Category Archives: National News

President’s Blog #28

I have got over my daughter Charlie using the term “the olden days” for anything earlier than about 1980, even if for me the olden days would be those of Bill Pye or James George. I don’t think hearing ringers over the age of 25 described this week as “oldies” helped either. However 25 is the upper age limit for the proposed young ringers’ organisation that is currently being put together and consulted on.

A team of six young ringers has been working on this for about three months now and although they still haven’t worked out a name for it, they have what seems to be a really good plan. Last week we set up two Zoom focus groups for them so that they could present their ideas to other young ringers. It is an international organisation being designed by young ringers for young ringers, responding to their needs as seen by them, one of which is to have merch and pins. I didn’t want to point out that we had ringing pins (formerly known as badges) in the olden days – I had a collection of about 20 association badges on my denim jacket until Paul Williams advised me that they were naff.

Ian Roulstone, who is our Workgroup Leader for University & College Ringing, and a Professor of Mathematics at Surrey, is working on a programme to open a new specialist sixth form maths school in 2023. Three of these new schools now exist – King’s College London, Exeter, and Liverpool – and others are planned at Durham, Leeds, Lancaster, Cambridge, Imperial College London, and Guildford (Ian’s one). Each school is associated with a university and teaches Maths, Further Maths, other STEM subjects and music, to students with innate ability. Ian sent an outline of a plan to what appeared to be the crème de la crème in the centre of the ringing/maths/computing Venn diagram. I felt honoured even to be copied in. The idea is to provide material about the mathematics of change ringing, and potentially the crossover with computing, that can be used by the schools in special project work. Might capture a few new recruits with ideal skillsets.

What managed to persuade 40 young ringers to spend an hour in a workshop last Saturday painting stones? Hosted by the Worcester Cathedral young ringers, this was painting stones with themes of bells, memorial and remembrance. Now these 40 ‘Foundation Stones’ will join thousands of others to form part of the UK Holocaust Memorial to be built in London in 2023 (subject to planning permission!). Any other young ringers who take part will go on a ringing outing to London when the memorial is finally unveiled near Westminster Abbey.

The Foundation Stones project is being led by the Big Ideas Company. If that name rings a bell, it is because the BIC was responsible for the Ringing Remembers campaign, working with Vicki Chapman who went on to become the Central Council’s PRO. We are supporting Foundation Stones partly to support the BIC, who are very interested in doing another campaign with us, but also because if we could get hundreds of stones with bell themes on the final memorial it would be a powerful symbol of the link between bells and memorial. The BIC will run workshops for any ringing groups that want one – something a bit different if you’re running out of ideas.

Finally, for what is turning into a bit of a young ringers special, we had a young ringing ‘symposium’ a couple of Saturdays ago to make sure those involved in youth ringing strategies on a wider level are singing from the same hymn sheet, or at least know what others are doing. Following a presentation from Matt Jerome on the proposed young ringers association, we heard what the Schools, Youth and Universities Workgroups are doing, about Roger Booth’s progress on an HLF funding bid for getting bells into schools (working with the Handbell Ringers of Great Britain), the latest plans for the RWNYC, and of course ART’s work in this area.

Not to be outdone by last Saturday’s quarter peal day on Ringing Room organised by the intriguingly named Badgers Handbell Ringers, which saw 60 handbell quarters rung to mark the first anniversary of Ringing Room, the Cast of 1000 is having a quarter peal day on 13 March. There have been 50 practices now with over 100 participants, with lots of ringers either making progress with Surprise Major, or just enjoying being helpful and ringing with different people. That is one of the great things about online ringing – you can ring with people you would not otherwise get to see.

Sometimes the timing of news is just wrong. The Ringing World’s production deadline means my blog needs to be finished on Monday night so that the Editor has just enough time to slot it into its reserved space prior to his Tuesday lunchtime deadline. He’d love it to be earlier! Monday afternoon’s announcement on the possible lifting of Covid restrictions in England doesn’t give me much time to reflect on the implications for ringing, and by Friday we will have needed to catch up with the CofE Recovery Group and publish new guidance. What we just hope is that this is not a false dawn.

One comment from a young ringer when comparing ringing with one of her other activities was “why are ringers so nasty to each other?” The Bellringers Facebook group can be such a force for good but it can also be a forum which proves that young ringer right. Many have stopped using it as a result. We really need the main Facebook groups to be a safe place for our fellow ringers, where the fine line between banter and bullying does not get crossed. We cannot just leave it to the hardworking admins and expose them to even more abuse. Let’s help them stamp it out.

Finally, February 15 was World Hippo Day. How on earth did I miss that?!

Simon Linford
President, CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

President’s Blog #27

People who know me know not to write anything important in the second paragraph of emails. Make your point early and don’t bother with the “How are you? Hope you are staying busy in these difficult times” section. So, to test you out I am going to ask a question in my opening paragraph and answer it at the very end, to check whether you have read that far. By how much can a bellframe move before it causes noticeable problems for the ringers?

I ask that because last Wednesday I enjoyed a fascinating talk by Gordon Breeze about how to model and measure the movement of towers. Towers can be extremely complex structures, and this is modelling with a PHD level of complexity, thankfully explained to us in a GSCE/A level sort of way (almost). Gordon is Head of Wind Engineering at the Building Research Establishment and has developed a way of modelling the movement of towers, based on an initial project at Wingrave. The methodology can potentially be used in other scenarios to help us determine where to position a bellframe to avoid risk of tower movement, and hence ringer discomfort. We still need some bucking broncos of course to give us our war stories, but not for everyday use please.

Hopefully you saw one of the news stories about how the Dove database is now being adopted as the central registry of bell information for all heritage bodies, including the Church Buildings Council, which has always maintained its own database of bells and bellframes. This is a bigger deal than it sounds, but the importance of the agreement was clear from the delight of those who brought it about – Mark Regan, Chris Pickford and Dickon Love. Bells and bellframes aren’t ‘listed’ in the same way that buildings are. I have always thought that it might be desirable to be able to list a ring of bells at its current number in order to stop anyone augmenting great examples of rings of bells. Should Chewton Mendip be protected as an eight for instance, or Maidstone as a 10?

A long discussion on the changeringers email list centred on the “Zone Articles”, articles I originally wrote about 15 years ago which established the now well used descriptions of different levels of ringing as being Blue, Red and Black Zones. It actually became a discussion of how we find ringing information. No one searching for “Zone articles” could find them, and I could only find them because I knew what the articles were originally called when they were printed in the Ringing World (“Room at the Top”, for reasons which are unlikely to become clear). So a topic for our epic-length Executive and Workgroups meeting next Sunday is going to be how best to help ringers navigate all the ringing websites and find what is important to them. Does everyone know about ringing.info? Does anyone use the changeringing wiki? What do you actually expect to find on the Central Council or Ringing World websites? Links to the articles can be found at the bottom.

Quite a few people have tolled a bell 100 times either to remember the 100,000 Covid deaths in the United Kingdom or in memory of Captain Sir Tom Moore. We discussed ringing a single bell for Captain Tom’s funeral at our fortnightly discussion with the CofE Recovery Group, but they have already got into a pickle on this subject (search for deleted tweet controversy) and cannot take a formal position on it. Off the record they were supportive though, and saw that it could be viewed as a single act of worship.

There is a survey worth completing if you don’t mind spending eight minutes on it (when you have read to the end of this), on behalf of the Church of England. It is about the impact on communities of not having access to churches, but as you complete it you will see how it doesn’t really recognise bellringing. We would like the answers from bellringers to emphasise our role. It is in our interests to be seen as part of the church and contributing to its success. https://churchesandcovid.org/survey

One of the rewards of occasional visits to ring at Worcester Cathedral is being able to stock up on the very excellent locally produced marmalade. If you are reading the web version of this you have a day left to submit your marmalade into the ‘Campanologist’s Marmalade (for bellringers)’ category of the Dalemain Awards, the Blue Ribband event in the artisan marmalade producers’ calendar. If you are reading the RW edition, there’s always next year. Don’t worry – I will bring you the results in due course to save you constantly checking the website.

50 or so “Survival & Recovery Champions” joined a Zoom call last Saturday for an introduction to the jointly produced CC/ART Survival & Recovery Toolbox, an extensive set of resources to help individuals, towers, branches, even associations continue to keep ringers motivated and bands together, while looking forward to how we get ringing going again. Hayley Young from Truro DG gave a great talk on the current efforts of her Guild, I gave my view on why I think this is important and why we set up the team, and Lesley Belcher introduced the Toolbox itself. All nicely compered by Annie Hall. Lots of great feedback, lots of great ideas, lots of energy.

Some associations are putting in a phenomenal effort to keep their members motivated and skilled. I have previously mentioned the NAG’s ‘GatheRing’ and this week it’s the turn of the G&B Winter School to get a much deserved mention. Orchestrated by Steve Coleman, the Winter School followed the pattern of their Summer School in having 21 training seminars over seven days with multiple tutors and a wide range of topics. Over 1000 attendees from across the G&B and Salisbury Guild. A terrific feat of organisation.

You have got to the end. The answer is less than a couple of millimetres.

Simon Linford
President, CCCBR

Zone articles

New introduction

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

President’s Blog #26

I am currently working with a Dutch colleague whose family lives in Perth, Western Australia. Imagine our mutual surprise when he joined a Teams call from his local bar and it turned out he was in the Lucky Shag, the bar next to the Swan Tower and its ring of 16 bells. Explaining why I had, on more than one occasion, flown halfway round the world to visit that building and that pub was difficult – I may have spent equal time in both – but we soon found common ground dishing Victoria Bitter. On my last visit too long ago, the tower was a relatively isolated and dramatic feature of the Perth waterfront – now it is surrounded by tall buildings with rather less impact. Still pretty cool though.

The Cast of 1000 initiative, which in its virtual phase comprises focused Ringing Room practices for those wanting to learn and develop Surprise Major ringing, has now had 25 practices and its 100th participant. So far, all the practices have had the right people at them at the right time and in the right place knowing the right methods, thanks to the efforts of Stephanie Warboys and an absolute beast of a spreadsheet. We are starting to get people just asking to join the initiative either as helper or beneficiary, and we seem to have enough willing helpers to meet demand. More details can be found here.

Last Saturday I went to two Cast practices, rang a ‘Simons’ handbell quarter peal in between, spent two hours practising for said handbell quarter in the morning (I am the weakest link), ran the Brumdingers RR session, and met up with Vancouver ringers in the evening. It felt like a Saturday from before the pandemic with no time for proper meals or seeing my family. A couple of other people were fitting in Cast of 1000 practices amongst other practices and ringing events. And the quarter was Simon Rudd’s 200th quarter on Ringing Room. Yes, take a moment to let that sink in. Over a fifth of all quarters on Ringing Room have had Simon in.

Nearly a quarter of all the quarter peals on Ringing Room have been in the last month. What do we infer from that? More bands are using it (5,000 accounts have accessed in the last 30 days), more ringers have progressed to the level of expertise that enables them to ring quarters, more people have worked out how to use ethernet connections, or some bands have finally managed to score quarters they have been attempting for ages. It could also be that the server upgrades that have been implemented in the last month have had such a positive impact that computer problems are less of a success factor. Soon you won’t be able to blame t’interweb – it may just be you.

Ding also continues to prosper and add users and bands. The key difference with Ding is that it set out to be much more of a simulation of ropesight – the key press starts the rope moving rather than giving the immediate sound. This makes it much more of a challenge (more like ringing in that respect) but quarter peals are now being rung with the moving ropes. Ding also now has 16 bells, so if you project your screen onto your living room walls, as creator Giles Wood has done, you can replicate the look of amazement we get on visitors faces when they come into the ringing room at the Bull Ring. It’s a lot of ropes. Giles is also looking for people with Virtual Reality headsets to test an experimental version of Ding – if that’s you then please email gilesrwood@gmail.com

One is clutching at straws looking for the benefits to ringing of this pandemic, but one is the opportunity to ring with people you might not otherwise meet. Last Monday I was able to zoom up to a Beverley and District practice, specifically as I wanted to meet and ring with Rebecca Legowski and Damien Garwood. They are both blind, with Damien having learned to ring online after being attracted to ringing by hearing his local tower. Discussion with them on Sunday was whether virtual ringing could provide an entry path for blind ringers, both into handbell ringing and tower bell ringing. They were also keen to establish a group for blind ringers, and also build a network of people with experience of teaching blind ringers. I can collect contact details to pass on.

Has anyone managed to persuade any lapsed ringers to come out and do some virtual ringing? Reactivating lapsed ringers needs to be part of a ringing recovery strategy as they don’t take as long to teach (obvs) and there are lots of them – at least as many as there are active ringers. Depending on what caused them to lapse, some virtual ringing to break the boredom of lockdown might be attractive. I have one target who I am going to invite to a Cast of 1000 practice. Has anyone else activated a lapsed ringer in lockdown? LMK [Stop press – I have found one, courtesy of my sister in Skipton!]

When I saw that the Truro DG was preparing for a G7 conference in Cornwall I immediately thought it was a mega Grandsire Triples workshop, with much needed guidance on exactly where to make those pesky calls. However, it turns out that the crowds descending on Carbis Bay in June are not going ringing, but just attending a conference of the G7 leaders. The Truro DG’s PRO Jane McCutchan is working hard and successfully to promote the sounds of Cornish bells being rung to celebrate the arrival of global visitors.

Finally, eBells can seriously upgrade your online ringing experience and are selling like hot cakes. They’re not cheap (despite being not for profit – they’re expensive to make), however sponsorship from The Whiting Society is enabling ART to provide eBells to young ringers (under 25) for £25 a pair. Although the sponsorship is limited, if demand exceeds funds available, we will find the money to support those who want them. Expressions of interest to lesley.belcher@bellringing.org

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

President’s Blog #25 (2)

I’ll start with two different levels of good news and bad news. The first bit of good news is that it is mid-January and we are still eating Christmas cake. I might actually finish reading the Christmas Ringing World before running out of Christmas cake. Tempering that joy is the fact that there still seems to be a bag of sprouts in the fridge. There are some good things to have come out of Bedfordshire, but Brussels Sprouts are not included.

More seriously the latest lockdown has seriously blunted our hopes of a quick recovery to ringing. I updated the Covid guidance on the CC website but felt it was so obvious what the guidance would be that it didn’t really need to be broadcast. Although many churches remain open there is pressure from churches themselves to close even if governments permit opening. Work on guidance doesn’t stop, and the good news of course is that vaccines raise the hope of some sort of return to ringing.

Young ringers’ practices, which had been enabled by guidance on running out of school children’s activities, didn’t manage to get started at all when Lockdown 3.0 set in, and Tier 4 was excluded from that guidance anyway which would have greatly restricted applicability. When we drop back into Tiers again we may be able to resurrect that in lower Tiers at least.

Christmas ringing was curtailed through no fault of our own, although hopefully all those who wanted to ring at Christmas managed to do a little bit. Many communities would have heard bells for the first time for many months.

How many places’ New Year’s Eve celebrations have bells as a focus? I was amazed to see a video from York Minster of crowds previously surrounding York Minster – the ringing of the bells at the Minster is a key part of that city’s celebrations, and suspending the ringing this year was a key part of York trying to stop people gathering. I remember in the short period when I was a member of the band at St Martin in the Fields how challenging it was to get to the tower on New Year’s Eve to ring out over Trafalgar Square, and the astonishing noise outside that drowned out the sound of the bells anyway!

Which leads me onto an idea that I want to get going this year which is an annual competition to find “Britain’s Favourite Bellringers” (name to be decided). The idea is that this would raise the profile and awareness of bells and bellringers in local communities, with the competition voted on by members of church congregations and the general public. What would motivate people to vote, and what would be a good prize for a winning band?

Did you watch Swap Shop or Tiswas? You need to be a certain age to understand that question! Our house watched Swap Shop because it was on BBC and we weren’t allowed to watch ITV… The basic principle was that deluded kids phoned in with offers of something they didn’t want (usually complete tat) and wanted to swap it for something else (usually more desirable), with mixed success. Adam Crocker has adopted “Swap Shop” to describe a new programme of finding a home for ActionXL controllers which are no longer needed by those who have splashed out on eBells. It’s not really a swap of course – in return for your ActionXL controllers you get thanks and the knowledge that you will be helping someone else’s virtual handbell ringing, which is reason enough to do it of course. If you have spare controllers please email motioncontrollers@hotmail.com – mine have already found a new home.

