President’s Blog #16

On balance now I wish I had continued with the piano not the cello. After Grade 5 on each, I made the choice and continued with the cello as I was better at it, it was more sociable, and I liked my cello teacher. I would now put up with being a less good pianist than cellist. The same is true of handbell ringing. I pretty much gave that up at the equivalent of about Grade 4 and then got so relatively better at tower bell ringing that I could never accept what had become a gulf in my level of competence between the two formats.

Lockdown has changed that, and not just for me. Handbell ringing is presenting opportunities. I think I might have scraped Grade 5 now! The time I might have spent learning methods for peals of spliced has been replaced mostly with Central Council work, but also with learning methods again on handbells, and learning how to view and ring those methods in a different way.

We don’t have ‘Grades’ in ringing like we do with learning musical instruments. It gets talked about every so often. ART’s Learn the Ropes scheme provides a good pathway although it does not have a measure of quality of performance – you cannot pass ART Level 5 with Distinction – you just Pass. It would be a challenge to be more judgemental, and ringers shy away from being judgemental (out loud anyway).

I have issued 11 Learn the Ropes handbell certificates this week, mostly Level 1 but some Level 2. In the St Martin’s Guild such certificates have been accepted with pride by very experienced tower bell ringers, and particularly by those whose tower bell ringing progress has taken backstage in favour or sending the elevator back down.

My spies tell me that ‘Virtual Bradfield’ last weekend was a great success, with at least 70 attendees. The organisers managed the usual mix of training, with handbell sessions, ask the tutor sessions, and finishing with both virtual pub and virtual cocoa sessions. Jonathan Cresshull was particularly given a shout out for technical wizardry.

I joined the Devizes Branch (sorry – now spotted duff spelling in RW copy) last Saturday evening for their practice on Ding (dinging.co.uk). A very different experience to Ringing Room, especially trying to ring with delayed action on the ropes, so you press the key to start the bell moving rather than the immediacy of pressing the key when you want the bell to strike. We did manage to ring a course of Stedman Doubles though (slowly), and they have rung two quarters on the platform now.

Distributed simulator ringing is a field of experimentation. The Dumbbell Society rang the first quarter peal on distributed dumbbells this week so they are making progress. It is a small group of experienced dumbbell ringers who have spent a long time getting to this point, but this could be interesting for the future.

The CC Covid guidance is not changing much from week to week at the moment, although every Friday evening I do update it. Last week I changed references to facemasks to face coverings and this week saw a clarification of separation between ropes in a straight line after a few queries. Changes don’t get announced – they will just appear here https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus/

The most difficult questions I have to answer are to do with when ringing will return to normal, and my usual answer is to ask the questioner when they think life in general is going to return to normal. With infection rates rising now, schools re-opening and then winter coming, we will need to be patient. We do have our next meeting with the CofE Recovery Group this Friday and we have been garnering opinion via Facebook (by far the quickest way of getting opinions) on what would be most helpful.

Whenever we get back to ‘normal’ there will be new rings of bells to experience. The foundries and bell hangers seem to be busy. A new ring of bells was seen on the motorway heading to Stoke St Milborough, and Bridgwater has joined the ranks of the rings of 12 (remember when there were only 100!). And just as I am writing this I have discovered this list on the new Dove website – all known current projects! https://dove.cccbr.org.uk/projects.php

The papers for the Council Annual Meeting have been distributed and registration is open. The Zoom meeting is going to be a challenge, not least for the NAG members who have to get up at 4.30 their time. The Ringing World AGM is going to follow the CC meeting, as it always does. Then maybe we could try and have the largest online virtual pub session the ringing community has yet managed.

The 150th anniversary of the birth of William Pye was marked by an article in The Ringing World by John Loveless. Complete with a photo of Ernest, William and George looking like they had escaped from the set of Peaky Blinders. Bill Pye’s achievements were inspirational – I accompanied Alan Regin on many trips to find the graves of Bill Pye’s peal band, including the first trip to find Bertram Prewett’s war grave in France. Apparently Bill Pye set up a peal of Cambridge Maximus in the last lead because of a bad error – I like to think I have some standards but I’d try and get to the end once I’d got to the last lead!

The Ringing World has adapted well to not having pages and pages of peals and quarter peals. Ringers with time on their hands are writing those articles they never got round to writing. Spare a thought for Editor Will Bosworth, and his assistant Chris Teasdale (in charge of the pencil this week) – it must be very hard work at the moment dealing with so much more editorial content, and having to put up with regular contributors who file their copy in the small hours of the morning before the print deadline….

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Content and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

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