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As one of the Diocesan representatives, I recently attended the Central Council of Church Bell ringers annual meeting held at Wells. Representatives come from all over the country, and indeed from other countries such as New Zealand, South Africa and America.
As the Council nears its centenary we are seeking ways to contribute that little bit extra to the future health of ringing. I wrote last year about the nation wide survey, the most comprehensive ever. Then we discussed the facts and trends. Many bells are silent and many more not rung regularly for services. The main problem is shortage of ringers. The wish then was to double numbers in ten years. This year we considered what we ought to do to make things happen.
Ringing has actually declined slightly less than other church activities, and there have been many silent bells for a long time. Plenty come forward to learn to ring, but many give up. Of the 6000 taught annually, 2000 stop within the year. Relatively few are still ringing ten years on, but many of them will continue for life.
Retention is a perennial problem. We have become conditioned to losses of 80% or 90%, but solving this one problem could transform things. During the debate on this subject, we turned to relations with the rest of the Church. The survey showed that though antagonism was rare, relationships were not always close.
I was sitting next to Gilbert Thurlow, one time All Saints curate and still an active ringer at eighty. He told us he regularly received our magazine, (after all these years), and that in it regularly appeared lively articles on ringing. He spared my blushes by mentioning no names. I was surprised to know that my jottings travelled so far. I wonder where else they go.
Our own numbers problem recently improved. We are delighted to welcome Nigel and Jenny Herriott who have moved into Wokingham.
John Harrison (Jun 1990)
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