The St David’s Diocesan Guild featured in an excellent four page spread in the glossy West Wales Life&Style magazine. It is sometimes difficult to steer journalists in the right direction in pieces like this, but Guild Master Anne Bunker is quoted extensively, and clearly managed to get the best out of the reporter. The article also features some very good photography – I am guessing commissioned by the magazine. Journalists struggle to get good photographs of ringing, and we struggle for pictures for our own publicity material. We are shortly going to launch a photo competition along the lines of the YouTube comp that will enable us to create a photo library for ringers and journalists to use (with due permissions of course).

One of the highlights of my last couple of weeks was attending the Ruislip Ringing Room striking competition (fashionably late due to a diary malfunction). Sonia Field put it together and really showed what can be done in terms of maintaining and developing an inexperienced band. Eight ringers who nine months ago could hardly press a key in the right place, ringing courses of Doubles methods – each member had their own team drawn from the other members of the band. All creditable, all fun, and enthusiastic. That is just one example of how bands are keeping going with their ringing survival activities and even building skills.

The joint CC and ART Survival and Recovery group has been in touch with guild and association secretaries looking for ‘Recovery Champions’ who can help with the flow of new ideas and initiatives to keep people involved and motivated until we can return to our towers. Might you be the person your branch or district is looking for? Annie Hall (anniehall@covdg.co.uk) is already sending information out to the first responders.

And finally, a word for my print edition publisher. It’s an exciting time at the Ringing World. With neither song nor dance the announcement appeared of four additional Directors to the Ringing World who are no doubt looking forward to rolling up their sleeves and plotting the future direction of the business alongside the existing team. It is a challenge I understand they relish, and I look forward to joining the first enlarged board meeting next week. Now where is the Christmas issue I still haven’t finished …

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

CCCBR/ART Newsheet Survival and Recovery – January 2021

Here is the latest Newsheet from ART on Survival and Recovery.

ART also issued some ideas from Matt Lawrence entitled ‘Top Tips for Survival and Recovery‘. This is available in two formats to download below. The full article is available in the lastest edition of Tower Talk

Christmas ringing and Tier 4 – England

Update from 21st December 2020

I write this with a heavy heart, and it is not made any easier knowing that most of you will be expecting it. The impact on ringing of the decisions of the government in England to introduce Tier 4 and to change Christmas bubble arrangements in other Tiers is as nothing compared with other impacts on people’s lives. Just when we thought we had turned the corner our lives need to be more disrupted.

The new rules for Tier 4 state that no non-essential mixing outside of households (other than in a support bubble) is allowed, with only necessary travel outside the house. Whilst public worship is still permitted, there is no mingling with anyone outside your household or support bubble, so ringing will not be allowed in Tier 4. As with the current Tier 3 guidance, tower bells could still be rung by members of the same household, single bells, or by the use of Ellacombe chimes. The Church’s and our view is that this is part of an act of worship.

We are not changing our guidance in other Tiers at this stage, although the increasing speed of transmission of this mutated virus may cause a review sooner rather than later. The Christmas easing and adoption of Tier 1 ringing guidance in Tiers 2 and 3 should be limited as far as possible – think very carefully about whether it is strictly necessary and consider which church services are most important. The guidance is not a boundary at which to push, and you or your band can decide not to ring for whatever reason. By following the basic principles of reducing travel out of the home and contact with other people as much as possible, we can protect ourselves and our communities. Face masks and social distancing only reduce the risk – they don’t remove it.

I read a lot of ringing social media comment at the weekend, and what was clear was that most ringers are perfectly capable of working out for themselves how national guidance translates to ringing. The most powerful contribution to the debate that I read came from a ringer who works in a hospital in the south west of England, and I hope he will forgive me for quoting him in full:

“Winter pressures within the NHS are tough at the best of times. The system is already creaking under the pressure, and the graphs strongly suggest hospitalisation and deaths are going to increase dramatically. I would STRONGLY URGE anybody thinking of stretching/breaking the rules/advice to get their fix of ringing to reconsider – now is not the time and all you are ultimately doing is risking lives and putting my colleagues and other NHS staff under extreme pressure and risk.”

The one saving grace is that it appears that the end is in sight. Whilst we have some difficult months ahead of us, the promise of a vaccine is now real, and it is highly probable that the course of spread of this pandemic will be fundamentally changed in the first half of 2021. In terms of opening up more ringing, having published guidance on children’s groups, our next effort is going to be looking at more open ringing settings including chancel crossings and ground floor rings, where our setting for ringing is similar to the more open settings enjoyed by singers. Equally though, the virus mutation may make things worse yet in some areas.

The President of the Central Council would usually finish a message written on 21 December by wishing everyone a Happy Christmas, but that somehow doesn’t seem quite right. So instead I will say that I hope that whatever you do, and whoever you manage to be with, you can stay safe and remain positive.

Simon Linford
President, CCCBR

Article from https://cccbr.org.uk/2020/12/21/christmas-ringing-and-tier-4-england/ and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers.

President’s Yule Blog

Christmas is the time when some changeringers bite the bullet and do some tune ringing. Out come the carol arrangements and the purists grumble that using numbers is not real music. No, but it’s an inclusive means to an end. I am going to teach my work colleagues to ring Silent Night on Ringing Room, having failed to find a decent arrangement of what is of course the best of all Christmas songs “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Watch this video at your peril as the tune will stick in your mind forever!

Lots of ringers have turned to handbell ringing in lockdown as it has provided more opportunities. The Brumdingers regularly rang handbells outside, and just before it got too cold and too dark to ring outside after school we had started ringing Christmas carols to provide some variety. We left room for improvement. Proof of what can be done with practice comes from the young ringers of Steeple Aston in Oxfordshire, who give this lovely demonstration.

Provided we don’t all go back into lockdown after Christmas, young ringers practices can start again in England at least in the New Year. This is using government guidance that recognises the importance of children’s activities out of school. Detailed guidance is now on the CC website and linked from the Bellboard ‘Virtual Hub’. It’s still not a free-for-all practice as we remember them, but should help those who have been working hard to retain their young ringers during lockdown, youngsters who might otherwise start drifting off into other interests.

The Virtual Hub was what brought the North American Guild’s ‘Online GatheRing’ to my attention, and I was pleased to drop in. This really shows what you can do if you’re well organised. There were 16 sessions across eight Ringing Rooms and Discord channels, with activities ranging from the social (pub, quiz, games) to the intense (Spliced Surprise Major). I was able to join in some surprise major ringing in between my garlic bread starter and Saturday night pizza in front of Strictly.

Following last week’s comment on whether we say that we are bellringers on our CVs (if we have them) I followed Tim Mitchell’s suggestion of introducing work contacts to Ringing Room by posting my interest in bell ringing on LinkedIn, along with Kemp Brinson’s brilliant video introduction to Ringing Room, with an invitation to people to be taught to ring Plain Hunt. Early days but my post has been viewed over 700 times and shared. A Dutch colleague who lives in Perth WA was quite surprised when I told him I had visited Perth on more than one occasion to ring bells and visit the Lucky Shag.

Tim’s longer term idea is to take a mobile belfry to large companies and run team building/recruitment activities. If you work for a large company, maybe one with multiple sites or a campus, do you think that if a mobile belfry was erected in the car park or courtyard, colleagues might be encouraged to have a go and form a ringing group? It might be something we pilot in a few places next year when we can.

The Women in Ringing project has come to the end of its first phase. Apparently the special issue of the Ringing World sold a lot of extra copies and even some new subscriptions were taken out as a result of it. The volume of positive and supportive comments was significant and far outweighed any of the to-be-expected criticisms about the subject of gender. The working group is now developing plans to build on the project, with ideas around mentoring, guidance and learning materials, pledges and commitments to do things differently, and generally maintaining awareness of the subject.

When you ring the 5th to peal attempts at Birmingham Cathedral as I was prone to do pre-lockdown, you really take one for the team on a cold day – the wind whistles in and can even move the rope. However, good airflow through the room keeps the back bell ringers from overheating (so they can ring faster) but also keeps all ringers’ concentration levels high (so they can ring longer). More work is being done by the Covid guidance team on CO2 measurements as a means of assessing how well ventilated towers are, leading in turn to better understanding of how long we will be able to ring for in different types of towers. Expertise in monitoring ventilation in offices and labs using CO2 as a measure has been added to the team.

From time to time people send me their newsletters, particularly when they are justifiably proud of them. The latest submission is the Farnham District Newsletter which is another amazing production, managing to fill 28 pages of copy from three months of no ringing. There is a particularly interesting table surveying the level of activity in the District’s towers, with about half using Zoom and Ringing Room to keep practicing. And laudable reference to Council initiatives! Are 50% or more of the towers in your association, branch or district staying active with online activities?

The first Survival and Recovery newsletter has gone out (available again from the Virtual Hub) and has already uncovered stories of what ringers, districts and associations are doing. The joint ART/CC team has an idea of building a network of ‘Recovery Champions’ in different areas who will absorb the different ideas being banded about and help to see what will work in their area. There are already people doing a lot, but also areas that seem a bit dead, and which might stay that way if we’re not careful. Could you be a Recovery Champion?

Thankfully at the time of writing we will still have guidance in place for ringing over Christmas, at least in England if not in other countries as well. 2020 will be a year to forget. Let’s hope that in 2021 we can Come Back Better.

Happy Christmas

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

President’s Blog #25

I first saw a 3D barcode about 25 years ago when I worked in the nascent internet industry. I couldn’t really see the point of them, just like I couldn’t see the point of a start-up company called Shazam which we had the opportunity to invest in (big mistake – huge). Now 3D barcodes, or QR codes, are ubiquitous, and we are starting to see them on ringing chamber notice boards.

The Truro DG has come up with a great idea using QR codes to broadcast the sound of church bells in the community. A QR code is generated that is linked to an MP3 recording of the bells at a particular tower, and this QR code can then be put in the church porch, the local library or even the pub! A short video on the idea can be found here  The action starts about 15 seconds in, possibly after a Galaxy advert.

Thomas Ashwin-Siejkowski has had a letter printed in a new BBC book called “Letters from Lockdown.” Thomas talks about how much he misses bellringing, how many friends he has made from it, and how much he is looking forward to the future. In his Foreword, Evan Davis says “This book is a collection of some of these Chronicles, written in the midst of one of the most unexpected and intense moments in our history. Together they give us an unforgettable portrait of ordinary people caught in extraordinary times, with all the humour and tragedy and uncertainty we’ve been through.” Good job Thomas – a great future awaits you.

Ringing is going to come earlier for bands of young ringers. For some time, Mark Regan of the CC ‘Covid guidance team’ has been pursuing the possibility of using the ‘supervised children’s activities in out of school settings’ guidance to get groups of ringers aged under 18 to ringing again. This has now borne fruit and in the New Year youth groups will be able to ring across all tiers under controlled conditions. Detailed guidance will be published in the Ringing World on Friday.

A letter in The Telegraph last Friday from a lady called Ann Cottee asked for a ‘reasonable explanation’ for why her Tower Captain has said it was illegal for them to ring the bells at her church of Gislingham. By the power of t‘interweb I tracked her down to being the neighbour of the tower captain, and a churchwarden, which enabled me to send her a nice email explaining how her bellringers were dutifully following the guidance of the House of Bishops but would hope to be ringing again soon. “I am sorry to have caused fluttering in the dovecotes” she replied.

As usual there is good work going on in the background in the Workgroups. Take the work of the T&T Workgroup – their report to the Executive was over two pages of small print covering such detail as the work on compositions (lots of old collections being added in and now 40,000 compositions online with 30% input by workgroup members), v2 of the Framework which is coming soon, the Dove database development continuing apace with the team expanding to include expertise in carillons and mini-rings, and on top of that the Council teams are hoping to transfer onto Office365 and have decent email addresses by Christmas! No more simonhippo…

Sometimes Facebook polls capture the imagination, and none more so than one I posted asking whether we confess to being ringers on our CVs. 850 people answered the poll, with only about 10% saying they didn’t confess. There were great stories from ringers who had secured interviews and even jobs because of it, finding ringers on interview panels. Good to see we look after our own!

16th December is a date for the diary for ringers in England, as it is when the Tiers will be reviewed and hopefully some more towers will drop down into Tier 1. The Covid team has just released the plans for ringing over Christmas in England at least, provided nothing gets disastrously worse before the 16th. Bells will be ringing for Christmas.

The first practices under the ‘Cast of 1000’ initiative have started. Three Surprise Major practices last Saturday had 40 of our initial 70 volunteers ringing methods from the Core 7 plus some of the PPE extension methods such as the rather excellent Lancashire. It was a good start to this trial run, with six more practices before Christmas, in advance of rolling out more focused Surprise Major practices in the new year. It was good to welcome Dylan Thomas from New Zealand who rang some surprise major before going off to his Sunday service ringing commitments at Wellington, much to the envy of his fellow Ringing Roomers.

The deadline for the ART Awards is the end of December. These awards have become increasingly popular as a way of recognising achievements in ringing. They don’t just have to be of people involved in ART or the Learning the Ropes scheme, although there are awards specifically for that. The prizes are significant (£2800 in total) so well worth looking at so that you can nominate special achievement.

After six months of trusting the determination of the YouTube competition winners to experts, we are throwing caution to the wind and letting you decide on which of the winners should get the ‘People’s Choice’ award, for the best of the best. This is your chance to decide whose Christmas is going to have a £200 budget increase. This is more important than voting for HRVY or Bill – and its cheaper! Just go to https://cccbr.org.uk/youtube-competition/  and cast your vote wisely or otherwise.

And finally, I learned to ring in the Stafford Archdeaconry Society, now the Lichfield & Walsall Archdeaconries Society of Change Ringers. Their entire committee has gone on my ‘beer tea or cake list’, not for the Society teaching me, though I will always be grateful for that, but for a very kind letter.

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

Christmas Ringing – Advice from CCCBR released 8th December

Below is the latest guidance taken from the CCCBR website on ringing over the Christmas period for all tiers. Ultimatley the decision is with your incumbent, so please make sure you have their permission if you are proposing to ring.

We have agreed with the House of Bishops Covid recovery team that an exception should be made to the current ringing guidance across all Tiers in England for those bands that wish to ring for services over Christmas, in the period where the household restrictions are also being lifted. This will allow bells to be rung for key services including those on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and also for the 6pm Christmas Eve ringing which has been widely suggested.

This is on the assumption that the announcement on 16th December does not introduce some catastrophic restriction on the opening of churches (which seems unlikely). We are still consulting on whether this can be adopted in other countries in the British Isles which may be subject to other restrictions.

The current guidance for ringing in Tier 1 will be adopted for towers in all three Tiers just for Christmas, that being to ring up to six bells, with 1m+ separation and using facemasks. The recommendation is to ring for 15 minutes but to assess your tower’s characteristics. Ventilation is key to reducing the risk of aerosol transmission.

There is guidance here for you to assess the risk of your own ringing chamber and for members of your band to assess their own personal risk (see towards the bottom of the page for Guidance Notes). No doubt many ringers (especially those at special risk personally or in their family) will decide not to ring, just as many towers will lack sufficient ventilation to sufficiently mitigate risk even for this one-off occasion.

You may ask why it is suddenly ‘safe’ to ring at Christmas when it wasn’t before and it won’t be again afterwards. Risk of transmission is closely correlated with the amount of contact with others. With ringing having been restricted for so long, this limited ringing on one or two occasions at one of the most important times of the year for the Church does not represent a major absolute risk, particularly as some ringers will be in church anyway. It is also pragmatic given some ringers will want to ring anyway and will be under pressure from their incumbents. However, repeated ringing would increase the risk substantially, and we are not suggesting that this should now restart.

We may not be far away from ringing being less restricted. As one member of the Covid recovery team said “with the light at the end of the tunnel let’s not fall down a sink hole”.

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Covid Winter Plan – updated guidance for England Wales and Scotland

England comes out of lockdown on Wednesday this week and enters the three Tiers system. The rules in Wales have not changed since 9th November and the Tiers will not apply. In Scotland, Covid restrictions are governed by five Protection Levels. Central Council guidance is now moving to respond to the Tiers and Protection Levels and so will now be different in England, Wales and Scotland.

