President’s Blog #44

“What could be more English than the gentle peal of bells wafting through a small leafy village? The Five Bells, a magnet for walkers in the Chilterns, nestles within earshot of St Mary’s Church bells.” One thing that the pandemic-induced increased use of outdoor eating and drinking spaces in pubs has done is expose more people to the sound of bells. Suddenly the diners in hundreds of pubs and restaurants are finding that sitting outside to eat is not quite as quiet on one evening a week as they thought it would be. But how about that quote? A pub website that was actively advertising our efforts! I’ll leave the identity of the tower to be guessed, but with a follow-up question being how many pub names are there which actually get the number of bells right?

I know it has been a long time coming but the new North American Guild website is a delight Covered in lots of pictures of happy bellringers, rather than church towers and bells, or no pictures at all (yes there are some) – it’s all about people. Have a look at your association’s website and the first page that hits visitors. What would it say to someone who was curious about wanting to learn? Score yourselves out of 10.

Another delight was to see the test ringing of the new bells at Grote Kerk Dordrecht (photo – Matthew Higby) and the first quarter peal rung. Many of us have had lockdown projects but Paul and Harm Jan de Kok really pushed the boat out with that one. That means there are now four rings of bells ‘on the continent’ and presumably nascent plans to visit them all in as little time as possible. I just checked how far it was from Ypres to Vernet – doable overnight.

Recruitment was a main theme of a ‘Recovery Champions’ meeting last Friday evening. When others were winding down at the end of the week, 40 of us were together on Zoom thinking about a ringing recruitment campaign (although the thinking might have been oiled by the odd glass of something). There was a specific question for consideration: “What would you need to help you recruit?” There were quite a few good takeaways. The recruitment leaflet that is still available could have a refresh (although it is still pretty good), more well-designed co-ordinated materials were suggested, fuelled by the unlocking of General Funds to pay for them, a high-quality short video for use on social media would be very useful (that is in hand), and some sort of focus around the Platinum Jubilee.

The last point was not universally agreed. Is the Jubilee too narrow a focus? Do we run the risk of people thinking they are learning for a one-off event? Will it attract the right demographic? I spent a long time teaching a lady to ring in Jersey for the Millennium and at 12.10 am she announced that she had done it and was giving up. Maybe it was my fault for an unrealistic expectation. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t taken so long to teach her.

Planning is starting for ringing for the Jubilee. The Commonwealth has four whole days of celebrations to deal with, although the Queen’s programme for the Saturday is “attend the Epsom Derby”. The peal ringing community will see four days of opportunities to ask for rare towers, while others will be planning tours, outings, or waiting expectantly to see what open days are announced. Friday is the big service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Where will we take the shiny new Mobile Belfry 2.0? It will be an ideal opportunity to have it demonstrating bells and bellringing in various places. Horse Guards Parade would be good if anyone has got any contacts. There is a website describing the proposed belfry now – it can be found here.

Last week I published the Council’s response to GS2222, my holiday reading from earlier in the summer. Had I written the response there and then I wouldn’t have had to read GS2222 all over again. Although GS2222 is 49 pages long and finishes with 31 specific questions, the main points to make as far as ringing is concerned were to make clear the part we play in the life of the church, but also the importance of consideration of bells if churches do have to close.

Mark Regan and I had the opportunity to give a half hour talk on bellringing to the Church Buildings Council and DACs’ annual conference, using it as a platform to explain how ringing was hit by Covid, how we recovered, and how it has helped us foster closer relationships with the CBC and other stakeholders. Unsurprisingly we uncovered quite a few lapsed bellringers in the audience of 110 DAC members and church building officers, and hopefully made them feel motivated to come back and join us.

The only negative from the talk was on a question of how we can “ensure bell enthusiasts don’t inadvertently cause problems for themselves and PCCs.” They went on to say “In [Diocese], we have discovered belatedly where enthusiasts have volunteered to undertake some maintenance work without permission, which has been concerning.” They went on to ask us to keep driving on the importance of getting permission to do any work on bells. Overall though, the session was very well appreciated and it was great to have the opportunity to address this conference.

While getting three competent ringers from the same family is a bit of a boon for ringing organisers, my family does represent something of a concentration risk. Covid symptoms on Saturday morning removed two tutors and a helper from Saturday ringing school, and half the ringers from an afternoon wedding. Fortunately our afternoon cream tea was delivered, with so much jam and cream that I need to go and buy an extra scone. Eleanor rather bizarrely put jam first on one half and cream first on the other!

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

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