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Olympic ringing

2012 is the Olympic year, and ringers up and down the land will be ringing to mark various events. One of the 20 commissions from The Cultural Olympiad’s ‘New Music 20x12’, was awarded to The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and composer Howard Skempton. He worked with ringers to find out about ringing and composed a new piece ‘Five Rings Triples’. Radio 3 broadcast the first public performance just after midnight at New Year, and it will be rung many more times, including a performance on a portable ring of bells at the South Bank Centre in July.

Ringers have also worked with ‘More Than Gold’, whose mission is to enable UK churches to engage with the 2012 Games. One way ringers will engage is by ringing along the route of the Olympic Torch during its 70 day journey around the country. How Wokingham will be involved we don’t yet know. The outline route includes an overnight stop in Reading, and it will pass through Bracknell on its way there. But the route in between (probably on a vehicle, not on foot) won’t be released until April.

Another scheme to involve ringers was conceived by Martin Creed (who won a Turner Prize for an empty room with lights turning on and off). Sadly he didn’t find out about the practicalities before publicising his idea for all the bells in the country to ring as loud and as fast as possible for 3 minutes at 8am (originally it was 4am). After trying and failing to negotiate a more practical scheme, the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers declined to support it. Needless to say most of the media focused on this single negative story, rather than all the positive work done in connection with ringing for the Olympics.

When Radio Oxford picked up on the story, they wanted someone to interview. As one of Oxford Diocesan Guild’s Central Council representatives, and a member of the Council’s Public Relations Committee, I received a phone call that led to my being interviewed on air at 7.10am one Sunday in January – about the time I would normally be crawling out of bed.

Getting up early for the interview had a useful side effect. I was reading at the 8.00 service, so I needed to be there slightly early – which I was! For more about ringing for the Olympics, see: cccbr.org.uk/olympics/  

John Harrison (January 2012)


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