England

First the good news and perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel for other areas. Just before we went into lockdown for the second time a month ago, we had reached agreement with the House of Bishops Recovery Group to drop down to 1m+ distancing, and then introduce local risk assessment based on the characteristics of the ringing environment and also risk assessment based on personal circumstances. Our guidance is that in Tier 1 this can now happen, although at first we only recommend ringing for 15 minutes until ventilation in towers is better understood. However look to the end of this statement for our plans in that regard.

In Tiers 2 and 3 we are still recommending that we stick to the government’s guidance that is the same for both Tiers, and that is that “No mixing of households indoors, apart from support bubbles.” As was discussed when the lockdown started, one can argue the definitions of mixing, interacting and mingling, some might even try and argue that ringing is an act of worship or even employment, but the clear intention of the public health experts is to reduce interactions as much as possible so that we get through the winter without another wave of infection. That restricts ringing in Tiers 2 and 3 to families that live together and other households, or the ringing of single bells as currently.

Handbells

The opportunities for handbell ringing will improve over the lockdown conditions. In Tier 1 we revert to the ‘Rule of 6’ which allows six people to meet indoors or outdoors, so handbell ringing is possible (but stay distanced and ventilate well). In Tier 2 a maximum of six people can meet in any outdoor setting only, including a domestic garden, so provided you are warm enough, socially distanced handbell ringing is viable. Tier 3 is slightly more restrictive in that mixing of households outdoors needs to be in a public space, e.g. parks, public gardens or churchyards. Again this give the opportunity to meet perhaps outside the church and ring handbells. Not that you should not travel from a higher tier to a lower tier for handbell ringing.

Wales

Wales does not have the Tier system but does have social distancing of 2m and a recommendation that indoor gatherings other than with your household or extended household is avoided. However, the Church in Wales has specifically recognised ringing in its guidance for places of worship and specifically permits ringing as follows:

“Bell ringing is permissible, but bell ringers should observe two-metre physical distancing and hygiene and cleaning regimes should be implemented. Careful consideration of how bell ringers will access the building suitably distanced from other attendees needs consideration e,g diff erent entry points or staggered arrival times. Bellringing arrangements should comply with guidance available from the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers at https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus/ ”

Our guidance in Wales is therefore that ringing should still follow 2m social distancing and be restricted to 15 minutes. Ringing for longer could come following the ventilation trials explained below.

Handbells

Ringing handbells outdoors in a public space is allowed subject to the overall guidance on social distance and avoiding large gatherings. Handbells in gardens is allowed however there is a rule that only householders and their one extended household can meet in their gardens. However that still might present some handbell opportunities on warmer days.

Scotland

There is an overall social distancing restriction of 2m between people (not ropes) which is a key driver for practical ringing.

In the top Protection Level 4, ringing has stopped because public worship has stopped. However, in all other Levels ringing is possible provided the social distancing guidelines are possible and duration restricted in accordance with previous guidance.

Handbells

Ringing handbells outdoors is allowed subject to the overall guidance on social distancing. In Levels 2 3 and 4 up to six people from two different households could ring handbells outdoors, subject to social distancing and woolly hats. In Level 1, that increases to eight people from three households. The household restrictions do not apply to 12-17 year olds.

A summary of all the different levels and guidance can be found on the main website here, which is also linked from the Virtual Hub on Bellboard.

Ventilation and increasing ringing time

At first the guidance in Tier 1 is still only to ring for 15 minutes (as it still is in Wales also), however we are going to be working with some ringers on the Isle of Wight and in Cornwall, the two regions with bells that will be in Tier 1, to understand the benefits of ventilation using CO2 meters.

The use of CO2 meters as a means of measuring the effectiveness of ventilation came from studies summarised in a recent review from the Royal Society. Indeed CO2 measurement is the industry standard used to demonstrate effectiveness of commercial ventilation systems. In an enclosed space like a ringing chamber, our breathing causes CO2 levels to increase. Ventilation brings in fresh air and the CO2 level drops. A CO2 meter is a pretty good proxy for the adequacy of ventilation, which in turn will help us estimate if ringing for longer than 15 minutes is safe (because Covid infected aerosols don’t build up). If the CO2 level in the room does not increase, it is likely that the ventilation is good, and we can ring for longer.

Phil Barnes and David Pouncey have both bought a particular kind of CO2 meter from Canada which can be connected to a laptop and display the change in CO2 levels over time. In the Isle of Wight trial, a couple of bands of relatives will ring for 30 minutes in towers with a broad range of ventilation characteristics and measure how the CO2 levels change. This will then be used to give much better guidance on what other towers need to do to improve ventilation. By the time other regions drop into Tier 1 we hope that this work done by the Isle of Wight and Cornish ringers will enable us to move straight to ringing for longer in towers where the characteristics show that aerosol transmission risk is low.

Conclusion

Overall, there is cause for optimism. There will be disappointment for many in Tier 2 areas particularly that the Tier restrictions do not enable us to get back to where we were in the summer, but then that is something the government has thought about in maintaining and indeed increasing their overall restrictions. December 16th may bring more Tier 2 areas into Tier 1. Hopefully the work that will be done with CO2 monitoring will help us to increase ringing times in more towers as more regions drop into Tier 1.

As has been said by various ministers and public health officials, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to, and the Tier rules “are not boundaries at which to push, but limits of what you can do.”

Ultimately being sensible and being aware of the risks is a sound basis for deciding on whether to ring or not.

Simon Linford
President, Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

Content taken from https://cccbr.org.uk/2020/11/30/covid-winter-plan-updated-guidance-for-england-wales-and-scotland/ with permission.

Latest update from CCCBR on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Restrictions – Updated 26th February 2021

See the CCCBR website for more details.

Standing Guidance

The guidance for ringing in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland is considered separately here in line with different national rules and guidance from the respective Churches. With the latest level of lockdowns the guidance in each country is very similar.

England

Lockdown 3.0 has suspended the Tiers-based guidance and replaced it with a mandatory requirement to Stay at Home ‘unless you have a reasonable excuse.’ Our guidance is to adhere to that principle and not go out to ring. This is in line with our guidance during the first period of lockdown when the medical situation was not as bad as it is now.

One difference between the first lockdown and now is that attending a Place of Worship is specifically allowed by law as a ‘reasonable excuse’ provided it is to worship alone or as a household group (the Church of England’s guidance can be found here). The ringing of a single bell or Ellacombe chime (or bells in the case of a ringing household) as part of an act of worship is not prohibited, and if you think it is important enough for a bell or bells to be heard in your community, and you can do it without putting yourselves or others at risk, then that is your decision to make.

Scotland

Scotland has gone a step further than England and has closed Places of Worship until at least the end of the month. This therefore means that bells should not be rung.

Wales

Wales is in Alert Level 4. This is very similar to the lockdown in England with Places of Worship allowed to remain open but a general Stay at Home requirement. Ringing guidance is as for England.

Ireland

Both jurisdictions are on the severest lockdown level, thus precluding ringing.

Updated 26th February

On Monday 22 February, the UK Government published a roadmap for exiting lockdown over the coming months, detailing how and when restrictions will be eased if everything goes to plan. It is a welcome and cautious framework for a return to normality. The roadmap provides us with an opportunity for ringing to return over the coming months.

While there is still detail to be studied, and every chance of change, all indications are that ringing in England at least will come out of lockdown as follows:

Stage 1 – 29 March

Rule of six outdoors will benefit handbell ringing (up to 15 for young people)

Stage 2 – no earlier than 12 April

Young ringers groups possible following the ‘out of school settings’ guidance (expect social distancing restrictions)

Stage 3 – no earlier than 17 May

Rule of six indoors enables ringing subject to social distancing rules to be confirmed (could still be 2m)

Stage 4 – no earlier than 21 June

All legal limits removed
(it remains to be seen whether facemasks will still be suggested or mandated – that is not absolutely clear yet)

During any of these stages, ringers may still be cautious as not all ringers will be vaccinated, particularly young people. There is still risk of transmission and infection for us to be aware of; vaccination is not a passport. An article will be published in next week’s Ringing World with updated analysis of transmission in ringing chambers and the benefits of ventilation. This will just be for guidance though to be interpreted in accordance with local circumstances – the law will be the primary driver for what ringing is possible.

Yesterday’s announcement applies to England only, and so we continue to work closely with our contacts in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales to understand the situation here over the coming weeks. Scotland for instance has rule of six outdoors from 5 April and churches reopening for limited numbers from that date also. Then from 26 April at the earliest Scotland intends to go back to a “tiers” system of local restrictions.

This is the clearest we can be at the moment based on the information available, and after discussion with the Church of England Recovery Group this afternoon. It is a roadmap, with more detail to be considered as we move forward. We appreciate ringers are all now starting to plan ringing events from late June onwards, and being asked whether bells will be available for weddings, etc. The main word of caution is that the Government is at pains to stress that these dates are the earliest possible, so commitments made for shortly after those deadlines should be made with that in mind.

It does now feel like the end of an incredibly difficult year for ringing is in sight. Thank you for your ongoing trust and support.

Updated 19th February

There is no change to any guidance this week, however next week’s round of government updates on a road map may give more indication of when some ringing can resume.

Updated 8th January

Guidance has been updated to remove all guidance that was based on Tiers and replace that with simple interpretation of lockdown conditions.

Updated 4th January

England and Scotland have entered lockdown again. In England, Places of Worship remain open but in Scotland they will be closed from Friday 8th.

The exact guidance for ringing will be published before the end of the week.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid Recovery Group, said the following this evening:

“The Government has chosen not to suspend public worship in England at this time and we will continue to follow the guidance and ensure that churches remain as safe as possible. The Government guidance on the safe use of places of worship makes clear that those attending a place of worship must not mingle with anyone outside their household or support bubble.

“However, some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person, and there will be parishes which decide to offer only digital services for the time-being. Clergy who have concerns, and others who are shielding, should take particular care and stay at home.

I would urge everyone in our churches to pray for those on the front line in our public services – the NHS and those working in social care, for schools and many others on whom we depend; and for parents and carers of children at this anxious and stressful time.

“There is hope. The vaccination programme is underway and, as Christians, we have a deeper hope in God that comforts us beyond fear itself. As we have been remembering this Christmas Season, even in the midst of our darkest fears, that hope brings light.”

Updated 27th December

The guidance for ringing for children’s groups has been updated in the light of the introduction of the new Tier 4.

Unfortunately the Government guidance that allows the running of activities for children in out-of-school settings specifically excludes Tier 4, so young ringers groups can only operate in Tiers 1-3.

Updated 21st December

Christmas guidance for England has changed following the Government’s scaling back of relaxations.

Tier 4 guidance added as in the table above.

The adoption of Tier 1 guidance in Tiers 2 and 3 should be for the most important services over Christmas only, at your discretion and based on local circumstances.

Updated 16th December

Christmas guidance for England is unchanged from the announcement made on 8th December.

The current guidance for ringing in Tier 1 will be adopted for towers in all three Tiers just for the five-day Christmas period – 23rd to 27th. That is to ring up to six bells, with 1m+ separation and using facemasks. The recommendation is to ring for 15 minutes but to assess your tower’s characteristics. Ventilation is key to reducing the risk of aerosol transmission. Note that bellringing guidance no longer has 72 or even a 48 hour recommended gap between sessions, but to maintain good ventilation and hand hygiene.

Review the Guidance Notes on this page to assess the risk of your own ringing chamber and for members of your band to assess their own personal risk. No doubt many ringers (especially those at special risk personally or in their family) will decide not to ring, just as many towers will lack sufficient ventilation to sufficiently mitigate risk even for this one-off occasion.

The Prime Minister and Chief Medical Officer are urging us to exercise caution and to “keep Christmas celebrations small, short and local to reduce these risks.” We can do that in our ringing of bells to celebrate Christmas – small, short and local.

Updated 14th December

The specific guidance on ringing for children’s groups has been added to the Guidance Notes. This covers groups of up to six children under 18 ringing together and can be done in all Tiers in England.

The guidance for Northern Ireland has been replaced with guidance for all of Ireland.

Guidance for Christmas services will be confirmed after the 16th December update on tiers in England.

Updated 7th December

There is no change to the guidance this week. Specific guidance on Northern Ireland has been added to the standing guidance by country.

Updated 30th November

New guidance has been published for ringing in various Tiers in England in advance of the end of the lockdown on 2nd December. Guidance has also been updated for the protection levels in Scotland, and for the situation in Wales where ringing is permitted subject to the Council’s guidance.

See the CCCBR website for more details.

Updated 20th November

There has been no change in guidance since the 8th November update.

Updated 8th November

Bellringers in England have been asked to support the Church of England’s call to prayer during this month of lockdown by ringing a single bell at 6pm each day. The request came directly from Lambeth Palace, and has been repeated by many individual Bishops.

The Recovery Group is of the opinion that a single bell ringing is an act of individual prayer, and as such complies with their own guidance and that of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. 

Updated 6th November

This update is specifically for England, and is responding to the lockdown that started on Thursday 5th November and lasts until 2nd December. 

The government in England is asking people to stay at home if at all possible. Churches are closed except for private prayer and broadcast worship. ‘Group bell ringing’ is specifically not permitted in a Place of Worship during this period. 

Detail can be found in this statement from MHCLG

However, the ringing of a single bell on Remembrance Sunday has been specifically agreed by the House of Bishops Recovery Group (with permission of the incumbent and churchwardens). The tolling of a single bell is a powerful symbol of remembrance understood by communities and will mean a great deal to many. Please be particularly aware of the risks associated with entering a tower and ringing on your own – make sure someone knows you are doing it and can watch for you. A muffle is not needed when tolling a single bell.

Updated 23rd October

Following further discussions with the Church of England Recovery Group, there is no longer a blanket restriction on ringing in Tiers 2 and 3 in England.

See this news release.

Updated 16th October

news item has been published on the CCCBR website today announcing the disappointing news that we believe ringing should be suspended in areas of England designated as being in Tiers 2 and Tier 3. Towers in Tier 1 are unaffected. This is our interpretation of the legislation which is shared by the Church of England Recovery Group.

Although Places of Worship can remain open at all Tiers, at the ‘High’ and ‘Very High’ Tiers there should be no mixing between households (see Church of England guidance website).

The accompanying legislation for Tier 2 (the middle tier) says this:

Participation in gatherings indoors

No person may participate in a gathering in the Tier 2 area which consists of two or more people, and takes place indoors.”

The accompanying legislation for Tier 3 (the top ‘Very High’ tier) says this:

Participation in gatherings indoors and in private dwellings

No person may participate in a gathering in the Tier 3 area which consists of two or more people, and takes place in a private dwelling or any indoor space.”

Tier 1, the lowest or ‘Medium’ level continues to apply the ‘Rule of Six’ indoors.

Updated 13th October

Following the announcement on Monday October 12 of a new three-tier risk alert system for COVID-19 in England, we are considering the implications for ringing and will publish our opinion by the end of Friday 16th.

Although Places of Worship can remain open at all Tiers, at the ‘High’ and ‘Very High’ Tiers there should be no mixing between households (see Church of England guidance website).

The accompanying legislation for Tier 2 (the middle tier) says this:

Participation in gatherings indoors

No person may participate in a gathering in the Tier 2 area which consists of two or more people, and takes place indoors.”

The accompanying legislation for Tier 3 (the top ‘Very High’ tier) says this:

Participation in gatherings indoors and in private dwellings

No person may participate in a gathering in the Tier 3 area which consists of two or more people, and takes place in a private dwelling or any indoor space.”

Tier 1, the lowest or ‘Medium’ level continues to apply the ‘Rule of Six’ indoors.

Updated 9th October

There is no change to the guidance this week but an article has been published here which explains the Central Council’s current roadmap for guidance, paving the way for more localised decision making. We are also undertaking a wholescale review of guidance documents.

From now on, guidance updates are going to be published on Mondays, which gives time to digest higher-level guidance that is often published on Fridays.

The next guidance update will therefore be Monday 19th October.

Updated 2nd October

The Frequently Asked Questions have been refreshed to remove those which are now common knowledge and add in more recent concerns such as the implications of ringing in areas of increased lockdown.

All restrictions imposed by Governments override guidance either from our Churches or the Central Council. The UK’s ‘Rule of Six’ (in its various forms) for instance is a legal restriction aimed at reducing social contact, rather than guidance.

If (as in the North East of England at the end of September and parts of Lancashire shortly thereafter) no indoor mixing of different households is allowed, then it appears that it would be illegal for anyone other than members of the same household to ring, even if church services are allowed. Places of worship do not appear to have been given a specific exemption, however they have remained open. The position is unclear, although the UK Government’s intention is clearly to reduce social contact in non-essential settings, citing work and education as the only exemptions.

