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Bellringers are represented, through their local ringing societies, on the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers. It has members from across the English speaking world, but although ringing is currently growing fastest in Australia and the USA, 98% of ringing towers are still in Britain.
As a member of the Central Council I attend its annual meeting, which this year was in Hull as anyone will know who listened to the service from Holy Trinity Hull broadcast on Radio 4 at 8.10 am on 24th May. The church is impressive – airy and light – with the largest nave of any parish church.
As instructed, we were in our seats by 7.30 am, as the choir and clergy neared the end of their rehearsal. We then had to rehearse the starts of hymns and prayers for the benefit of the sound engineers, and we were instructed to turn off phones and not rustle our service sheets.
The ringing that was broadcast with the service had been recorded the day before, and we listened to it while watching for the red light that would tell us we were on air. The service itself went like clockwork, as it had to. There were none of the familiar pauses between items – as soon as each hymn, prayer or reading stopped the next item began immediately. They even cut a verse from one hymn in order to fit the broadcast schedule.
The songs of praise service in the afternoon was at a more civilised time and so the church was packed, and it was preceded by live ringing.
From what we saw Hull has much fine architecture, including the splendid Guildhall where we had dinner. The Lord Mayor was the guest and she informed us at length about all the investment that had been and was about to be made into Hull, soon to be City of Culture 2017.
These events were a small part of a very busy weekend of committee meetings, informal discussion and of course the Council meeting itself. The duration and outcome of Council meetings can be hard to predict depending on how controversial the agenda proves to be, but on this occasion we finished ahead of schedule so I had time for a drink before catching my train home. On the train I found myself discussing committee business with a fellow traveller – a reminder that the Council’s work on behalf of ringers goes on year round, not just at the annual meeting.
John Harrison (June 2015)
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