(In which the new President muses over listening versus talking, how long it takes to knit a hat, and when is the right time to rename a method)
I have knitted my way through Central Council meetings for a while. It grew to be a habit to stop me fidgeting during some very long debates a few years ago, and I have a few ‘Council projects’, which were either started or substantially progressed during a meeting. These have gotten shorter. My project in Edinburgh in 2016 was a top, but this year I’ve just managed part of a hat.
I had to spend some time thinking about how to title this blog. Chris Mew tended to title his ‘President’s blog’ with a date, while Chris O’Mahoney went with straight titles. Simon Linford didn’t use the now familiar numbers until about 10 blogs in. I’ve decided to carry on with the numbering system for now.
One of the more striking elements of the weekend was the number of new representatives who pulled down the average age of the attenders. They were engaged, full of ideas, and happy to share their experiences and ringing journeys, which were all different. If I had a criticism, it was to some of our more established members, who, in their zeal to be welcoming, managed to talk a bit more than listen. And I say this as a person who quite likes to talk – and who also probably did too much of it.
A highlight of the weekend was the launch of some videos about bellringing, filmed by George Perrins, with some massive logistical support and arrangements by Vicki Chapman and Steph Pendlebury. If you haven’t seen them yet, check them out here:
There are two films, one longer and one shorter. They are absolutely brilliant. I don’t mind saying I was a bit choked up watching them. When bellringers are filmed, we are often depicted as odd or figures of fun. Or they can be very sober pieces full of technical information. These films get at the heart of why ringers enjoy what they do and shows them doing what they enjoy. The fact that George is also a ringer shows. However, he also manages to portray ringing in a way accessible to people who don’t ring and don’t know anything about ringing. Editorially and creatively, that’s a fine balance, and George has made it look effortless.
Seriously, watch them, and then show them, to your friends. Link to them on your social media, your tower or Association media sites. It seems a lot of us don’t do that, according to some preliminary results from the Ringing Survey. When asked whether they would recommend ringing as an activity to their friends, 47% said they would not. Why is this? Are we embarrassed or just tired of saying ‘no, I don’t get pulled off my feet’?
This is certainly true in my household. I happily chatter on to my non-ringing friends about ringing, but the other regular ringer in my household does not. In fact, I was the one who discovered he had a ringing co-worker, because they were both keeping quiet about it.
Am I constantly trying to get my friends into the bell tower? No. That would be annoying. But when I’m asked what I did at the weekend, I tell them. It’s a large part of who I am, so how can I hide it? (And then there’s the liking to talk thing.)
I have had quite a bit of feedback about the meeting itself, which ran right up to a hard deadline to exit the building, and as a result, curtailed some items of business. We have already started discussing how to improve that for next year.
One of those curtailed items was a chance to discuss the performances related to the Strike Back Against Cancer campaign, and whether to rename them. That was a lost opportunity to gauge the mood of at least the people in the room. It is tricky – over 1500 performances represents an outpouring of generosity and support that was completely genuine. How do we square that with the false premise it was based on? I don’t have the magic answer, I think we have to decide this together, and I am asking for your thoughts.
Another curtailed item was the lost chance for the meeting to properly and formally thank Simon Linford for his untiring work over the last four years. At Simon’s request, we have presented a printed and bound copy of his President’s blogs. Actually, I gave him an empty box, because the binding is still being hand-stitched. We also formally thanked David Kirkcaldy who stood down as Deputy President and Phillip Barnes who stood down as a Trustee. They also received gifts as a thank you, which were not empty boxes.
I’m still getting emails from Simon, with a notes like ‘here’s another thing I didn’t quite get round to’. There aren’t really that many.
It took 105 years for the Council to elect a woman as President, which honour goes to Jane Wilkinson. I still make use of some bracing advice she gave me back then about getting on with the job, which amounted to ‘woman up, Tina.’ Advice to live by.
Since then there has been a woman President about once every ten years. That makes three of us – Jane, Kate Flavell and now me. And I’m one up – we now have a woman president and deputy president for the first time ever.
It’s a small enough group to fit comfortably in the lens of a phone camera. I love this photo. What were we so happy about? I can’t remember, but possibly we were enjoying the last sunshine of the day and not taking ourselves too seriously.