Elsewhere, if extra restrictions (but still allowing six to meet indoors) have been imposed where you live, then the transmission of Coronavirus is high, and the level of risk greater. The CCCBR’s guidelines do aim to be “Covid-Secure”, but you need to make a local risk assessment (focussing especially on the size and ventilation of your tower and the characteristics of your ringers) to decide if it is appropriate to ring – and it may well not be. Remember that the final decision rests with the Incumbent.

Updated 25th September

There has been no change to guidance this week.

The Council’s small guidance team is pleased to welcome David Pouncey to the team. David is a recently retired GP who during a long career spent time dealing with epidemics in Africa, and most recently managing coronavirus patients. As well as taking a share of the workload, David will be specifically looking at the next phase of guidance.

David rings in Gloucestershire.

Updated 18th September

Dicussions are ongoing regarding the potential reduction of distance between ropes, although in view of the upsurge in Covid cases and the number of areas of the United Kingdom entering increasing states of lockdown there is extreme caution over reducing distancing for bellringing at the moment. 

The ‘rule of six’ is now in force in England, Scotland and Wales, albeit with regional variations. Places of worship have an exemption provided those in church stay in groups of six.  

Update on 11th September

The period of time between ringing sessions has been reduced from 72 hours to 48 hours. This is on the assumption that all hand hygiene guidance is being followed. 


We do not yet have the green light to reduce distance between ropes below current guidance, but it is under consideration on the basis that this will enable more towers (and ringers) to ring. The CofE Recovery Group is very sympathetic to the case but are consulting with others included MHCLG in the light of the upsurge in cases. 


The ‘rule of six’ is being implemented in England, Scotland and Wales, albeit with slight regional variations. Places of worship have an exemption but the extent of that is not yet clear and further details are awaited. Although this is unlikely to impact on tower bell ringing, if there is any conflict between guidance and the law, the law prevails. 

Update on 4th September

There has been no change to the guidance this week. Updated guidance to reduce distance between ropes to enable more towers to ring more bells has been submitted for approval. Note that ringing is still limited to 15 minutes but does not have to be for a service, provided it is with the permission of the incumbent. 

Guidance on the use of simulators is being written and will be available shortly.

Update on 14th August

Following last week’s update on wearing face coverings for ringing (which is mandatory in churches in England and Scotland) the individual guidance notes have been updated to include references to face coverings. A number of people have enquired whether ringers who claim exemption from wearing a face covering can ring without them. It is our view that face coverings reduce the risk of transmission of the virus and therefore protect our fellow ringers. Anyone who is unable to wear a face covering should not ring.    

Local lockdowns continue and may increase. The effect of these lockdowns on ringing is principally on handbell ringing in people’s gardens.  

Guidance notes 2 and 4 have been amended slightly to clarify the 1.5m allowed separation for ropes which fall in a straight line, i.e. that the middle of three ropes which fall in a straight line should be 1.5m from the two adjacent ropes.

Update on 7th August

The only two things changed this week are that use of the word ‘facemask’ in this guidance has been replaced with the words ‘face coverings’ to bring this guidance in line with the Church of England’s guidance. The churches in Scotland also refer to face coverings rather than facemasks, while the Church in Wales does not appear to have stipulated the wearing of face coverings yet. Face coverings does not include visors.

We would like to also clarify that ringing does not specifically have to be for a service, but should still be with the permission of the incumbent. Ringers have been asked to ring for weddings, and on Sundays where there is no service but where the sound of bells is welcome to remind communities of the presence of the church. It is still only 15 minutes though, whatever the purpose of the ringing.

The wearing of face coverings is mandatory from 8th August in places of worship in England and Scotland (Wales doesn’t appear to be mandatory but advice welcome). Wearing face coverings does not reduce the minimum distances approved for ringing which remain as :

  • 2m spacing between ringers (which will generally mean alternate bells)
  • 1.5m spacing allowable if ropes fall in a straight line (ringers facing inwards not towards each other)
  • Adjacent bells can be rung by ringers from the same household

An increasing number of places may have lockdown restrictions brought back as happened first in Leicester, then in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, and most recently in Preston. The effect of these lockdowns on ringing is principally on handbell ringing in people’s gardens

Standing Guidance

The Church of England and the Church in Wales both allow bells being rung in their churches now that cathedral and church buildings are open to the public. It is on the condition that ringing is in accordance with the guidance on these pages. Public Health England (PHE) has reviewed the Council’s guidance, suggesting various amendments which have been incorporated into the guidance given here. It has all been agreed with the Church of England Recovery Group, whose support for ringing is greatly appreciated. The Central Council will continue to pursue a similar situation for other jurisdictions in which there are bells.

We appreciate not all jurisdictions are the same, even within the United Kingdom. The Scottish Association has done a thorough review of the positon regarding ringing in towers in Scotland and has published its guidance here.

The restriction on ringing is difficult for bell ringers who are missing the activity that is so much part of our lives. The Church is however very sensitive to the safety of its volunteers and the relaxation of restrictions will not necessarily be as rapid as it is in certain other settings where other factors are under consideration. Failing to follow this guidance could cause this limited return to ringing to be reversed, and we are very grateful to all ringers who have embraced the return to ringing so positively.

By no means all churches are open for services. Opening is very much down to individual Dioceses and incumbents, taking into account many factors. However ringing does not have to be for a service provided the incumbent is happy to have the bells rung. Bells are a powerful reminder that the church is still there in the heart of our communities. Note that there is a specific requirement in the Church of England guidance document that ringers have read this guidance and undertaken the ringing risk assessment.

The Church in Wales includes the ringing of bells in their guidance issued to parishes, which can be found here. Section 1 Paragraph 15 refers to ringing and states “bell ringing is permissible, but bell ringers should observe two-metre physical distancing and hygiene and cleaning regimes should be implemented. Careful consideration of how bell ringers will access the building suitably distanced from other attendees needs consideration, e.g. different entry points or staggered arrival times. Bell ringing arrangements should comply with guidance available from the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers [ref to this site]”We have also included in these guidance notes for checking bell installations prior to ringing. Please see our checklist below for some key areas that may need addressing. The Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division of the Archbishops’ Council confirmed that for jobs that cannot safely be done by one person, two or three should enter the bell tower to undertake them, following social distancing guidance if they are not from the same household.

This guidance is being constantly inline with any changes in the Church’s own guidance and policies, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This website will be updated weekly on a Friday, whether or not there is a change in guidance. Any requests for clarification can be sent to president@cccbr.org.uk – it will get looked at as soon as possible. 

Guidance Notes

  1. What are we worried about? (PDF)
    Recommended background reading for all
  2. Making your tower as safe as possible (PDF)
    Suggested for Tower captains and steeplekeepers
  3. Checklist for recommencing ringing (PDF)
    Summary for steeplekeepers but see also detailed document from SMWG below
  1. Running safe ringing sessions (PDF)
    Guidance for Tower Captains and Ringing Masters
  2. Can I go ringing safely? (PDF)
    Considerations for individual ringers
  3. How bell ringers are assessing risk (PDF)
    To be given to incumbents to explain how we are making our ringing safe

Click here to download the complete set of guidance documents as a single PDF. These documents are intended to be succinct and easily readable. They do not contain all the detail that could be put in them but instead focus on the key issues. A more detailed group of documents has been produced by the Stewardship & Management Workgroup and can be downloaded here.

  1. Ringing risk assessment post Covid 9 July 2020
  2. Tower and bells risk assessment after non use 15 June 2020
  3. Tower Safety and Risk Assessment 15 June 2020
  4. Risk assessment template (based on HSE)

Additional Guidance

  • The UK Government guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic can be found via this link
  • The Church of England guidance on Opening Cathedral and Church Buildings can be found via this link

Frequently Asked Questions

We have accumulated all of the questions we have been asked by ringers concerning the guidance, such as why the guidance is still 2m rather than 1m, and whether members of family groups can ring on adjacent bells. We will update these FAQs from time to time and this version is all questions up to 3rd July.

Additional Information

A detailed analysis from Dr Philip Barnes and Dr Andrew Kelso is available to download.

This document seeks to provide information and advice for ringers and those responsible for bell towers regarding Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and what issues ringers and church authorities should consider in responding to changes in Government guidance as we start to ease the current lockdown. It is focused on the situation in the Church of England, which is responsible for the vast majority of churches with bells hung for ringing. While the specific advice from leaders of other churches and in other countries may vary, the basic issues for ringers and ringing are the same wherever we ring.

Ringing and COVID-19: What are the risks and what might we do about them?

Useful Links

The latest guidance from the Church of England is available on their website.

The latest guidance from the Church in Wales is available on their website.

The latest guidance from the Scottish Episcopal Church is available on their website.

The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy.

President’s Blog #23

If, like in our house, you play the game involving spotting Minis and shouting “Mini pinch Mini punch” while inflicting pain on your neighbour, you will be enjoying Susan Calman’s “Secret Scotland” series on Channel 5, which features the comedian touring Scotland in a nice red Cooper S (with black roof). The programme presents plenty of opportunities to inflict injury. Last week we finally got to the episode where she visited the Bell Tower in Inveraray and is shown the ropes (did I really say that?) by Ruth Marshall, Ringing Master of the Scottish Association. A great piece of PR by an A list celebrity – well done Ruth. I was also interested to hear Inveraray pronounced by the castle’s owner, the Duke of Argyll, during an earlier episode. His pronunciation rhymed with Demerara rather than Tipperary. (And just in case you were wondering, we allow Charlie to play the ‘different journey’ rule that enables you to claim the same Mini twice, so it does not pay to sit next to her on the sofa.)

We are coming to the end of our YouTube competitions, originally conceived as something to keep ringers interested during lockdown and beyond. The later rounds were designed expecting us to be back to normal and able to produce videos showcasing ringing by now, but the lack of live material is forcing filmmakers to be even more creative. There are a few days left to submit your film that “promotes ringing in the most positive way” – this might be something you have spotted in the past which would be worth revisiting. I cannot find one which was called “What’s up that tower?” or something like that. It was good though.

The pandemic has increased the interest in webinars and YouTube tutorials, with one of the latest being Mark Davies’s continuing Methodoku book promotion tour (available in all good RW bookshops). In the “Coming soon” category is a series of tutorials being produced by Richard Pullin on composing. He is covering different aspects of composing in six instalments, the first of which will be released very shortly. Worth looking out for based on my sneak preview. I even return to the silver screen myself in December in one of the St Martin’s Guild’s series.

The Council and ART are working together on a lot of survival and recovery strategies. We decided to create a ‘Covid hub’ where ringers can go and find Covid-related support and news, rather than searching on different websites. It is hosted on Bellboard (look for Virtual Hub on the menu). The hope is that all online ringing events will be posted there. This week’s featured video is a presentation delivered by Alan Regin for the St Martin’s Guild. Alan discusses his work as Steward of the Rolls of Honour, work undertaken to mark the centenary of the First World War, and the project to install a ring of eight bells in Ypres.

Alan Sparrow has launched a new Android app called Bell Finder, which does what it says on the tin, talking to the Dove database to deliver tower information on your phone. One of the intentions of making the Dove data available via an API was that it enables 3rd party apps to be written. Just need one for IoS now!

By the time you read this we will have come to the end of a series of 19 Zoom consultations on the merits or otherwise of some form of direct membership organisation for ringing. The first ten were with CC members, others with ringers of varying degrees of experience, and we have had four with ringers of school and university age. We have also had about 400 returns of an online survey sent to all the direct subscribers to the CC mailing list. It is now going to take quite a lot of thought to analyse all the views and see if there is actually a proposal that would have a meaningful impact and that has sufficient support to be deliverable. There are some nuggets in there to be sifted out.

The only thing that is certain is the lack of consensus! Looking at the results of the survey, the propensity to favour the status quo increases with age, with those over 70 twice as likely to want the future to stay as it is than those with most of their ringing lives ahead of them. The discussions with young ringers were perhaps the most interesting. Whilst not seeing any need to do away with the territorial associations which taught them, they see ringing as very fragmented, and wonder why all the different parts (RW, CC, ART, 12 bell contest, etc) are not unified. “Ringing’s a bit of a mess really.” Out of the mouths of babes…

Opportunity knocks! We are looking for a couple more people to join the Workgroups in leadership roles.  One particularly needs to do with branding and marketing as we consider how ringing is presented to the outside world, particularly when we come out of the pandemic and need to rebuild. We are prepared to pay for external advice and design, but this will all need coordinating and managing by someone who understands both marketing and ringing. If you are frustrated with how ringing is seen by the general public and have ideas about how to do it better, then we would like to hear from you.

Then we have a number of activities that are in the general area of recruitment, retention, supporting ringers etc. which sit under the very broadly based Volunteering & Leadership Workgroup. We have volunteers who will do things – but the work needs coordination or just more people with experience in pulling the strands together, interpreting the strategy and turning it into workable plans etc. Do you have room in your life for doing something additional that would be of wider benefit? Hours to suit…

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk/2020/11/25/21935/ and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

What’s happening after the pandemic?

Article below taken from CCCBR website.

At the start of the first lockdown we were still looking forward to ringing events in the summer. There were plans for a grand “Ringing Returns” festival to mark the end of the almost unprecedented few months off ringing. Three months without ringing would be painful but not seismic. We would get a bit rusty, but we could recover. 

It now looks clear that by the time ringing returns to ‘normal’ we will have missed at least a year. A year without ringing, a year without recruitment, a year without training, a year without the social intercourse that makes ringing what it is. Not only that, but we have months more in which to try and cope without the activity that some of us live for. 

We therefore face two challenges. Survival through a bleak winter with little in the way of ringing to keep us motivated, and then rebuilding at least some of what we had before. That is going to need a lot of effort from a lot of people, but we are not going to wait until next year to start. There are things that can be done now, particularly in terms of survival.

ART and the CCCBR are already working on ways in which we can help ringers and bands stay together and then recover. For instance, we are working together to produce a Survival and Recovery Toolbox from which ringers, bands and even ringing societies can pick the tools that will best help them keep going until ringing can resume and tailor them to local needs. The toolbox will give access to training, a variety of new (and old) ideas and the opportunity to learn from what others have done or are thinking of doing. 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll start to roll out tools, resources and ideas for replacing the routines, friendship and opportunities that we have lost because we’re not ringing. Let’s try and keep as many people as possible enjoying ringing this winter so that we can recover and rebuild when ringing returns to ‘normal’. Some of it will just be helping more people to find resources that already exist.

Questions about some sort of centralised recovery strategy have been popping up on social media, in email chat lists and have arrived by email. We want to assure you that a recovery strategy is being discussed and developed, with the Survival and Recovery Toolbox being just a start. The Council Executive and ART Management Committee are thinking about recovery strategies at a more fundamental level as well. If you have any ideas or would like to help in any aspect of this – building, delivery or engagement – then please get in contact with us. Working together is the best way of building a positive future for ringing.

President’s Blog #22

The ‘Cast of 1000’ was introduced in the Council’s Strategic Priorities document that was produced early in the year. The idea is to establish a roster of 1000 experienced ringers who are prepared to go to one additional practice a month provided it is reliably organised, well run, and for some folks’ specific benefit. It is an idea specifically aimed at middle and upper reaches of the ‘Red Zone’ where many aspiring ringers are getting stuck for opportunities. 1000 ringers could deliver 30 additional practices every Saturday and only have to go once a month each. It is an idea that has College Youth and Cumberland support in principle but which was put on the backburner when ringing stopped.

However, a version of it can now work now, especially as we have noticed that many more experienced ringers who could be very helpful are inactive and not getting involved in any ringing on Ringing Room. There is very little developmental Surprise Major ringing going on except ringers in isolation on simulators. So, two ideas – a personal project of starting some PPE-focused practices and getting the Cast of 1000 going – will coalesce with some trial PPE practices on Saturdays in December.

Accelerating this is just one idea of a joint CC and ART team looking at survival and recovery – how we not only look to rebuild ringing next year but also just how we help more ringers get through the winter. Everything is more difficult when it’s dark and cold (except growing mould and stalactites).

ART is launching its “50 Virtual Ringing Things” to supplement the very successful 50 Ringing Things (it is currently in final pre launch testing). ART is also going to start running workshops to help people run successful Ringing Room practices.

