President’s Blog #33

If you wanted to design an ideal ringing training centre you could do worse than put six training bells in a barn in the backyard of a historic real ale pub, with a light eight in the church next door, five minutes’ walk from a mainline railway station, and all owned by one of your strategic partners. Well, a certain cat is out of a certain bag. We have been working on the National Ringing Centre or ‘NaRC’ for 18 months but keeping quiet about it because it was by no means certain. However Peter Aiers, Chief Executive of the Churches Conservation Trust gave a talk about the future of the Old Black Lion in Northampton (next door to St Peter’s) and revealed the plans to have ringing as a centrepiece of the plans for their building’s regeneration.

Stemming from an original discussion between Peter and my predecessor Christopher O’Mahony when Peter presented at the CC’s 2019 mini roadshow, this project has been ticking along in the background, going in fits and spurts with a number of meetings both on site in Northampton and virtually. Our original aspirations for the NaRC will probably take time to come to fulfilment, but the starting point is the ringing centre in the barn, a partnership with the pub operator for using meeting and conference facilities, five letting bedrooms in the pub, and a place that maybe we can call home. The planning application will be filed within a month.

We may be coming towards the end of lockdowns, but online ringing is probably here to stay, especially with those who have almost grown up with it. This new platform has afforded many opportunities for ringing, learning, and meeting up, but obviously raises some concerns about the ways it can make younger ringers vulnerable. A working party put together by our Safeguarding Officers has developed and published some best practice guidance for running online ringing sessions safely.

Mark Place’s excellent article on autism and ringing that was published in the Ringing World a couple of months ago is now available online for anyone who for some reason does not subscribe to or get to read ringing’s premier weekly journal. The article can be found here, and a subscription link here!

Last year we had the YouTube competition which kept many of us entertained in the long months of lockdown, although Rosie Robot is apparently still receiving counselling. It had an underlying purpose of increasing the proportion of ringing videos on YouTube that you would actually want someone to find. The next competition, coming soon, is for photography. We often get journalists looking for photographs to accompany stories and it always serves to highlight our lack of decent material. When I was asked for a picture including young bell ringers and bells for a feature in ‘The Week Junior’, the publisher used a picture from Spain! So we want to build a ringing photo library to improve the stock of good photographs that can be used to promote ringing, and need photographers to help us.

Remember Ringing Remembers? The Big Ideas Company, which was behind that successful campaign, is fine tuning the proposal for ‘Generation Next’, which is focusing particularly on young ringer recruitment, channelling possible recruits into hubs where kids can learn to ring together. Lots of towers say they need more youngsters but have you thought what you would do if half a dozen turned up and wanted to learn at the same time?

Young ringers are not specifically covered by next week’s Recovery Conference, but the subject will no doubt be touched on in a number of the sessions, such as “How to establish ringing in your village” and “Holding a successful practice.” The ART/CC team has put together a programme of 10 great-looking presentations, kicking off with “Building better relationships with your church” on Saturday afternoon. You can sign up from the Virtual Hub here.

For the first time in this pandemic, Wales is leading the ‘home nations’ in getting back to meaningful ringing, with significant lockdown lifting having come into force on 3 May just in time for the elections (popularity contest) on Thursday. With most of us still gazing longingly at ringing performances in ANZAB, and now Washington DC, ringers in Wales can move on to ringing tower bells with a decent number of ringers. Unfortunately in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon remains steadfast and resolute.

Those in England don’t have long to wait. Draft ringing guidance for 17 May onwards has been published pending final confirmation of the date and the distancing, and importantly it has now been updated to make it clear that the use of lateral flow tests is not a requirement, but something to be considered in certain circumstances.

There are about a million lateral flow tests being done every day in the UK, all part of the government’s programme of doing as much testing as possible. I added mine to those statistics last week so that I can run a young ringers’ group with additional confidence that I am not putting the youngsters at risk. I have had a jab so am not too concerned about getting Covid from them, but they are all being tested routinely as well. Apart from the discomfort of sticking something up your nose as far as your brain, I see it is a small price to pay. However the guidance did not mean to suggest that tests are mandatory – if you have a band that mixes vaccinated and unvaccinated ringers LFTs can provide useful additional reassurance.

My Project Pickled Egg book is nearing completion with Carolina Reaper Treble Bob added to the PPE spice rack. To mark the occasion, I bought a packet of dried Carolina Reaper chillis to see what all the fuss is about. The packet made it quite clear that one should only handle them using gloves. So I put half of one in a portion of cauliflower curry, with severe repercussions. Big mistake. Huge.

Simon Linford
President, CCCBR


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