Here are a few ideas for the lockdown period. I hope they help to keep you interested in ringing, distracted from some of the distress around us and help you practice some skills even though we aren’t able to get into the tower!
Keeping the Band together
A lot of bands have been keeping together through social media, such as WhatsApp or Facebook, and through the use of video conferencing software like Skype, Zoom or similar apps. They are all pretty easy to set up although they need a computer or smartphone.
There is also a new website called Ringing Room which allows groups of ringers in different places to practice methods together – albeit using a keyboard rather than a rope and wheel. It runs best using the Google Chrome browser (and apparently doesn’t work on Microsoft Edge) and we had a play with it with ringers spread from Wells to Sussex, Kent and Essex all the way to Cheshire and managed to make it work well although it took a few goes to get it going properly. You could even use it to try ringing two bells – a get started with some handbell ringing.
So – what about running a short practice on Ringing Room and then adjourning to the virtual pub or coffee shop?
It’s also important to make sure those who don’t have access to the internet or smartphones don’t get forgotten. Just give them a call!
The Central Council PRO, Vicki Chapman, has put together a YouTube playlist consisting of some interesting documentaries and short programmes about bells and ringing. Follow the link to try some of them out and see how many KCA members you can see either prominently or in the background!
There are also many examples of good ringing on YouTube (and plenty of less good ringing too!). I have assembled a few examples in this playlist but if you come across any others you like please let me know and I will add them. I have tried to include all numbers and some Devon Call Change ringing to show how amazingly good their striking can be (even though some don’t approve of their handling!).
Not a video, but very interesting nonetheless are the podcasts called Fun With Bells made by a lady called Cathy Booth. They cover all kinds of ringing and many different ringers in a series of interviews. Well worth a listen.
Improving your striking – without touching a bell!
Ringing is a very public kind of performance art but good striking isn’t always easy to achieve. At least half of the problem with achieving good striking is being able to hear your bell and to work out if it’s in the right place … especially if you’re trying to ring the bell at the same time!
One way of using this time out of the tower is to develop your listening skills and there are a few useful tools to try. Before doing so however I would suggest listening to this podcast, 15 tips to improve your striking, which is full of useful tips.
One excellent site for improving your listening skills is Julian Back’s http://tadhill.com/ringing/#. He developed it for his local band and it includes an excellent little app for testing your skills and even has a competitive edge for those who like that kind of thing.
There is another site which contains lots of ringing theory (see below) but has a useful discussion about both good striking and striking errors. It has links to some example recordings of errors and even gives you the chance to try judging a striking competition!
For a bit of thought provoking theory you could try the presentations made by Colin Newman and Richard Grimmett at the recent ART Conference or delve into John Harrison’s Tower Handbook which is also available online with the section on Learning to Listen here.
Finally it’s worth listening to lots of examples of good ringing to get a real appreciation of what we are aiming for. Apart from the YouTube videos mentioned above anyone who uses Spotify can search on “Church Bells” and will find a couple of albums of bell recordings including Church Bells of Kent from 1980.
Brush up on your ringing theory
Sometimes when we have too much else to do the whole of ringing theory can seem too much to cope with! With a little bit more time on our hands it may be a good opportunity to try.
There are a few resources on line and I have put some links below but probably the most important thing to have is some squared paper (yes – like your old Maths books!), a pencil and an eraser. A few coloured pens are helpful too. Writing out the numbers and drawing your own blue lines really helps you understand how methods work – even simple ones like plain hunting.
There are two books available for free download that are useful. One is on Learning Methods which has a lot of useful theory and the other about Place Notation which attempts to demystify all those weird numbers next to the blue lines! There’s another useful explanation of place notation here (a bit shorter too!).
For some general notes on ringing theory Notes on Ringing by John Heaton is good. Sadly John died recently at quite a young age but his site is still there and has plenty of little gems.
Finally, as a catch all website for finding lots of things about ringing (something for everyone!) it’s hard to beat Change Ringing Resources. There’s lots to explore about ringing history, theory, methods etc etc.
Above all, keep having fun with your ringing!