Is there a psychologist in the house, or someone with similar experience? The aforementioned Survival and Recovery team is quite keen to find someone who can help with developing some articles and other things that can help ringers cope in this continued period without ringing, and maybe managing the anxiety of returning to the end of a bellrope when it happens. Contact me or lesley.belcher@bellringing.org if you could help.

Our consultations on direct membership continue, with the first of our sessions with young ringers last week. And very interesting it was too. The young ringers expected that there would be an overall membership organisation but valued greatly the support of their local associations and the opportunities they provide. The lack of any overall coordination of major events was a puzzle, and Bellboard was favoured as the channel for ringing information and news, combined with a decent ringing app. We have two consultation events coming up where we would like to gauge the opinions of anyone who is just generally interested in ringing and doesn’t mind spending about an hour debating direct membership. 19th at 8pm and 24th at 8am (for morning people!) Email us – consultations@cccbr.org.uk

Ringing opportunities are of course few and far between everywhere, unless you live in a Covid free zone, but a few ringers were able to mark Remembrance Sunday with the ringing of a single bell, and in some cases Ellacombe chimes. Bells on Sunday on Radio 4 treated us to the haunting sound of half muffled Stedman Caters on the Minor 10 at Worcester Cathedral (credit to Phil Orme for his continued effort with Bells on Sunday).

Lewis Benfield, a young ringer from Leicestershire, had been hoping to visit St Martin’s Birmingham to ring on 16 for the first time on his 16th birthday. When that plan was not possible, the Conductor of the St Martin’s band, Stephanie Warboys, arranged a special performance on a bespoke 16 bell tower in Ringing Room, with Lewis successfully navigating 3-4 through a couple of leads of Littleport 16 (now the relevance of the top picture becomes clear).

I was delighted with how a feature on bell ringing turned out in the children’s newspaper ‘The Week Junior’. Every issue features a different activity to try, and the young Brumdingers, and Max in particular, did an ace job of selling their hobby to their peers. Interestingly the journalist used a picture of Italian bellringing as the main feature shot when we weren’t able to deliver bellringers and bells in the same frame. It did not detract from the piece though.

Bruce and Eileen Butler are still deliberating on the October YouTube competition. Although there were only 12 entries, given they were training videos they are quite long, and the Philadelphian jury is taking its responsibilities seriously. If you have not seen the Playlist you can find it here. We are into the last month of the series now (unless we think of some new categories? A Christmas special perhaps? Or Champion or Champions? You’re getting carried away…Ed) with November’s topic being the “Film that promotes ringing in the most positive way” – there is still time to give that some thought.

I think I have mentioned the Salisbury DG newsletter before, and had the good fortune of seeing the winter edition of ‘Face to Face’ this week. It really is a tour de force of newsletter writing, managing 36 sizzling lockdown pages. I particularly liked new CC Rep Vicki Prowse’s very positive report of the CC Annual Meeting, of the work of the Council and it’s workgroups. Vicki takes her place on the beer tea or cake list.

Most ringers will know that the management of The Ringing World is grappling with a difficult situation, not made any easier by it being played out on social media. Spare a thought for them and the difficult job they do on our behalf. Also remember that although the Board is unpaid, the Ringing World does have employees who may read all that is said about it.

And finally, this will be the first time my blog has not been printed in The Ringing World. The Friday 13th issue (unlucky for blog writers) is a special one as you will soon see, and a contribution from me would have spoiled it. So I have been a bit of a rebel and pushed my word count out to 1013 and an emoji 😊.

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk/2020/11/10/presidents-blog-22/ and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

Lockdown in England and Remembrance Sunday

Latest advice from CCCBR

The Covid guidance has been updated in response to the lockdown in England that starts tomorrow for four weeks.

The government in England is asking people to stay at home if at all possible. Stopping ringing during this time is consistent with that request. Churches are closed except for private prayer and broadcast worship. We realise England’s senior faith leaders, including the Bishop of London who heads the C of E Recovery Group, are challenging the government’s decision to ban communal worship during this further lockdown period, but at the moment no exception has been made, and even if it was, our guidance wouldn’t change. This is a much stricter lockdown than Tier 3.

However, we support the tolling of a single bell on Remembrance Sunday, if it is with the permission of the incumbent and churchwardens. This has been specifically approved by the House of Bishops Recovery Group. The tolling of a single bell is a powerful symbol of remembrance understood by communities and will mean a great deal to many. Please be particularly aware of the risks associated with entering a tower and ringing on your own – make sure someone knows you are doing it and can watch out for you. A muffle is not needed when tolling a single bell.

President’s Blog #21

I remember the first letter I ever wrote to The Ringing World. I had spent part of my school holidays adding up the tenor weights of all the rings of bells in Dove and had come to the conclusion that the average tower was a 13 cwt eight. And yes I have to admit this was in the olden days before calculators. I think now that calculation can be done with a keystroke, but I was 13, bored and keen. So here’s a supplementary for 10 points. What are all those bells worth?

I only ask because what we pay to be members of our associations is one of the topics of discussion in the series of consultations we (the Council) are engaged in at the moment – see Friday’s Ringing World for more detail or read about it here. We get to use an astonishingly expensive instrument at very little cost because we provide a service to those who own them. Quite fortunate really.

The pandemic has shown how change ringing can be practised without bells via a number of online platforms. If you don’t know what Minecraft is then this paragraph will be lost on you and you may wish to skip ahead or google it and come back. Innovation in online ringing took another step forward, or sideways depending how you view it, with the first collaborative ringing performance in Minecraft. The pioneering band, comprising Jake Reid (creator), George Vant, Lewis Benfield, Tim King and Luca Greenslade, rang Grandsire Doubles and Plain Hunt Minor in a realm created in this virtual world, with communication on Discord (as used by all serious online peal bands). The performance can be viewed here.

If you are reading the Tuesday edition of this Blog then you have five days left to submit an entry for the October YouTube competition which is for the best online training video. There is lots of good material out there, including some well-curated collections, so this should make up for last month’s competition which didn’t quite work.

You might also want to think about the November comp now for which the subject is “Film that promotes ringing in the most positive way”. Again, that round was dreamt up when we thought we would be ringing again by now, so it may be difficult to produce something involving new ringing footage, but who knows? Who would have thought we would be ringing in Minecraft? Unlike previous months I don’t think there is a need for these videos to be short necessarily.

Staying online, the development of Dove continues to move forward. Last week’s developments included better presentation of towers with more than one ring of bells (slightly esoteric but I have learned something about Ovingham), and you can now see a translation of the nominal frequencies in terms of the given note of the scale plus or minus the number of cents away from that note by hovering over the nominals – again that scores highly on the esoteric scale although it got me looking at the stretch on the trebles at the Bull Ring.

And finally on the subject of all things online, and at the risk of losing even more readers, I have signed up for TikTok so I can keep up with the kids. The app asked me to choose my interests to get personalized [sic] recommendations. None of mine were on the list. So I just went for Sports and Talent. What are ‘Life Hacks’? I didn’t select that just in case. The first two videos it sent me did not fill me with confidence, and my understanding of the ‘Talent’ category was clearly wrong, so maybe TikTok is just not for me (which was also Charlie’s view).

These were a difficult couple of weeks for the Covid guidance team, with the release of the Tiers in England, followed by different Tiers in Wales and Scotland and supported by sub-optimally drafted legislation. Our friends in the House of Bishops Recovery Group were also frustrated – they had to deal with discussions such as whether paying bridesmaids enables them to be classed as ‘workers’ and hence be excluded from the list of 15 who can attend the wedding, and legal advice that said the vicar was not in the 15 despite it actually being their place of work. You start to feel for those involved in trying to draft loophole-free legislation.

Prior to a call with Julia Cater and Elva Ainsworth last weekend to review progress and strategy for the Women in Ringing project, I spent half an hour reading more the stories on the Women in Ringing website. As I have said before, if you don’t think gender is an issue in ringing, read some of these. Julia now has 24 female ringers and one male ringer engaged in the production of the research articles that are getting published in The Ringing World, and they are working a special focus edition coming out in mid November.

Those who look after young ringers’ groups or who interact with young ringers on Ringing Room should be interested in an ‘online ringing’ permission form developed by the St Martin’s Guild for safeguarding. It has recommendations around parental consent, having parents present, and other important considerations. It can be found here.

The young ringers group I run, the Brumdingers, keeps going like many others with occasional and highly valued bursts of tower bell ringing, Ringing Room, and outdoor handbells, now with head torches. This week fresh interest was injected by starting to learn tune ringing on handbells, beginning with Silent Night. “Why are we starting to ring carols in October?” “Because I think it’s going to take you two months to get it right…” Thanks to Don Bedford for sending me a copy of the excellent “Carol Ringing and More.” I joined music teachers everywhere in being amused (at first) by one of the youngsters referring to his bell as the “A hashtag” rather than the more traditional A sharp.

Simon Linford
President, CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk/2020/10/27/presidents-blog-21/ and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

President’s Blog #20

It’s funny how words come into your lexicon (like that one). I have spent 50 years not feeling a need to use the word ‘nuanced’ and now hardly a day goes by without it coming into conversation. (nuanceda. characterized by subtle shades of meaning or expression.) The current review of the Coronavirus ringing guidance is intended to be more ‘nuanced’ – to recognise the different levels of risk for different people and in different ringing settings, and enable more local risk assessment and decision making. As I write this, the new three tier system has been announced in England, which may then be reflected in the rest of the UK, and we will need to assess its implications quickly.

Of course ringing restrictions are not just about the United Kingdom. In Australia, nearly all the towers were shut at one stage, but now only about half remain listed as completely shut. The others are anything from minimal ringing to nearly normal. Regulations vary enormously from State to State in Australia, as do the policies of individual churches. Some towers are ringing in New Zealand and plenty of quarters are being reported from Wellington. Kilifi is open and ringing! Last weekend would have been the North American Guild AGM in Honolulu but of course it was replaced with a Zoom meeting with rather more variable weather conditions.

Ringers everywhere in the world are grateful for the opportunities presented by Ringing Room but have you also seen what I think is the best explanation of bellringing in a short video ever? I almost need to create a special category in the YouTube competition to be able to give it a prize. Maybe I should send a prize anyway because the September competition didn’t work out. Well done to Kemp Brinson for this video.

A good week for media coverage. The Spectator carried a brilliant article initially asking why the bells were not ringing at Westminster Abbey. Clearly very well researched, completely in tune with the current restrictions, very supportive and appreciative of bellringing. It is behind a paywall but has been posted in the Bellringers Facebook group. I’ll see if we can get permission to publish it (although this may work). One could quote almost all of it but perhaps just: “Among themselves, ringers refer to their art as ‘The Exercise’. How excellent is that? Recently, Catherine Pepinster at the Telegraph urged young people to keep the art alive. I would have thought it was a natural choice for the Harry Potter generation.”

Another Zoom call last week with the CofE Recovery Group which culminated in the post made last Friday and in The Ringing World. What we have also just got on the radar is the subject of guidance to support Devon’s call change competitions. This is something in which I have a keen interest because I would like to see how the focus on striking that these call change competitions engender could be used elsewhere. Some bands might enjoy and benefit from developing call change ringing per se, rather than seeing it as a stepping stone to struggling through Bob Doubles.

After the first peal on Ringing Room, I suggested it was something no one else would ever do. So I am a bit surprised that I have now rung three. This doesn’t put me very high up the leading peal ringers during lockdown list, which is headed by some prolific handbell ringers, for whom the pandemic has almost been an opportunity. At least it has given time for some people to develop their handbell ringing. The list is headed by Daniel Page, Daniel Page’s brother (and recently elected Junior Steward of the SRCY – congratulations Jack), and Colin Newman.

Possibly the most stupendous peal of the pandemic has just been published – the Perrins family ringing Scientific Triples in hand (pictured). Although the magnitude of this achievement will be lost on many, enough people spotted it to give it that most current and coveted of accolades – ‘Top of the Pops’ on BellBoard. Scientific has been rung to a peal in hand once before – by members of the St Martin’s Guild (including the current Editor of The Ringing World on 1-2) in 2008.

Sunday morning saw a call from one Bruno Peek. This might be a name you recognise, but if not he is the self-styled “Pageant Master”, who has spent the last 30 years organising nationwide acts of celebration, described by The Independent as “the go to man when Britain stops to remember the past.” One of his most high-profile ventures was organising the lighting of 250 beacons across the United Kingdom (and islands) for the Queen’s 90th birthday. He was also behind VE Day and VJ Day celebrations. Bruno is very keen on bells. He sees bellringing as a key way to bring communities together and mark special occasions. So far so good. He wants bell ringing to be part of an annual celebration of the founding of the NHS, which we can probably manage (next July). And he wants to help with the “Britain’s Favourite Bellringers” idea. Awesome.

I have not mentioned this before. Imagine an annual competition to find Britain’s Favourite Bellringers, or better still the World’s Favourite Bellringers, voted on by local communities rather than ringers themselves. This would highlight and profile how important bells are and help make people realise what is going on in the tower. I think maybe regional heats, then national finals. This is a good time to do it because the lockdown has made many communities realise that they miss their bells. Bruno loves the idea for a start, and thinks he can get it in the Daily Express and the Telegraph. Let me know if you have any bright ideas about how this might work in practice.

And Bruno also chipped in £25 for the Mobile Belfry. He would like the proposed Mobile Belfry to be the centrepiece of the final celebrations, parked on Horseguards Parade in front of all the media. Now wouldn’t that be great?

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk/2020/10/13/presidents-blog-20/ and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

Further development of Coronavirus guidance from CCCBR – the Path Ahead

Last Friday lunchtime, I was notified by my daughter’s school that one person in her year group had tested positive for Coronavirus and the entire year group was being sent home to self-isolate for 10 days. One of the first things she did on getting home was to say that she wouldn’t be able to fulfil either of her Sunday ringing commitments, and she informed both tower captains. Such is life at the moment.

Her absence from ringing was not just a sense of responsibility to her fellow ringers. The school had given pretty strict guidance on what to do in this 10 day period and it did not include unnecessary outings, however strong the mitigations ringing has adopted. Even socially distanced reduced duration ringing was going to be put on hold.

By and large, ringers are an above averagely sensible group and respect the need for the ringing community to be consistent and act as one on the application of the guidelines. There are outbreaks of ‘cleverdickery’ and ‘whataboutery’, but generally the socially distanced, restricted ringing recommended in the guidance has been adopted. However, we have been at the current level of restriction for a while, and even though we appear to be in the second wave of Coronavirus infection in Britain, you probably want to know what the plans are for ringing recovery.

Before going into what we propose to do next, I would like to recap how we have got to where we are now.

When the guidance was originally discussed with the Church of England Recovery Group it was on the basis that ringing for services was a good starting point for getting ringing going again, and was timed to coincide with the reopening of churches. What then happened was that by no means all churches reopened, and so the guidance was clarified to remove the service ringing restriction, as many incumbents were happy to have bells rung anyway.

That first round of guidance did not enable as many towers to start ringing as we had hoped. Smaller towers in particular are not able to ring enough bells at 2m distance for it to be worthwhile, although larger towers have adapted well. We used this as the basis of our discussions with the Recovery Group on reducing distancing to 1m – that we had not been effective in enabling much service ringing with 2m distancing.

Work on the guidance to this point had been shared by Phillip Barnes, Mark Regan and me, with Alison Hodge’s Stewardship & Management Group also working on detailed guidance and risk assessments. Zoom calls are held with the Recovery Group about every two weeks. Knowing that we needed to move into the next phase of guidance, we invited David Pouncey to join the group to give a fresh perspective and to help shoulder a burden that weighs heavily. David is a recently retired GP with very relevant medical experience who had previously engaged with us and offered his help.

The good news for the future is that we have now agreed with the Recovery Group that distance between ringers will be able to be reduced to 1m+ provided other mitigations are in place. Face coverings are probably the most important of them, as the understanding of the aerosol transmission of the virus has increased over the course of the pandemic. This has particular relevance for ringing given the setting of our activity and our close spacing to each other.

We are very mindful however that announcing a relaxation of restrictions at a time when infection levels are increasing may appear inappropriate, even if that relaxation is based on a very sound interpretation of the current risks, and agreement with the Church. So we intend to move to this next level with an overall revision of guidance that shifts the decision making process down to association and tower level, and which can be based on the overall level of restrictions in a particular place or region. The UK Government looks to be moving to a three-tiered “traffic lights” plan based on number of infections per 100,000 of population and when that is launched, we will align our advice to that.

