President’s Blog #82

I was asked the other day whether I was “demob happy” with end of my term as President looming (four weeks away as I post this). The answer was “not really”. It might be strange at first not to be actually responsible but I don’t expect to suddenly stop work on any of the things I am currently working on. Less writing maybe and fewer externally imposed deadlines. I have reduced by blog production to monthly to make it less of an onerous commitment for my successor. Maybe my worryingly high blood pressure will start coming down.

One continuing role will be keeping up our relationships with what we call our ‘senior stakeholders’, such as the Church of England. Mark Regan and I met up with Mark Betson, who we came to know during Covid guidance times. Mark B moves in useful circles and was able to give us feedback from the Synod meeting in York, which incidentally listened to the RWNYC ringing at the Minster all day. Of particular interest to bellringers is the emerging concept of the ‘fallow church’ (see previous blog). These not quite closed churches will have no PCC or maintenance liability, so there is less burden on the local community, but present a potential problem for bellringers depending on who ends up responsible for the mothballed building, and whether it can be used at all. Mark B was also able to shed some light on the situation surrounding the loss of the CofE’s independent safeguarding team, and we also talked about the relationship between bellringing and the evangelical church.

On that subject, the progress of the Christian Church in Nigeria is interesting. Alison Hodge spotted this programme on the BBC World Service which is worth a listen It is called ‘Song of the Bell’ and charts the rapid growth of the Church in Nigeria through the lens of the Marinelli Bell Foundry in Italy, which now send 25% of its bells there. But while the traditional church, which sees the bell as the voice of God, is expanding, the Pentecostal church (like the evangelical church in Britain) is growing even more quickly, and they don’t see the need for bells – “that’s a dead way of doing Church.”

Here we are fortunate that clergy see bells as the outward voice of the church. The Rector of St Martin’s Birmingham was very sure of the power of bells when he greeted us after a recent peal. The usual couple of hundred afternoon visitors had exceeded 500, which he said always happens when the bells ring.

A week after the RWNYC, lead organiser David Hull escaped to Kos for a very hot holiday, but pictures circulated of him sitting by the pool on his laptop. Minutes later I received an email containing my team’s feedback on their ringing, which I then forwarded to our team’s conductor who happened to be sitting by the same pool and read it on her phone. The joys of mobile communications!

We are keeping a watching brief on the draft Terrorism Bill (England and Wales only I think), which could have implications for very large ringing events, imposing as it does potentially onerous obligations on organisers of events with more than 800 attendees (and less onerous obligations of events of 100+). Cathedrals and very large churches are already concerned about it. A guidance note will be prepared as soon as the final legislation becomes clear, although insiders think that it might get watered down.

The Central Council AGM weekend is unlikely to be troubled by the Terrorism Bill, especially as a key motion at September’s meeting concerns reducing the number of Representatives. A key challenge is to decrease the size of the Council itself (which appoints the Executive, which in turn creates the Workgroups), whilst increasing the number of people who come forward to work in and lead the Workgroups. We have done well getting more people involved but we have so much planned that the net needs to spread far and wide.

In addition to the core meeting at Ipswich, Friday and Sunday are aimed at getting local ringers involved. On Friday we have nine ringing training sessions planned which are bookable through Eventbrite and which are filling up, while on Sunday there are a range of workshops. They are open to all, but you need to be able to get to Ipswich. All events are bookable from this link which can be found on the Council website, AGM section.

Now if you are in one of those places where going across the border into a different District, or perish the thought, a different Association, is not the done thing, how’s this for cross border cooperation. David Smith has been flown from Australia to North America to undertake a four-week training tour at the invitation of the NAG. He has been running eight ART modules in four North American cities – a part of their upcoming decision about what path they will follow in the future as regards enlivening their teacher training and encouragement.

One thing that I have on my list to finish in the next four weeks is the presentation of the new strategy that the Executive and Workgroup leaders have been developing. It is based on there being the following three ‘Pillars’ which support ringing and where a body acting on behalf of all ringers can make a difference.

Publicity and Marketing: Raise awareness of the art of bellringing and promote it as a social and voluntary activity. Drive new recruits to us with better targeted marketing initiatives.

Recruitment and Development: Encourage the development of local and regional structures to recruit potential new ringers and attract lapsed ringers back to ringing, then ensure their expectations are met as they progress.

Quality Environment: Teachers, teaching structures, leadership, bell installations, ringing environments, safeguarding, etc. We have to create a quality environment that makes people enjoy ringing and we therefore retain them.

Four weeks to go …

Simon Linford
CCCBR President (and absolutely not demob happy)

Send to a friend