What we gained from Lockdown.
A story of handbells at Hursley, Hants.
We are just emerging from an interruption to ringing that has had a large impact on the exercise, and may prove to have been the cause of a permanent change to the quantity and quality of ringing that we will be able to enjoy in the future.
Lockdown and the ensuing caution about infection produced a cessation of ringing comparable in length to the break in ringing in World War 2. However, unlike that break, concerns about infection and the duty to shield the vulnerable means that a number of ringers will not have returned to their normal pattern of ringing, and the long interval has undoubtedly meant that a fair proportion of us are both physically and mentally “rusty”.
At Hursley we indulged in quite a lot of Zooming in lockdown. Tuesday was quiz night, Friday was a bit of chat then off to Ringing Room – where we were conspicuously less able than other bands in the area. However the fact that you could ring two bells on ringing room sparked an interest in handbell ringing – which is the point of this short article.
Hursley is very lucky to have some experienced and established handbell ringers in the band, so when meeting up in gardens became possible, a number of us were eager to get back to ringing in the flesh with other people – even if it was a bit nippy to be honest.
As we met up, more of the Hursley ringers who had never thought of ringing handbells expressed an interest, and regular Tuesday afternoon sessions were established in late April 2021. As you may guess by the timing the group is, how can I say it…mature, that is retired, or working part-time. Some of the learners had not touched a handbell at all, although they had got some of the skills through Ringing Room, others had done what a lot of us have, ringing 1-2 or 5-6 for some Plain Hunt Minor.
Progress was variable. Some got the hang of it quickly, backed up by practising at home on Ringing Room or Abel/Mabel/Mobel. Some were a lot slower, but progress there was, even if it tended to be two steps forward and one back for some of the time.
It soon became obvious that just one afternoon a week would not be enough, so some quarter peals were planned as the ringing became more accurate and reliable. We were really lucky to have some very good conductors in the band, and Drew Craddock, Richard Thompson and Christine Hill came to the fore in getting touches and quarters round. We also had a dedicated support crew in Jinny Kufluk and Maureen Hanney, with Nigel Herriott managing a few of the practices, all good ringers who keep right even when there were gaps to be filled.
Back row l to r – Richard Thompson, Peter Hill, Christine Hill, Kate Shaw, Maureen Hanney, Jinny Kufluk, Derek Stewart (host for the day)
Front row l to r – Caroline Fairley, Janice Higgins, Pam Thompson, Christine Saunders.
Quarter peals were then attempted, and usually scored at the first attempt! Caroline Fairley was first off the mark with a good quarter of Bob Minor on the 28th of May last year (2021). She quickly went on to ring two more, both of Plain Bob Major
Next was Kate Shaw with her first quarter on the 24th September, trebles to Plain Bob Minor followed by her first on eight on the 10th December.
The third of our learners to achieve a quarter in hand was one of our most experienced ringers, Christine Saunders, with a quarter of Plain Bob Major on the 10th November. This was quickly followed by two more quarters, both of Bob Minor.
Pam Thompson was a bit slow to organise her first quarter, but at one of the Tuesday afternoon practices we found a room for her plus Richard and Christine Hill to ring Plain Bob Minor on the 25th of January this year. Again this was followed just five days later by her first on eight.
Not all our learners found the technique of ringing handbells easy, and sometimes a lifetime of ringing tower bells can be a bit of a handicap, but Janice Higgins became our fifth learner to score a quarter by ringing the tenors to Plain Bob Major on the 6th of February.
Finally, the sixth member of the Hursley handbell learners, Derek Stewart, scored a quarter of Plain Bob Minor on the 15th of February.
So what happens next?
I suppose the nice thing about ringing is that there is always another challenge to be attempted. Some of the learners are heading towards Kent and Oxford Treble Bob (Minor and Major), while others are looking at the inside pairs of Plain Bob. Conducting is being encouraged – and hopefully we will soon see a quarter in hand with a first as conductor from this group of learners.
So something good definitely came out of the lockdown for our band. We are probably better friends, possibly more tolerant of mistakes and have shown that learning a new skill is fun and rewarding.
Lastly, I will just mention the value of Ringing Room. Leland Paul Kusmer and Bryn Reinstadler really made this possible. Firstly it gave all the Hursley band a chance to ring together when we were not allowed in the tower. Once the handbell group started up it was so easy for all of the learners to practice away from the Tuesday afternoon sessions, and without this homework the progress we have all made would not have been possible.