We are also working on clear guidance for local and personal risk assessment, so that you and your band can decide whether to ring or not based on an informed understanding of the risks generally, and your tower’s particular circumstances. Large well-ventilated spaces are much less risky than small unventilated rooms: those who work closely with others have a much greater risk of spreading the virus than those who work from home or have relatively few social interactions. This could enable the low risk environments to extend ringing time to 30 minutes, although high risk environments might conclude that they should not ring at all. We are looking at whether if any tower is unsure about how to interpret the guidance for them, someone at association level could be equipped to help, which is what appears to be happening in most places anyway. We expect all this to be in place in the next week or two. We want to be ready to act as soon as infection levels drop, and to be able to react more quickly to future changes in circumstances.

Finally, Mark Regan has been looking at how young ringers’ groups could benefit from published guidance for “holiday and after school clubs, and other out-of-school settings.” This guidance allows larger groups of children to meet regularly in consistent groups, which could be very useful.

Simon Linford
President, Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

(this article was published in The Ringing World, issue 5711, 9 October 2020)

President’s Blog #19

The days have probably gone when ringers chose their universities based on the ringing opportunities available. Many of my contemporaries will admit that ringing was a factor in their own choices, but those were different times, times when the “Desmond” (a.k.a. the “Ringer’s Degree”) was almost, but not quite, a badge of honour. For young ringers, going to university can be an exciting time, but it is also a time looked forward to by the ringing communities receiving them. Fresh keen ringers are welcome anywhere.

In my home city of Birmingham, we were pleased to see university students return and also to welcome a few very capable ringers who have stated at our universities. Ringing opportunities are currently limited but the new arrivals have been included in the city centre ringing. There was much discussion on university societies at the Council AGM after workgroup leader Ian Roulstone gave his short presentation, particularly the importance of supporting university ringing if the university society doesn’t have critical mass. More information can be found on this workgroup on the newly updated workgroup page of the CC website

Coverage of ringing in national media seems to have got better in recent years. Emily Hall featured in an excellent BBC piece on the return of ‘Covid-Secure’ ringing to Beeston, turning a difficult situation into a positive. You may also have seen a brief glimpse of comedian Susan Calman in a trailer for her ‘Secret Scotland’ series. A vignette on her visiting the bell tower at Inveraray, looked after by Ruth Marshall, will appear in an episode to be broadcast in December.

Last time I talked about two towers that had moved ringers onto different levels to achieve more separation but has any tower adapted their rope circle to increase the spacing between ropes and ringers? Nantwich, which benefits from a large ringing chamber anyway, has inserted new timber struts between walls to allow a rope to be drawn into a new position (see picture). Be careful when making adjustments to towers – check with the Incumbent whether a faculty is required (Nantwich did and one wasn’t).

Progress is being made on the Covid ringing guidance – quietness is not a sign of inactivity. The Council’s small guidance team is pleased to welcome David Pouncey to its ranks. David is a recently retired GP who during a long career spent time dealing with epidemics in Africa, and most recently managing coronavirus patients. As well as taking a share of the workload, David will be specifically looking at the next phase of guidance and is now reviewing and updating all the Guidance Notes.

Situations vacant! The Council is looking for someone to help our Secretary, Mary Bone, in an assistant role. This is particularly in terms of helping with the administration of Council membership, dealing with changes in details, maintaining address lists in various places, and helping in the run up to the AGM. If you have some organisational ability, some spare time, and would like to become a valued member of the team, please either contact Mary secretary@cccbr.org.uk or me.

Changing flights is a regular reminder of overseas ringing trips that have been cancelled. This week I finally got the email from Aer Lingus saying that my flights to New York to judge the Trinity Shield had been cancelled, along with an impossible refund process. But I was happy to take the voucher because it will happen again. The best thing about Aer Lingus to New York from Birmingham via Dublin is you can have four breakfasts – one at each airport and one on each aircraft.

ART has adapted its Learning the Ropes Handbells scheme to allow quarter peals on online platforms in a pragmatic approach to keeping people making progress. Part of ART’s thinking was that such performances are generally harder than ringing with real people in front of you ringing real bells up and down. There is one proviso though in that to complete the LtR Handbells scheme, at least one quarter peal should be rung with real people and real bells. This was felt sufficient to demonstrate good handbell technique and the ability to ring in the same room as others (or same churchyard).

I enjoyed a Sunday evening discussion with members of the Truro DG. An hour easily turned into two as we explored a range of subjects with differing levels of controversy! For instance, “how many rings of bells would you have left in your area if every church with a congregation of fewer than 25 closed for good?” One thing I thought was very interesting and possibly little known is the practice of ringing call change peals – long compositions of call changes, which can be very challenging. Am I right in thinking someone has called a complete peal (as in method peal) in call changes or did I dream it?

Search for Tong in/on Dove and you will see find a perhaps unremarkable 12 cwt ring of 6, but then you come across the additional information “Also hung for ringing: bourdon bell (‘Great Bell of Tong’); rung from chancel.” Rung only on a small number of special days in the year, the Great Bell is a special thing – a special thing which is now easier to ring as it has been re-hung by Taylors. Apparently it actually goes up to the balance now with no hernia risk, which is a definite improvement.

Finally, just like other museums, the Loughborough Bellfoundry Museum has been closed to visitors, and group tours of the bellfoundry buildings have also stopped. Good news is the trust that owns it has received lottery funding to make changes within the building to ensure it is COVID compliant and can reopen to visitors. There are longer term plans to develop the museum further – the Brumdingers young ringers group had great fun helping with ideas for how such a museum could be attractive to young visitors, although there was a lot of focus on the gift shop and café!

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk/2020/09/29/presidents-blog-19/ and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

President’s Blog #18

I wouldn’t be surprised if no ringer below the age of 20 is reading this. I would be pleased if they were, but I am realistic enough to know that our print and social media does not hit a youth audience. This point came up this week because Julia Cater asked whether the distribution of the Women in Ringing stories request could go out on Instagram and pick up younger views. The answer unfortunately was ‘no’.

Like them or loathe them, the Kardashians were masters of providing a channel to younger audiences – they almost wrote the book on it (not that it was a book). If you want to reach an audience of under 20s you just pay an appropriate influencer to mention it on their Instragram and hey presto you’ve done it. So is there an opportunity for a young ringer to establish that channel?

I was all set to ask for volunteers to help with quarter peal analysis in this blog but after mentioning it at the Central Council meeting last Saturday I already have volunteers. After many years of sterling service in analysing quarter peals, Alan Buswell has retired from his annual analysis, and the painstaking recording work behind the scenes. Quarter peals are a rich source of information on the state and development of ringing, from the grass roots to the sturdy branches (and the odd dandelion). We don’t actually learn that much from which person or tower recorded the most performances, but what do you think would make for interesting analysis? Who has called most people’s first quarter peal? Who has achieved the most different firsts in a year? It is probably from the footnotes that we can learn the most.

Getting this people-level data accurate is actually very difficult. In a perfect world, no two people would have the same name, no names would be abbreviated, no one would change middle initials or shuffle theirs round for fun (so, I was young and stupid), and definitely no one would be called Phillip. I have rung performances with four different David Smiths and there are 10 others! Unique ringer IDs would be ideal.

We welcomed the Clerical Guild to the Central Council at the AGM and they came with a useful offer of help in current discussions with churches. One thing to consider is increasing ringer representation on PCCs. It is a very good way of raising the profile of ringers in the church. When I learned to ring at Cannock, there was a ‘Ringers Pew’. This was necessary because without it the late-arriving bell ringers would not get a seat. Think about that for a moment. The ringers would not get a seat. Most of the band went to the service (or sang in the choir) and a large parish church was full every Sunday.

This has been a difficult week for Coronavirus guidance. The ‘Rule of Six’ has changed the playing field once again – there can be more handbell ringing indoors but question marks over meeting more than six in church. We might be allowed to reduce our ringing distancing to 1m+ but in view of the surge in infection levels will anyone really want to do it? As you will read in my article to be published in Friday’s Ringing World about our latest discussions with the CofE Recovery Group, their approach is to consider “How do we best look after other people?”

By this stage in the year I would normally expect to have most weekends in the following year booked up, with peal dates fixed up sometimes well over a year in advance. We try and have a family rule that the last free weekend in any month is ‘protected’ just to leave some space for spontaneity! My last 2020 peal was cancelled ages ago and now I am down to having only one definite 2021 peal attempt. To be fair though I was always expecting far more of the weekends to be set aside for Council-related and other activities. I have a couple of call change competition finals pencilled in, half a dozen dinners, trips to Ireland, Dordrecht, New York, and Vernet, hopefully a couple of new ringing courses, and early outings with the Mobile Belfry. It will certainly be interesting to see how 2021 unfolds.

One of those new courses will be in the North West of England. Andy Ingham and his team are certainly hoping that the inaugural event can be next year but at the moment they face the difficulty of not even being able to visit venues to check them out. They are developing good ideas for format and content though, and hopefully the Mobile Belfry may make an appearance.

It’s too early to say that ringing on two floors is catching on, but Elstow in Bedfordshire (see picture) started ringing six from two different floors in August, maintain social distancing in three dimensions. St Paul’s Birmingham has now followed suit. St Paul’s has a school room immediately below the ringing chamber, with two dumbbells. It is a key part of the Birmingham School of Bell Ringing’s success. It is now enabling eight bells to be rung, with four downstairs and four upstairs. Expect to see touches of Triples being reported soon.

Back in the online world, I was delighted to be able to judge a Carlisle DG striking competition on Ringingroom. No sitting in a draughty vestry or in the car with the window open – this contest was judged from the comfort of my own home. There is probably an inverse relationship between the quality of the scenery and the quality of your broadband so Cumbrian ringers are likely to find forces outside their control affecting their striking. All the bands did really well though. Organiser Chris de Cordova had clearly done her research when an unnecessary but very welcome mini keg of Fyne Ales arrived by courier as a gesture of thanks. Now I just need to organise a house party to enjoy it with friends. Ah….

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk/2020/09/16/presidents-blog-18/ and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

President’s Blog #17

We have a few ‘Situations Vacant’ coming up which will give more people the opportunity to help with the Council’s work. Some of these will be announced after the forthcoming AGM but for now we are looking at establishing an ‘Events Management’ team, which can take care of organising ringing events. This is actually going to be a joint appointment with ART, as the two organisations have some similar events and would benefit from co-ordination. We are looking for people to be in a small team that will develop this expertise and work with local organisers on such events. So if organising things is your bag, please let us know.

The Dove database is one very tangible area of progress at the moment. The transfer to a new software platform has hugely increased the potential power of Dove and the next stage is transferring in all bell-level data. Dickon Love, on introducing the changes, was keen to recognise the contribution of the whole team – Richard Smith (technical development and bug fixing), Tim Jackson (checking transferred data and general counselling), John Baldwin (keeping the old system going and helping with transfer), Tim Pett and Doug Davis (testing).

We are working on a website that will enable ringers to ask questions about compositions, methods and conducting that they don’t understand and don’t know who to ask. The questions will be answered by a small group who are good at answering such questions in a clear unpatronizing way. Alex Byrne of Worcester is leading on it, and is starting off with a list of questions that Barbara Le Gallez sent me which includes such things as “Why does a composition come round / be true for some methods and not others (that are similar)?” and “48 Original Major: 5 5678s (2f,3b), 5 crus (2f,3b), 20 4-bell runs (8f,12b) – What mean these strange runes? Are they “old-fashioned” or “innovative”?” So if you have been spending lockdown pondering such things, help will soon be at hand!

Jack Pease completed the latest Facebook competition, which this time compared the ‘Finest Rings between 30 and 40 cwt’, with the word ‘finest’ being deliberately open to interpretation. Over 4500 votes cast! In a very tight contest, the crown was taken by Evesham, with Lichfield Cathedral close behind.

The Covid guidance pages on the Council website have been reorganised so that we can include a history of updates rather than just have the latest news at the top. It should work better on phones as well. We have submitted draft amended guidance to the CofE to try and reduce the separation to 1m plus mitigations, in line with guidance in other areas. And we are taking on board many comments received directly about how we can move further forward.

I actually did some method revision for the first time since March this Sunday. We rang a touch of 13 Spliced at St Martin’s Birmingham, where the first letter of each lead in order spelled out ‘COVID SELECTED’ (comp John Warboys). Conway, Ockley, Vale Royal, Ipswich, Dover… Having 16 bells enables such socially distanced performances. The conductor found  that calling spliced is slightly more difficult through a face covering especially when a change of method is interrupted by a mouthful of cotton.

A run through of the Central Council AGM on Zoom last weekend ironed out a few creases. The AGM is going to be streamed via YouTube for those who want to follow proceedings, although with the online format it is relatively light on business. The 2021 meeting will be in Nottingham as this one was supposed to have been.

On the agenda will be the 2021 Forward Plan, to which I am sure you are looking forward. While it could just be to actually do some ringing again and rediscover what it’s like to have a blister, it is going to tackle a few things that were proposals from the CRAG review which have not made it past first base. The big one is making progress on establishing some form of direct membership to a central ringing organisation. We spend many an idle hour looking at the structures of organisations like CAMRA (national membership, regional directors, local branches), the Croquet Association (individual, club and corporate memberships), the National Trust, RSCM, etc – organisations that manage to combine national membership with local activity. There will be a number of channels for consultation before Christmas which will hopefully cover anyone who can contribute to the debate.

One of the Brumdingers surprised me more than I think I have ever been surprised in a ringing context before. This is an 11 year old who has only been ringing a year and has not rung plain hunt on tower bells. But she has learned to ring handbells in lockdown and when on Abel the other day I asked her if she was ready to show me Grandsire Doubles on 3-4, which was the homework I had set, she said “can I ring Stedman Cinques?” Never one to stifle ambition, I suggested she at least reduced the peal speed to 3.30 to give her a fighting chance, after which she rang 11-12 to a bob course of Stedman Cinques very nicely (striking scores of 8.4 and 9.5). My flabber has never been so ghasted.

My daughter Charlie, knowing something of the ups and downs of this role at the moment, sometimes says “so Dad, has the list of people you might punch when you next see them gone up today?” So being positive, I have now started a new list! People for whom I will buy a pint, cup of tea, or piece of cake when I see them. Added to the list this week are the ringers of Skipton and Helmsley (they know why) and Andrew Howard, for his kind words in last week’s Ringing World. The CC has a new Treasurer warming up and I look forward to explaining the ‘President’s beer, tea and cake fund’. I am sure he will understand…

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

Content from https://cccbr.org.uk/2020/09/01/presidents-blog-17/ and logo used with permission from Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

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

President’s Blog #15

There were a couple of salutary lessons this week on what the future may bring. St Margaret’s Westminster, home of a ring of 10, closed for public services forever on economic grounds with the congregation ‘moved’ to the Abbey next door. And then, of indirect significance, Sheffield Cathedral announced the disbanding of its choir, to start again from scratch with a ‘fresh vision’. We also heard of a couple of towers where bands will not ring again, one because there are no longer going to be services and another because its members are too old to return. We may need to start thinking about a future that could be very different.

The wearing of facemasks, which had previously been “strongly advised” in the Church of England, becomes mandatory in England from Sunday. While this is possibly the final straw for some people (“I am not going to go and ring for 15 minutes and wear a ****** mask”), there are plenty of people who do want to ring, including those newer to bellringing. My kids group, the Brumdingers, will ring for the first time next Sunday and the excitement levels have gone off the Richter scale.

The passing of Dennis Brock was announced shortly after my last blog was posted and he has been widely mourned. Dennis was well known as the oldest active bellringer, having been a loyal member of the band at Sunbury since the age of 11. His ringing for his 100th birthday was covered by national media.

The presentation of the Westley Awards for Church Bell Maintenance went ahead last week, hosted by SMWG. The award is for someone who has become involved in belfry maintenance within the last five years, and shows the most commitment to developing and using their own skills and those of others. Seven of the eight nominations were under 25, with a couple looking after bells whilst at university. The winner was Sue McClaughry from Calstock in Truro who has quickly gone from being a new ringer, to a new tower captain, to getting involved in bell maintenance because no one else was able to do, to leading a local rehanging project. She is now a Truro DG bell adviser advising other towers and PCCs. My daughter will add you to her list of inspiring women!

