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Guild Striking Competitions
16th May 2009

Afternoon Exning - the 6-bell competition for the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy

Being Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild is not altogether too consuming most of the year. Apart from the AGM, the occasional dedication and getting around to show my face, it's not overly hard work. But did I mention the Guild Striking Competitions?

Apart from peals, there's not much in ringing that can cause a debate amongst ringers themselves quite like the issue of striking competitions. Some see them as being an abuse of what ringing is all about - calling people to worship. Others think it is unfair to judge people's ringing. Often - though not always of course - they are the people that have had an unfortunate experience with judges comments. In the Suffolk Guild there is the issue of how many teams individual ringers include themselves in.

Before I report on what was a particularly enjoyable day, it is worth answering the above points. On the first one this is not the place to get into what many consider 'secular' ringing which includes peals and quarters that are not rung specifically with the church in mind but my own personal opinion is that peals, quarters and in particular striking competitions contribute towards a much better standard of ringing, including on Sunday mornings and bring positive attention to churches that are more than happy to accommodate such events.

Yes it may seem harsh to judge people's ringing, but in the main, judges aren't there to criticise. Besides, we need to judge our standards of ringing all the time, this - to me and many, many others - is a really fun way of doing it.

Many people ring for many different towers on a weekly or regular basis. Why should they choose which one of those towers that each value them who to ring for, especially as ultimately, the competition is not the be-all and end-all of the day? We can take these things too seriously, it's not a professional competition worth millions!

With this background, a huge turnout, not just of teams but also ringers gathered at Exning, the most westerly ring of bells in our Guild and a demanding ring of bells. That's not to mention the route to the belfry that was much like an Indiana Jones type route without the death-inducing traps, though a wasps nest at the west door was to be approached with understandable trepidation!

Brian Meads - my counterpart from the Essex Association - and John Hall were ready in the car to judge the thirteen bands and we got underway with Offton. After a slow turnover - come three o' clock we were still only three bands in - people dodged the wasps nest and were in the main all ready to ring as the previous band finished.

After three hours, it was time for tea. It is of course customary to thank those who use up their time and efforts to produce a feast for us ringers, but this time in particular, Mandy and her merry band of North-West helpers are to be truly congratulated as it became apparent that for whatever reason, there were an awful lot more people there than had given their names for tea! As the lengthy afternoon progressed, they were busy adding to the food already on offer, so thank you Mandy and co!

With the spread very much enjoyed, the judges got up, eager to justify the swimming pool and home cinema centre claimed on expenses that they assured me were necessary for them to judge the competition.

They separated out the Mitson Shield and The Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy, a sensible move with six teams entering a call-change band. Jonathan Stevens proudly collected the Lester Brett Trophy as conductor of the winning Sweffling band before I was then charged with presenting Owen Claxton with the Mitson Shield as St Mary-le-Tower won the competition for the first time in five years.

At this point it is well worth congratulating all who entered, ensuring that all four districts were represented for the first time for years. Particular congratulations to young Holly Abell, who in her very first striking competition and just eight months after her first handling lesson was a member of the Halesworth team that finished 2nd in the Lester Brett Trophy.

Mitson Shield
Pos. Team Method Faults
1st St Mary le Tower B Cambridge S Minor
2nd Norman Tower Plain Bob Minor 14
3rd St Mary le Tower A Plain Bob Minor 14½
4th Pettistree A Norwich S Minor 16
5th Offton Plain Bob Minor 24
6th Pettistree B Grandsire 26
7th Sproughton Plain Bob Minor 32½
Lester Brett Trophy
Pos. Team Faults
1st Sweffling 9
2nd Halesworth 16
3rd Debenham 1 22
4th Debenham A 39
5th Polstead 40
6th Nayland 64½

Evening Dalham - the 8-bell competition for the Rose Trophy

-The long afternoon session meant there was little time to chat as everyone bundled out of the hall gold-rush style and off to wonderful, isolated setting of Dalham church for the Rose Trophy, the 8-bell Competition. Another decent but thankfully more manageable entry of six teams got to grips with the flighty front bells (particularly the treble!) to produce some top ringing, but in the end St Mary-le-Tower held onto the trophy they won at Rendham last year.

Rose Trophy
Pos. Team Method Faults
1st St Mary le Tower Cambridge S Major 30½
2nd Pettistree Grandsire Triples 38
3rd NE District Stedman Triples 45
4th SE District Grandsire Triples 47½
5th NW District Plain Bob Major 53
6th Offton Grandsire Triples 67

The day was nicely rounded off with a large crowd in The Affleck Arms in the village as we invaded en mass and chatted, drank, distributed certificates and kept up to date on the Eurovision Song Contest, an even longer and more drawn out competition than ours!

My sincere thanks to the Exning and Dalham ringers for allowing us to use their bells, to Mandy and Ruth for organising it, to the judges Brian and John and to all who organised and/or rung for teams and helped make today such a success.

It was worth it, but it was a long day. Thankfully for me, next years event will be held in the South-East District and I am busy petitioning for Hasketon and Woodbridge as the locations! Keep Saturday, 15th May, 2010 free and get practicing!

Richard Munnings