• Alison Hodge
    Simon Linford talks about ringing up in the West Country style in his latest blog. In the article he includes a highlighted box that refers to everyone having the experience of ringing heavier bells and being strong enough to ring them up in peal. I do not intend to enter a debate about the strength and capability of women versus men, as that was a point for debate in the RW a while ago.

    The point that I ask here is whether ringers in the west country still tend to ring "their bell" and how that helps with the quality of the striking. I have rung as a visitor on several occasions in Devon and Cornwall, mainly quite a while ago now, and noted that each member of a band was usually accustomed to ringing just one bell in the tower. They did not move to ring any bell in the circle. This meant that they became very familiar with the subtleties of one particular bell in their home tower. Learning to ring it up and down and ring in call changes enables the ringer to appreciate how to control the bell to a very high level of accuracy in conjunction with each of the other bells in the tower. Moreover, the band learned to ring together not just as a band of people but on their particular "instrument" ie ring of bells. Each ringer knowing each bell and being able to ring it well with others was a key part of achieving an excellent well struck piece of ringing. Getting to know the bells is therefore also part of the challenge for the band when visiting other towers as they do so often in the west country as part of their competition ringing. (For those not familiar with this, there is not just the annual society striking competition as held by most ringing societies, but competitions every few weeks for a large part of the year.)

    Getting to KNOW the bell is not simply "oh the 4th is a bit slow and handstroke" - knowing the bell is every detail of how the bell moves every stroke and importantly how to correct it, to place it relative to every other bell. It involves how the clapper swings relative to the bell itself. This is all based on the physics and engineering of the whole bell, clapper, installation set up.

    Knowing the instrument used for a performance is similar to musicians really getting to know their own instrument, or pianists and organists having to get used to the instrument that may be provided at a venue. Similarly traditional craftsmen, technicians and engineers always use their own tools that they get to know them and from which they produce the best results.

    So, yes, ringing different bells in a tower and visiting different towers to experience different bells helps develop ringing skills. But in my view, few ringers outside the west country really focus on mastering the nuances of their bell alongside the rest of a band each on their bell in a ring. This is something that they retain in the west country and probably contributes hugely to achieving such excellent striking in called changes. With method ringing, the focus is much more towards pushing ahead with more methods rather than the striking and really getting to know the subtleties of the performance on the instrument being used.
  • Simon Linford
    Good question. Incidentially I have just removed the paragraph in the Raise chapter of my call change book that referred to gender balance in ringing up. It was from a Devon ringer who said actually in most 'ordinary' towers they don't ring up and down all the time, but ring most peals off the stay, so there is much more opportunity for all ringers to ring all bells. She said it was probably just those teams practicing for competitions that ring the same bells all the time.
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