ART has published nearly 50 bell maintenance videos on YouTube, which have been edited and filmed in the last three weeks. They can be found in the ART Online Learning Channel. Like it or not, YouTube is where people go for instruction manuals these days. I have lost the instruction manual for my car six months after buying it but solved the problem of turning off the G-force meter by asking a passenger with YouTube on their phone. Trial and error was only making matters worse.

A late flurry of entries for the July YouTube competition took the number of candidates for “Best ringing on eight or more bells” to 21. Birmingham submitted a few pieces as the closing bell creaked into action, and the Devon call change ringers are once again strutting their stuff. The playlist can be found on the CC website. The judges this month are Wendy and Graham Bloom from Leeds. When I was a young ringer at Cannock, Wendy (then a Smith (always a Smith?)) was a member of the indomitable Lichfield Cathedral band that won our local 6 bell striking contest every year. That band was one of my early inspirations.

Laura Goodin’s “Ringing Room Take-Hold Lounge” has signed up it’s 600th member. The Facebook group acts as a melting pot for those wanting to ring together on Ringingroom. Last week Ringingroom had 3700 unique users, 85% of them from the UK. Many of the rest are from the US, Ireland, and Australia, though there is representation from several other countries as well. If you are looking for the quieter times, avoid Monday-Wednesday evenings, UK time, and Saturday late morning. There is no hour of the day where there isn’t at least someone on Ringing Room.

The use of simulators has come on leaps and bounds in lockdown. Has anyone considered whether it would be possible to deliver a ringing experience in a VR Headset? Does anyone have the knowledge or skills to say how difficult it would be or what it would cost to develop? It would really crack the peripheral vision aspects of ropesight on simulators.

Situations vacant. We are looking for someone with experience in venue or events management/promotion to get involved in a specific project. Contact me and I will let you know what it’s about – it’s a bit Secret Squirrel at the moment.

Westbury saw off a strong challenge from Ebbw Vale in the Facebook contest for best heavy eight. Jewry and Chewton Mendip (my favourites) fell at the semi-final stage. As with previous contests this one has stimulated much debate and banter. Patrick Deakin has now handed over organisation of the contests to Jack Pease, who has wasted no time in launching “Finest rings between 30 and 40cwt”. It’s worth subscribing to ‘Bellringers’ Facebook group just for this.

Mike Shelley talked again in the Ringing World about the Central Council not representing one and two bell towers and practitioners of chiming. I did raise this at the Council Executive meeting last Sunday because I thought it was a question worthy of some consideration. The Council’s member associations focus by and large on four bell towers and above – sometimes threes if they have a band. But not ones and twos, even if hung for ringing. Is there still a ‘Three and Four Bell Society’? Do enough people care about ringing on less than three to form a separate interest group and even society?

And finally, I am going to ring a church bell this Sunday for the first time in five months. I had a 15 minute workout on the bells in Phil Gay’s garage last Sunday (including mask) so I am all set.

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

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

President’s Blog #14

Posted from the Trent & Mersey Canal, Middlewich. We listened out for the sound of bells on Sunday whilst chugging through the Cheshire countryside but there still aren’t too many towers that have restarted. Those that have reported happy clergy, happy congregations, and ringers who are making the most of current restrictions.

Southwark Cathedral once again hit the national media after CC PRO Vicki Chapman did an interview with the Guardian on returning to ringing. The story managed to come across very positively, and the Sunday ringing at Southwark met all the guidelines. Southwark made use of household pairs to ring some adjacent bells, and maybe the odd straight line, which 12 bell towers have more chance of than smaller rings.

What is the most bells any tower has managed to ring by having a single family or household? Smethwick (pictured) has a family of five – does any tower beat that? Asking a similar question about family handbell peals brought up the ten Bailey brothers of Leiston in Suffolk. Among their many ringing exploits was a peal of Stedman Cinques in hand which was first peal of Stedman Cinques for all of them. Not just first in hand – first Stedman Cinques at all!

Gareth Davies, a member of the Historical & Archive Workgroup, delivered a lecture on the Churches Conservation Trust’s YouTube Channel. He managed to cram the entire history of bell ringing into 45 minutes, with fascinating facts interspersed with dry humour (“the lack of bells in Salisbury Cathedral deprives visiting Russian tourists of another thing to see”).

The June YouTube competition, aka ‘Robot Wars’, saw Tim the Robot emerge victorious. Rising stars Rosie and Ritchie Robot had their hopes dashed by this usurper who turned out not even to be a real robot. To add insult to injury, Rosie now has rust issues from the tears streaming down her face. Look what you’ve done Tim!

This month’s subject is best striking on eight bells or more, an area where there is far less material already on YouTube. No doubt the Pipes will be producing another piece but where on earth are David, Henry and Alfie going to find another ringer? Time to unleash the Pipe secret weapon…

Do you remember your first Dove? Mine was the orange one. I underlined my towers, and put codes next to each tower. I cannot remember now whether FR (Fairly Reasonable) was better or worse than RF (Reasonably Fair). Now I am 70 times more likely to use online Dove than the book, and as I write this I see it is a Red Letter Day – the code for the new Dove database has been released. That might not sound like a big deal, but it’s an important part of Dove’s development pathway to create a much more powerful tower data platform. Sorry Dickon – epic failure to make that sound as exciting as it should be.

A few weeks ago we ran a request for new blood in the Stewardship & Management Workgroup and I am pleased to say it bore fruit. Five additional team members – Chris Birkby (maintenance, fundraising), Nick Wilkins (a surveyor, currently running an augmentation project at Farnborough), John Beresford (structural engineer with particular historic buildings speciality), Keith Brown (lawyer), and Simon Plows (bell projects, ART hub). The breadth of subjects upon which SMWG can advise is growing.

One recent request for advice had the team searching for Intellectual Property expertise. An association had used an image from another website that turned out to be copyrighted, leading to a substantial claim from the image rights holder. Detailed guidance will be issued but suffice it to say, be very careful when using pictures whose provenance you do not know – a letter from an image rights protection company will be a very nasty surprise for any association treasurer.

Introducing bellringing into schools is a key challenge of the new Schools and Youth Groups Workgroup. An early output of this, albeit one which Jason Hughes has been working on for many years, is a suite of eleven lessons about bellringing for Year 5 pupils (9–10-year-olds) (see RW 10 Jul p.684–7). This has been designed in such a way as to be able to be delivered by a non-ringing teacher (a crucial feature) and has been delivered in a school trial with great success. What makes it particularly attractive to schools is that it links directly to the National Curriculum for England, putting aspects of bellringing into each subject. Jason freely admits the lesson plans need a final polish to make them production quality but this has great potential. If you are in a position to introduce this into a school, let me know and I can introduce you to Jason or Colin Newman.

The stakes have been well and truly raised in the “Best Guild Newsletter” competition. Robert Wellen sent me a link to the latest edition of Face to Face, the newsletter of the Salisbury DG, and it is an incredible piece of work.

The Mobile Belfry 2.0 project is moving on apace. With the design pretty much finalised, a funding bid has gone in for one of the £50k grants from Ecclesiastical, under the project name ‘Resound’ – big shout out to Roger Booth who has led on the bid document. The Loughborough Belfoundry Trust is emerging as a potentially very useful partner in the endeavour. With another sizeable donation coming in, details of which I will be able to reveal soon, there is a very good chance of the first of these new Mobile Belfries to be ready in the spring.

Julia Cater gave a presentation via the St Martin’s Guild that broke the Guild’s Zoom attendance limit. Her subject was techniques for ringing big bells – clearly of very wide interest. If you missed it, a recording can be found here. I shouldn’t think many people have heard of the importance of core strength in ringing context before, or been advised to ‘engage their lats’. Charlie Linford announced afterwards that she was now more interested in ringing heavy bells than conducting.

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

PRESIDENT’S BLOG #13

Last Friday was definitely a low point. There was much swearing in Moseley, Worcester and Wrotham when an ever-so-polite email dropped in from the Church of England Recovery Group asking us not to ring that Sunday after all. Then my computer crashed just to add to the misery. The next morning, we had a call with Mark and Brendan but it was clear that they wanted us to change our guidance and wait a bit longer.

I am not sure what percentage of churches did actually hold services in England on Super Sunday. There weren’t many in my home Diocese of Birmingham and I have heard of some particularly rural areas where there is no sign of churches opening for some time. Across the world the picture varies – ANZAB reporting 20 out of 64 towers open again, while in North America I understand a little ringing has happened at Orleans, Honolulu and Kent School. The Channel Islands and Isle of Man are relishing their Coronavirus-free isolation!

The prospect of ringing three for services caused Ann Davies to recall the words of the Serbian Orthodox priest in charge of the ring of three at Bournville in Birmingham (pictured) when three ringers (suspects include Messrs Pickford and Jones) asked if they could have ‘a little tinkle’. The custodian of the ultra-ungettable tower said “we ring for ze purpose and not for ze tinkle!!”

As work starts on the next stage of guidance it is difficult to see how things are going to change materially without infection levels dropping. However there are lots of factors to consider, including that not all ringing environments are the same. We’re also getting a group together representing prolific peal organisers to pool our thoughts on when and how we can move towards ringing’s longer form.

Now to some good news. The Churches Conservation Trust has launched its ‘Champing’ offer – 20% discount for ringers booking before 31st July (use the discount code BELLS20). Champing is like glamping but kipping down inside one of their churches for a slightly surreal night’s sleep. Note that most of these churches do not come with showers so those booking for more than a few days will be thanked for not going within 2m of anyone else. Team Linford has booked to stay in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Warminghurst so we can visit Charlie’s adopted sloth, Flash, at Drusillas Wildlife Park.

If you are looking for more YouTube viewing after watching all 40 entries in the June YouTube competition, Steve Farmer has put together a superb series of videos on how to use a simulator. Search YouTube for “Practical Simulator Sessions” and you will find these, excellently produced in his garage (which to be honest needs a good lockdown clearout…)

Chris Ridley has been confirmed as the new leader of the Historical & Archive Workgroup. Chris has had a long association with the Council Library and other initiatives and is looking forward to developing this Workgroup so that our history and archives are able to inform and support other areas of the Council’s work. For instance, it has already been shown that the study of genealogy can get descendants of ringers wanting to learn and follow in ancestors’ footsteps.

The first peal on Ringing Room has been rung. Is it surprising that it has taken so long, or that it has been done at all? I cannot say too much as I was in it, and this is not a forum for me to blow my own trumpet. Oh go on, maybe just a bit –  Parp parp!

We have launched a consultation on ‘Registered Smaller Societies’ which is a proposed change to the Council Rules to enable bell ringing societies that don’t have the 75 members needed for full affiliation, but which want to be part of the Council. Not all ringers and ringing are covered by territorial societies, and to be truly representative the Council should embrace smaller emerging groups. More details can be found in the Governance section of the website.

Booking some more holidays. Sign of the times that when we would have been heading off to the Far East for a tour of Vietnam and Thailand, we have booked a boat on the Llangollen Canal and made sure that it has three decent handbell chairs. Twin holiday focus of Latin vocab and Kent Minor.

Matt Lawrence from Lilleshall has joined V&L and taken on a “Recruitment and Retention” brief. Matt masterminded the R&R workshop at the ART Conference on behalf of V&L. There is also a new Facebook group called Bell Ringing Recruitment and Retention – some people have actually managed to recruit people into ringing via Ringing Room and will be looking forward to converting them into tower bell ringers. Just shows what’s possible if you try.

The second of my three favourite ringing days of the year didn’t happen, following on from the 12 bell final. The RWNYC would have seen hundreds of young ringers gather in York for this annual festival of youthful skill and coloured team shirts but alas we will need to wait another year.

Patrick Deakin has started the latest of his Facebook competitions where people vote for their favourite ring of bells in a particular category, starting off with 32 and deciding each round on a knockout basis. Following victories for York Minster in the Heavyweight 12 bout, and Inveraray in the Cruiserweight 10 bout, he is now pitching ton-plus eights against each other in the Super Middleweight category. Will it be one of the Somerset classics (i.e Chewton Mendip) or a young pretender? Watch the drama unfold over coming weeks.

Finally some sad news. The Black Bull at Frosterley, home to a ring of 12 with a tenor of 0-2-21 by Matthew Higby, has closed permanently. Hopefully a new home will be found for the bells, on which seven peals have been rung (but not one by me so I am still keen).

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

CCCBR Guidance on Returning to Service Ringing

The scene is set for a cautious return to ringing. It won’t be all the bells, it won’t be all the ringers, but it will be enough for ringing to be part of the resumption of church services and remind people which day is Sunday.

Returning to ringing is a subject dear to all our hearts. Simulators, Ringing Room and Zoom meetings are just not the same although we should applaud all those initiatives. On 12th June bellringing appeared in a list of activities which cannot take place in churches. That made us determined to find out who was advising government so that we could make our case. All the hard work being done on guidance and risk assessments is useless if the keys to the ringing room door have been taken away.

I am pleased to say we have now made a lot of progress. The people with the metaphorical keys to our ringing room doors are Mark Betson, convenor of the Church of England’s Recovery Group, and Brendan McCarthy, the Church’s Adviser for Medical Ethics, Health, and Social Care Policy. On Monday this week, Mark Regan, Phil Barnes and I had a Zoom call with them to position ringing in the church recovery plan. Note this is Church of England only initially. We intend to have similar discussions in Wales and Scotland and provide what support we can to those in other countries. Hopefully some of this guidance is useful anyway and can be adapted to local circumstances.

Our goal for the meeting was just to establish the Council as the trusted advisor to the CofE team and hence government on bell ringing. We had sent them our suite of six guidance notes, which have now been published on the Central Council website which they were very happy to approve.

Having not really considered bell ringing specifically before, they are 100% committed to making ringing part of the return of church activities. In the first instance though it must be just that. Our return will be about Sunday ringing as part of the church’s mission, not practice or self-indulgence, though they understood our longer-term desire and need to resume that as well. Mark Betson said it would be really good to get ringing going again, reminding everyone which day is Sunday, and letting the bells proclaim that the church is open. He wanted “a package of good news” to be launched together.

Brendan McCarthy was particularly cautious of any misinterpretation of the drop in the UK Government’s social distancing rule from 2m to 1m. He cited all the guidance coming to him that 2m was not sacrosanct, but that going from 2m to 1m represents a 10 fold increase in risk, and that he would remain cautious saying “Our first job is not to kill anyone.” Our return to ringing will therefore be cautious, socially distanced ringing, for a very limited period of 15 minutes, and only for services.

Mark and Brendan had meetings with Public Health England and UK Government that afternoon and this week. They promised to include ringing in the plans and coordinate with us. We advised that we would need a couple of weeks to get restarted, allowing for maintenance inspections, and they would clear such access with the Director of Cathedrals and Church Buildings. They were happy to link our Guidance Notes from the main Churchcare website where their primary Coronavirus guidance sits.

Ringing three or four bells for 15 minutes for a service is not what keeps most of us ringing. The novelty is going to wear off quite soon. It could be a long time before peals or even quarters are possible, and we won’t be able to do any teaching. However it is an essential part of the strategy for us getting ringing going again that the church values our contribution, and we have managed to get them to include us in their plans and see ringing as a positive that we want it to be. If we do not get bells ringing for Sunday service in this first phase of resumption then it will slow down later phases of opening up. It will reinforce the impression of us that some in the church have. 

We don’t know exactly which day this will be from yet, although some Dioceses have said they expect to have services after 4th July. We received specific confirmation that access to towers to check bell installations ready for ringing was approved, provided it is done safely by more than one person, socially distanced.

We therefore need to try and find ways of making this positive. Perhaps it is the opportunity to get ringing going in all those churches which rarely have their bells rung at all. It could be the start of something for those churches.

Finally I would like to thank all my colleagues on the Central Council Executive and Workgroups (SMWG in particular) who have worked very hard in the last couple of weeks (and Giles Blundell for a dose of inspiration).

The full guidance can be found here https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus/

Simon Linford
President, CCCBR

Published 25th June 2020

President’s Blog #12

Three months after most of us last rang tower bells there is a glimmer of hope. Bell ringing resumption, in a very limited way, is on the Church’s agenda alongside choirs and organs. Well done to Mark Regan for finding who it was in the Church of England who is advising government, and setting up a meeting with them yesterday morning. A separate report of this meeting will be published shortly, when the accompanying guidance notes have been checked by the Church (just in case they changed their mind today!)

