Friday 4th December 2020
The Suffolk representatives all made their way to Hereford separately, David Salter being the first to arrive as he rang a peal at Leominster (SS. Peter and Paul), Herefordshire on the Friday and another at Hereford Cathedral on Saturday.
Veronica Downing arrived early on Saturday to join one of the tower tours and I arrived later in the day, via Dumfries, just in time to grab a ring at Burghill.
On the Sunday there was service ringing and other ‘mini tours’ before a meeting for new delegates to allow them to meet with committee chairmen. This was followed by a ‘Songs of Praise’ where the singing was glorious and the organ was played by Chris Kippin who demonstrated that ringing isn’t his only notable ability. On Sunday evening there was a most enjoyable reception where Ronnie & I shared a table with Laith and Jane Reynolds who updated us on the wonderful things being done in Australia, particularly Western Australia where there are about 20 bells projects in progress. They have even started installing bells in schools! Another Aussie, Christopher O'Mahony was also with us, an IT man at Harrow School. He is Chairman of the Tower Stewardship Committee. It was also good to see James Smith a Rushmere ringer who lives in Hong Kong and represents ANZAB again. He was in Hereford this week, the ANZAB Annual Meeting next week and the Italian Annual Meeting the following week!
The day of the Annual Meetings arrived, registration at 9am and the Central Council AGM started at 10am. Stephen Pettman joined us. The meeting was the first of a new triennium. Most of the day was taken up with the nomination and election of committee members but the following is a brief record of decisions taken.
The meeting was interrupted for The Ringing World Annual Meeting to be held.
The Ringing World is surviving but needs major changes to be made. Sales have remained steady but significantly lower than a few years ago. Discussion took place to find ways of reducing cost and increasing interest.
The RW has tried to improve the content, reduce the cost and introduce different ways to subscribe.
There is now an ‘on line’ version available but there has been a disappointing uptake. They had also tried to make an offer to towers via County associations with limited success. Many Guilds had not forwarded the correspondence.
The anniversary celebrations were extremely successful.
The Ringing Foundation Annual Meeting also interrupted the Central Council Meeting.
Brian Meads explained their ‘Business Plan’. They are of the opinion that in order to progress we should have professional staff as do The Boy Scouts, Cycling, Canoeing etc. He explained how the canoeist’ success was revolutionised by employing professional administrators, in particular to coordinate recruitment and training. This would involve a levy of about £3 per head per ringer but he put forward a very convincing case.
The Integrated Teacher Training Scheme (ITTS) scheme should be very good but the implementation required professional full time commitment. The objective is to produce 500 young ringers per year as the minimum to arrest the decline in numbers over a period of three years. After year three the Creation of a Modern Teaching Structure (CMTS) body will have two ‘Field Officers’ and an administrator office building as funds allow. There will be a comprehensive electronic facility to underpin the delivery of operations.
The meeting ended at 7.30pm. There was some very useful discussion about ‘the way ahead’ with particular emphasis on recruitment and training. The Ringing Foundation, the Education Committee and the Ringing Centres Committee are all working to the same end and it is hoped that they will have the same agenda and cooperate.
It was not an enjoyable experience! 95% of the time was taken up with the election of members of committees. There must be a better way. I didn’t envy Stephen and Veronica having to drive for over 4 hours afterwards.Alan McBurnie
This was my first attendance at a Central Council event and as a new rep for the Suffolk Guild. Travelling into the unknown on my own was a bit daunting but I knew the county of Hereford to be beautiful and just hoped that the sat-nav would do its job. I note that Alan had an interesting route from Suffolk to Herefordshire via Dumfries and I left early on Saturday to take the more direct route to arrive in time for the first tower at Bromyard, a very pleasant 14 cwt ring of 8 in a beautiful old market town.
Tour B that I had chosen took in Leominster, 22 ¾ cwt 10, a really enjoyable old fashioned ring, where Mark Pugh, Ringing Master of the Hereford Guild, is Tower Captain. I was made very welcome and given encouragement and support from ‘famous’ names that I had seen in the Ringing World.
For me, one of the real pleasures of this weekend was meeting ringers who are longstanding on the Central Council, masters of their art, but who were willing to help a less able ringer like me, as a prop standing behind, and share with the newcomers what happens at the Central Council weekend. By the end of Saturday, I’d sussed out that the ringing tour was more a tower grab – ring once and scoot on to the next tower and I was feeling much more relaxed – especially after the fun and noisy ringing at Pembridge; a 15 cwt 5 rung on the ground floor of a squat tower that standards separate from the church in the churchyard. It feels like the next stage up from East Burgholt with a short draft, bells just above your head and a massive old timber frame, which supports the frame above. I rang with some of the local ringers. They like Plain Bob minimus with tenor behind – perhaps not surprising. The front four hang with the ropes in a straight line and the tenor is remote on the opposite side of the ‘circle’. Hand signals supplemented the calling and ear defenders are not worn.
On the Sunday morning I rang at Colwall on the “Ting Tang ten” as described by the locals, a 10 cwt 10. Very well struck rounds and call-changes were achieved because of the added support of visitors to supplement the local band. I had wanted to ring here as my grandfather and mother are buried in the churchyard and used to live in West Malvern. I also wanted to revisit the Malvern Hills for childhood memories’ sake and to take in the fabulous views to the Welsh Hills. A leisurely lunch in Ledbury, and further trips down memory lane but no opportunity to ring here, as Ledbury service ringing clashed with Colwall.
In the afternoon there was a “Welcome and briefing for new representatives”, where the work of the Central Council was explained and the very many committees present, whose members, full of energy, tried to engage the newbies and perhaps ensnare them as new committee members. Alan and I had good and interesting discussions with committees concerned with education, training and ringing centres. We met live-wire and vibrant people like Pip Penney, who has written new booklets on teaching tips to help teachers teach and John Harrison, author of the New Ringers Handbook; an excellent publication in practical comb-binding and illustrated in colour with photographs and clear drawings. Alan and I decided that for this year we would not get involved on committees at national level but put some thoughts together for the Guild.
After this meeting, a service of Songs of Praise at St Nicholas’s church, where Chris Kippen accompanied on the organ and sent us out with a Prelude and Fugue. The sound of 150 hearty voices in a church with excellent acoustics truly was a wow-factor with the hymn ‘O praise ye the Lord’.
The Evening Reception and Dinner was a good social event especially with the ANZAB reps on our table and new friends were made and existing friendship extended.
Alan has already reported extensively on the Annual meetings. All four Suffolk reps were present and it was good to meet up. This is a long day with great quantities of discussion, but mostly constructive with some elements of interest. I think what surprised me most was that readership of the Ringing World is only 3,000 and membership of the Guilds is 38,000. Much was said about the future of the Ringing World as a publication in its present format and equally on recruitment and retention of ringers to stem the shrinking numbers. As ever, the issue of money and subscriptions came up and asides of what “cheapskate folk” bell ringers are. (Well, maybe some truth in this – comparisons were made with other leisure pursuit subscriptions and my local choir membership is £90 per annum or £30 per term to ease the pain.)
Kate Flavell has been elected as president and she gave an excellent keynote speech of welcome to the new reps on Sunday – a breath of fresh air and someone who I think will smooth out wrinkles of any controversial debate with her vision of collaboration between committees and the secondary organisations underpinning the Central Council.
I am looking forward to a weekend in Chester next year.Veronica Downing 2011