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It is no surprise that ringers are preparing for the year 2000. We have debated when the millennium really starts, but like everyone else accepted the inevitable that the fuss will occur in January 2000. There are two national projects: Ringing in the Millennium and Ring In 2000. Both are coordinated by the Central Council of Church Bellringers.
Ringing in the Millennium channels Millennium Commission funds into the restoration of unringable bells, augmentations to existing rings and the installation of new rings of bells. It is an umbrella project covering several hundred individual parish schemes.
The criteria are strict. 50% of the money must come from local resources, projects should not be viable without the grant, and work must be complete and paid for by 2000. Getting many separate ventures through all the hoops in a short time has been a challenge for the organisers. Responding to the orders is a huge load on the bell founders and hangers. Of course they welcome the business, but many suffered severe difficulties during the run up. Orders dried up as work was diverted to join the Millennium queue. Thankfully most survived but they now have a much shorter time to complete the somewhat delayed work. Ring in 2000 is investing in people rather than bell metal. Although there are roughly as many ringers as bells in the UK, their distribution means that many churches have too few ringers, or none at all. The aim is to recruit and train 10% more ringers (about 4000) before the year 2000. The flagship event for this effort is a scheme, mooted by the Historic Churches Trust and adopted by the Central Council of Church Bellringers, to ring every bell in the land as part of a short service at noon on 1st January 2000.
Achieving this literally is unlikely. For example, bells in many City of London churches are regularly rung, at different times, by the same ringers. Likewise. rural bands in joint parishes often keep the bells of several churches ringing. The services are at different times because the same priest takes all the services. But high prole events stir the imagination and help with publicity. Most ringers are working to keep the bells ringing well into the new millennium, not just at its dawn.
Our Guild in the Oxford Diocese was ahead of the rest in identifying the need to train more new ringers. We have been running intensive courses on teaching ringing, tower management, bell maintenance, and other ways to help bands of ringers to get themselves up and running and to remain viable.
At All Saints, we we fortunate. We have a healthy band and plenty of talent able to train the modest number of new ringers we need. We are not complacent; we too have had lean times. Several of us have been involved with both Guild and national training activities helping those who we less fortunate than we are. There are leaflets about the Guild initiative on the notice boards. lf you am interested, please talk to any of the ringers.
John Harrison (Sep 1998)
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