10th May 2016

Ringing for the journey of the Olympic Torch

The article on ringing for public events (RW 2011 p937) mentioned two high profile events in 2012 that give ringers across the country the chance to take part in major national celebrations. One is the official celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (see RW pxxx) with a special Bank Holiday at the start of June. The other is the Olympics. The games don’t start until the end of July, but from mid May until the opening, the Olympic Flame will travel around the country, passing through hundreds of towns and villages.

The route is said to go within 10 miles of 95% of the population, which is quite an achievement. The organisers have obviously tried hard to involve the whole country, despite the fact that most of the competitive action is in London and a few other towns in the southeast.

What better accompaniment could there be for the torch bearers, and for the crowds lining the route, than to hear the sound of bells ringing joyfully. To make that happen of course depends on exactly where the route goes. The people lining the streets may be able to travel up to 10 miles, but the sound of bells won’t.

In true thriller fashion, the details of the route are emerging bit by bit. The 70 overnight stops were published in the summer, and LOCOG (The organising committee) released further details in November by publishing the names of over 1000 towns and villages through which the torch will pass. There are lists of each day’s calling points, and an interactive map of the outline route on the London 2012 website. This is still well short of the detail that will be needed to plan ringing as the torch passes, but it is a start. The street-level route won’t be made public until next spring.

The map shows the named communities joined by lines ‘as the crow flies’. In some cases you can make an intelligent guess about where the actual route is likely to go, but in others there may be several alternatives. Have a look at the route to see how near to you it comes.

If you ring in one of the 1000+ named communities, then you know that your local authority has already been involved in the process, and will be planning community-wide events for the occasion. Make contact with them to find out what is being planned, and offer to try to support it with ringing. They may not be able to tell you whether the route will actually pass the tower, but again, you may be able to make an educated guess – for example if the church is near to the market square.

If your town is not named, but the route looks as if you might be on it, then again make contact with your local council, say that you would like to support community celebrations with public ringing, but that not knowing whether or not the tower is on the route makes it hard to plan. At this stage they may not be able to tell you, but they will know who to contact as soon as there is any more information, and it will make sure they think of bells when thinking about other events related to the occasion.

If from the map it is obvious that the route will miss your village or town, don’t give up hope of being part of the celebrations. Your local council is probably also feeling left out, and will be planning some sort of celebrations, even if it is only to mark a ‘near miss’. They won’t want to be left out of a major national event. So you should still go and talk to them. Find out who is responsible for planning such things, and make sure they know who to contact in order to include ringing as part of them.

So whether your tower is on the route or not, you should talk to your local council about being part of the celebrations, and the sooner the better. If you haven’t already had contact with them, make sure they understand what’s involved, and any constraints on what you can offer, for example how far the bells are audible.

There is another way that we can help each other as members of the ringing community. Prime towers for ringing, either because they are on the torch route, or because they are next to some related civic celebration, might find it hard to muster enough ringers at the required time, so those of us from nearby towers who are not directly involved should be willing to help ensure that the ringing community puts up a good show.

John Harrison (on behalf of the CC PR Committee)

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