Does bell ringing appeal?

The bell ringers of Bath Abbey – and elsewhere around our local churches –  are recruiting and with a very special bell ringing anniversary in mind.

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The east end of Bath Abbey

During the First World War, 1,400 bell ringers died on the battlefields and churches across the country are looking for 1,400 new campanologists to help mark the centenary of the Armistice in November 2018.

Just after the war ended the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (CCCBR) wrote to all ringing associations across the country to compile the Rolls of Honour.

During the First World War Centenary, the CCCBR has been reviewing this list and has discovered a further 323 bell ringers who died in service. In total 1,400 bell ringers lost their lives.

Bell ringing is a British tradition, and the British Isles are home to a distinctive style of bell ringing called ‘change ringing’ which produces a peal of bells, part of our national ‘soundscape’.

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Most people don’t realise that outside the British Isles change ringing towers are few and far between. While the British Isles has some 5,500 change ringing towers, the rest of the world put together has less than 150.

According to a leaflet – issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – “Bell ringing is woven into the fabric of our society, marking rites of passage in our lives including christenings, weddings and funerals. It often marks and forms part of important local occasions and national celebrations – recently this has included the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympics and Paralympics and the Lumiere light festival in Durham.

Bell ringers have regular competitions and often come together to ring just for the joy of it. Although bell towers are commonly in churches, you don’t have to go to church to be a bell ringer.

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Bell ringers are a friendly, inclusive community with people of all faiths and none. With 5,5000 bell towers in Britain, there’s at least one near you!”

The November event is being called Ringing Remembers and is open to new ringers, those who are already learning and those who would like to come back to ringing having trained previously.

All you have to do is email bells@big-ideas.org who will connect you to your local bell ringing teacher by the Central Council for Church Bell Ringers.

Training usually takes place once a week for one to two hours but some fast-track courses are also available.

At the end of the project – with the special anniversary ringing on November 11th – all new recruits will receive a badge for participation.

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The Ministry leaflet continues: “When the bells rang out on November 11, 1918, they announced the end of the most catastrophic war the world had yet seen. At that time, bells were at the heart of the community, marking events of great significance and as a means of communication long before modern technology connected us. At the end of the war, many people heard about the Armistice through bell ringing.

Mark the centenary of the end of the war by ringing with your community and others across the nation in November 2018.”