for and which will have plenty of media coverage. There is more about it here Clapping Our Heroes & the Ringing of Church Bells – NHS Frontline Day with a link to register your church as a participant. Let’s not worry about the practicalities of ringing 73 times yet, or that by then we should be well past the ringing single bells stage – we’ll come up with a plan. All that is needed at the moment is a building of momentum to help with the media coverage.

The V&L team organising the new residential ringing course that will be held in the North West of England is making great progress. It has not been possible to organise anything for this year of course but they have now reached the stage of being ready to book the venue for August 2022. Having had privileged early access to the proposed modules and tutors it is looking like a very useful event. Last week’s ‘Recovery Champions’ get-together (which is on YouTube here) discussed the possibility of continuing to use online training even once we are back ringing. Some discussion and theory in advance, without the pressure on performance or feeling that you are wasting time up the tower, could be useful. The Bradfield course team is planning another virtual event this year in August.

Finally, entries are open for the 2021 Westley Awards, instigated by the Stewardship & Management Workgroup. This year the overall aim is still to recognise the recruitment, training and development of skills of people new to belfry maintenance and improvement. The criteria are being expanded to include other ways of developing or sharing skill, such as producing videos or training material. You can nominate yourself for these awards so don’t hide your light under a bushel – let us know what you are doing because it could inspire others.

Simon Linford
President, CCCBR

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