Ringing for Grenfell highlighted how low down the pecking order of consultees ringers are when anything to do with ringing is considered. The Diocese of London announced that bells would ring for Grenfell on the same day that the Government published its guidance on opening churches confirmed that bellringing is still not a permitted activity. This is one of the reasons we are trying to raise the profile of ringing. We are firmly on the radar now and await developments.

The first of my three favourite ringing days of the year didn’t happen in fine style. I certainly benefitted from having at least 10 fewer pints. Matthew Tosh and his team’s wonderful “Not The Twelve Bell Live” helped compensate some of the 1,000 or so ringers who might otherwise have headed to Sheffield for the 12 Bell Final.

Virtual ringing continues to entertain and amuse. I laughed out loud at a comment in the Take-Hold Lounge when someone said they had an enquiry from someone who wanted to learn to ring and they were asked what timezone they were in! That must be the first time that has ever happened!

The custodian of the Lair of the Snow Tiger, Mark Davies (aka Embee Dee) put together a Zoom quarter peal of Stedman Triples with ringers in eight different countries. Is there no limit to how far boundaries can be pushed? “We choose to ring Stedman Triples in Ringing Room not because it is easy but because it is hard.”

Don Morrison has provided a US server for Graham John’s Handbell Stadium. How long before the rather disconcerting “Men in Black” avatars are replaced by people of your choice? Or maybe toy characters! I would so like to ring handbells with a band of muppets.

There is a question of whether any of these ringing tools that have emerged in lockdown will survive and become ongoing support for ringers. Richard Johnston has founded ‘The Dumbbell Society’ and is organising practices for people with dumbbells linked together via Abel and a dose of magic. They have already managed to ring Bob Doubles on distributed simulators, and this is potentially very interesting.

The Council’s Strategic Priorities have now been published on the website, having been serialised in The Ringing World. These were developed at the start of the year and are guiding Council Workgroup activities. They can be found here

Julia Cater’s working party looking at gender imbalance in ringing is well into the data gathering and research phase. Her team of seven will be publishing a website shortly and via that will be asking people with stories to tell to get in touch.

Bryn Reinstadler has kindly agreed to develop a new multi media publication on learning to call and conduct. She is going to focus particularly on making sure it doesn’t matter where in the circle you call from, to try and get us away from feeling that you have to ring a back bell to conduct.

I am delighted that we are continuing to get new people to work on the Council’s initiatives. The latest recruit is Paul Mounsey, who has agreed to represent the College Youths in the Council’s initiative that no ringer should meet a barrier to their own progression (Strategic Priority 2). The officers of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths have also agreed to support this in principle.

By the time you read this in The Ringing World a new leader of the Historical & Archive Workgroup will be in place, taking over the reins from Doug Hird. Historical & Archive covers a range of activities from the Library to the Carter Ringing Machine. Next month, workgroup member Gareth Davies will be doing a star turn on the Churches Conservation Trust webinar series – his lecture ‘The Ringing Isle’ is on 16th July.

Would your project benefit from £1,000? Ecclesiastical Insurance runs regular awards programmes under which they give £1,000 to whichever causes have received the most nominations. A bit like choosing your favourite charity at a supermarket checkout. Does anyone else always just put it in the tub with the least tokens to even it up? (When I first went to ringers’ teas I used to have pieces of the least popular cakes because I didn’t want anyone to think their cake was unpopular. Does anyone else do that?) The Central Council managed to win one in 2017 and the Peterborough DG has also benefited. It just needs some coordination. Rather than apply again, we thought it would be better to bring it to others’ attention and see if anyone can suggest a project we can all support.

David Smith and Tim Hine in the V&L group have recruited Nich Wilson to lead on Ringing Centre strategy co-ordinating with ART which has its network of ART Hubs. Nich emailed us out of the blue a couple of months ago and said he was interested in getting involved so it’s great to find him a project.

Ringing Around Devon, the quarterly newsletter of the Guild of Devonshire Ringers, was circulated and had an astonishing 18 pages of tightly pack material. And that’s in a period of no ringing! Maybe we should circulate more lockdown newsletters and share more experiences. I remember a long time ago there was a competition for the best newsletter. Tony Kench submitted the College Youths Newsletter, which was produced by him with great pride, only for it to be discounted on the grounds of being “too professional”. A great injustice at the time!

Simon Linford
President CCCBR

President’s Blog #11

So much has happened in the last two weeks that it is difficult to know where to start. Maybe with ringingroom appearing on BBC News – a great achievement led by CC PR Vicki Chapman, its creators Bryn and Leland, Anthony Matthews for being an eloquent ‘face to camera’ and the online participants. Mainstream media taking a genuine interest and helping to promote us.

Every now and again I post a question on Facebook and the email list which captures the imagination or the mood. Last Sunday it was a link to a list of quarter peal composers, which did not need studying for long to see that it was 99.9999% male. Ringing starts off with 50:50 male/female recruits, the Youth Contest looks about 50:50, university ringing is relatively balanced. But when you look at tower captains, conductors, composers, people asked to call a touch on a tower grab – the imbalance kicks in. If anyone doesn’t think that’s an issue, read some of the impassioned posts in that string, which hit 150 responses in a day (now 194, but wandering). There are even performances on ringingroom which have female ringers on the front bells! Julia Cater is leading a project to establish the scale of this subconscious bias and see what we can do about it. She is in the research phase and keen to hear from anyone who would like to contribute.

Great ideas come to us from all quarters. Quilla Roth in Washington emailed me a spreadsheet of all the training webinars she had found, with a suggestion that we publish an index of them. With quick work from Web Editor Mark Elvers, and a ring around of the producers of all the pieces, we got the Index published within a week of Quilla’s email. There are so many good webinars now, and more being produced all the time. ART, Lewisham District, Cambridge District and the St Martin’s Guild are particularly active. One positive of lockdown at least. https://cccbr.org.uk/youtube-index/

At the end of the Brumdingers practice each week we give a chocolate medal to whoever has made the greatest contribution to the practice that week. My virtual chocolate medal this week goes to Laura Goodin, for taking the initiative to organise the first of what may be many Plain Bob Doubles clinics on ringingroom. She recruited teachers, helpers and students via the Take-Hold Lounge, and from reading comments after they were great.

James Ramsbottom of the V&L Workgroup produced a guide to using ringingoom https://cccbr.org.uk/2020/06/07/ringing-room-a-users-guide/ All the online platforms are contributing to helping keep ringers together, and enabling some even to make progress.

Leaving most of this Blog until finishing a very interesting Zoom session with the Guild of Devonshire Ringers has left me facing a small hours finish. (I have promised Will copy by the time he wakes up tomorrow.) It was great to discuss the Strategic Priorities with them – fascinating to get their views for instance on the place of call changes in the overall mix. I am sure that we have to get a culture where ringing good rounds and call changes is a perfectly acceptable target. We are putting people off. One person on a Zoom I had with the South Walsham ringers last week said “if I could go back to my band post lockdown and say ‘all we need to do is ring call changes well’ they will love me forever.”

Call changes then had a major feature in last week’s Ringing World and the Accidental ringer blog covered the subject, following the discussion in virtual South Walsham. If you don’t follow the Accidental ringer it is always a good read and her blog on Strategic Priority 5 is here

https://dingdong887180022.wordpress.com/2020/06/03/strategic-priority-5-if-you-were-forced-to-choose/

Along with a trip to Bromyard last week that is the last of the Zoom bookings I have in my diary. I have learned a lot from people I have talked to who I might not otherwise have ever met, and appreciate the interest they have shown in the Council and its work.

More guild and associations have held their AGMs using Zoom. Furthering my research into how to run AGMs I joined the ODG for theirs and can report that it was a very professionally run show (I managed to do all the ironing as well but they didn’t know that!). The Council’s AGM is on course for September and Secretary Mary Bone is working very hard on assembling the paperwork. She will start getting nervous as I adopt my lastminute.com approach to all the things that seem to have my name next to them. End of the month really does mean that. Don’t panic Mary!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote 1000 words (Blog length) for a Newsletter if anyone else has space to fill? Would Newsletter Editors welcome a string of material from Workgroups or are you pretty self sufficient? It couldn’t be particularly timely but it might be possible to serve up some articles once a quarter or so for general use. Is there a Newsletter Editor mailing list or group?

Last week was ‘Volunteer Week’. (Who makes these up? Today is ‘World Oceans Day’ btw). I saw Exeter Cathedral’s bellringers featured in a Volunteer Week piece, Birmingham and Worcester Cathedrals made a point of mentioning the value of their bellringers in their Volunteers Week releases and I am sure others did too. It is sometimes difficult for the ringers of these ‘bigger’ towers to become part of the church community, but it pays dividends.

Monday 1st June turned into ‘National Handbell Day’, overshadowing World Reef Awareness Day in the national consciousness. Lockdown restrictions enabled non family handbell bands to assemble in the open air, armed with sun cream and hand sanitiser. My excursion to Great Barr park for some Cambridge Royal didn’t result in a post on Bellboard, but others did, and seven handbells peals were rung in the first week (the Page household becoming a hotbed of activity).

Simon Linford
President, CCCBR

CCCBR Stewardship & Management Workgroup When We Ring Again

When we ring again

Our bells have not been rung for many months so it is very important that ringers arrange to undertake appropriate maintenance checks and any necessary remedial work before we start to ring in every tower.

Even though we may be asked or wish to ring at the first opportunity, it is essential that we make sure that it is safe to do so. We do not wish to cause yet more problems for the NHS and emergency services!

Stay at home may no longer apply, but protect the NHS, save lives must still be a firm resolve!

In addition, in most areas people in the vicinity of the tower have become accustomed to the unusual quiet – the bells have not been rung, many church chiming clocks have stopped, and traffic, aircraft, building and industry noises have all reduced markedly. This is a good opportunity to alert neighbours through the local media.

What to do as we prepare to ring again

First, it must be remembered that the majority of bells are the property of the church, so the Tower Captain should confirm with the incumbent that they agree to ringing recommencing.

We strongly advise that all ringing societies ensure that the conditions in every tower are checked. This includes those towers where there are few or no ringers since for these towers, the correspondents may just be a key holder and they may well not be aware that checks should be undertaken or what to look for. We need to avoid the risk that they could let ringers into a tower many weeks or months after we start to ring again, without any checks being done.

Why are we advising that these checks are done, when no one will have been in the church or tower? Even though this should have been the case, no one will have been aware of what may have occurred – for example:

  1. The louvres and bird netting may have been dislodged so that birds have entered the tower and built up what can become very large piles of twigs! (see The Ringing World, issue 5631, March 2019)
  2. Somebody may have entered the tower for some reason, legitimate or otherwise, and left something or removed something such that the conditions in the tower are no longer safe.
  3. Something may have broken or become dislodged during the period since the tower was last visited and could now be in a dangerous state.
  4. If the bells were left mouth up, then something may have fallen into a bell, for example rainwater. (IMPORTANT – checks in the bell chamber with bells up will only be feasible in towers where it is safe to move around without any risk of injury while the bells are up.)

For the relatively few towers where bells are usually left mouth up all the time, this may be an ideal time to undertake fuller inspections and any maintenance, whilst the bells are still down and before being rung again.

The schedule is taken from the CCCBR Manual of Belfry Maintenance 2017 (available here https://cccbr.org.uk/product-category/maint-rest/) It is essential that the Weekly, Monthly and Quarterly checks are completed. Also the Annual checks if those have not been done since about September 2019. Once complete, add these checks to the tower maintenance records, as advised on Page 110 of the Manual. If you do not have people who have the necessary skill and expertise to complete the checks, then ask for assistance from your local ringing society (https://cccbr.org.uk/about/members/)

This is also the time to alert local residents that the bells will be ringing again. This can be on the church website, posters on the church notice board, church newsletters and even notes through letter boxes in the surrounding area. Take the opportunity to remind them of normal service and practice times, along with other extra ringing that may be proposed. Invite them to see the ringers in action – it may be the time to recruit some new recruits!

Alison Hodge
Stewardship & Management Workgroup Lead
smlead@cccbr.org.uk

President’s Blog #10

Who would have thought that seven hours of virtual Council meetings could be enjoyable? Such was the variety of discussion and number of people involved last Sunday that it was no hardship, and really quite a nice day in. The ‘to do’ list is rather more frightening but at least it is shared widely.

Four new faces joined our meetings for the first time. Dickon Love I mentioned last time, and gave a very interesting (and professional) presentation on the Dove development plans, while Colin Newman and Ian Roulstone (see blogs passim) took the opportunity to get input into the schools, youth groups and university work. Then Mark Regan contributed to Council work for the first time. I have asked Mark to establish an as yet unnamed Workgroup to develop strategic relationships with the Church, heritage and funding bodies. He brings lots of contacts with organisations such as the Church Building Council, NHLF, Arts Council, DACs, Cathedrals, etc, and is already helping on a number of initiatives.

One participant in that and many recent Zoom calls is no longer with us. My constant lap companion Not Sherman (so called because we already had a cat called Sherman and this wasn’t him) shuffled off this mortal coil. He had become a social media star in his own right and will be missed by all his fans.

This isn’t a great time to be in any bell related business although there was good news this week in that the CofE has allowed opening of churches to contractors, which should enable bell work to resume. And while on the subject of bell work, the deadline for nominations for the Westley Awards for bell maintenance is 31st May – this is particularly aiming to recognise the development of skills in belfry work (search on google if you didn’t see the link).

The Surrey AGM was much trailed on social media and congratulations for doing it. There is a recording on their website which is worth watching by any association contemplating such a meeting. My only comment was that CCCBR was spelt CCCRB on the slide!! But at least you have elected good CC Reps who I am sure will be making an active contribution.

I am writing this watching the RSCM’s Zoom discussion on how to keep church music alive. In many ways their problem is greater than ours. There were some high-quality bookcases behind the speakers – clearly curated specially for camera. Unlike my back ground which is a set of bookcases and cabinets filled with hippos. And that was on the same day that the Sunday Times published an article on the potential for large-scale permanent closure of churches.

The breadth of subject matter for ringing Zoom meetings and talks seems to be increasing as organisers run out of training material. The Worcester Cathedral ringers kindly invited me to their weekly Zoom practice last week to talk about the Central Council and their place in it (and yes the audience was the same size at the end as the beginning), and I have another couple of gigs booked in. If anyone else has got to the point of needing to find external speakers I am more than happy to give what is quite a personal view of the Council, and take feedback from the coal face.

Lots of these invitations to join people or to think about different things come as a result of people saying “I read your blog and…” That is a great motivator for continuing to write them, along with the challenge of introducing surprising words! Just wait for this week’s.

Top entertainment was the Leicester Guild’s Monday night Bristol Maximus extravaganza marking the 70th anniversary of the first peal thereof, which was rung by a local Leicester band. Garry Mason gave an excellent talk about the peal and its ringers, which was followed by a gallant attempt to demonstrate quite how difficult it is to ring Bristol Maximus on ringingroom.com with a hand-picked 11 plus one stand-in who happened to be spotted lurking in the churchyard. “Let’s just ring four leads!” he said.

Chris Mew has retired from his very long-standing role as the CC’s Safeguarding Officer. He may well have been in post from the time subject first came to prominence and was responsible for all the Council’s guidance papers, as well as maintaining close contact with the Church’s safeguarding hierarchy. Chris’ contribution to Council work is far greater than just this and hopefully it won’t be too long before we can thank him appropriately. Chris has handed over to Ann White and Dave Bassford, who will share the role.

The other day out cycling, Charlie asked me one of her random questions – “Dad, how is your mind organised?” Tricky. I know how I recall methods though. I see a complete half line as a picture in my head, and in spliced I can quickly recall those pictures. Eleanor says that where I seem to have a neatly indexed filing cabinet she has a lucky dip bag. I asked in the PPE Facebook group what other people see and pretty much established that all our minds work differently.

I have finally worked out why there are two CCCBR Facebook groups. One isn’t a Group it’s a Page! Duh.

Plans for the Birmingham University of Bell Ringing have taken a leap forward with the identification of a site we can have, and the Leader of the Council telling his planning team to ‘make it happen.’ There are a few hurdles left of course, and a lot of money to find, but the plan published in The Ringing World a few weeks ago could yet come to fruition.

I am looking forward to the first YouTube competition finishing this week. 24 entries in so far including two handbells touches. Bostin’!

Simon Linford
President, CCCBR