• John de Overa
    Surely this should include bell ringing?

    "Members of the public will be consulted from Saturday on what values and traditions should be celebrated and how the adjudication process should work for deciding which of those nominated values is chosen."

  • J Martin Rushton
    Serious answer: yes. It's a unique tradition going back some hundreds of years, exactly what should be chosen.

    Frivolous answer: given some practice nights, isn't already included under "pantomime"?
  • Frank Cranmer
    Sorry to be a party-pooper, but what conceivable difference will it make? UNESCO recognition surely won't result in a rush of people wanting to learn to ring. (Nor will it improve my bell-handling.)
  • Richard Norman
    English style Full circle bell ringing must certainly be a unique traditional skill. The questions are how one vote does and how many supporters we may have? I sense an opportunity to get the art into all of the various local media and to really find out what people know about and think about it
  • Simon Linford
    When various of us with CC hats on looked at this a couple of years ago it was a non-starter because the UK had not signed the UNESCO treaty, despite some things elsewhere in Europe that looked far less deserving having such status. We also questioned whether it would actually make any difference at all. Looks like we're going to sign it now though.
  • John de Overa
    it would raise visibility and makes things such as publicity, and funding slightly easier. I think any effect on recruitment would be indirect.
  • Tina
    Thanks John, that is a useful piece of information. Worth keeping on top of though.

    We do need to look into this before leaping into anything (lthough clearly there is a long process just starting on the whole scheme).

    The immeidate benefits are likely intangible, but a concrete and public recognition of the cultural value of bellringing could be important. It might help when talking to other stakeholders - it might mean that the UK government has to commit to preservative or protective actions (which may not be financially defined but might exist).

    Interested in hearing what people think.......
  • John de Overa
    As intangible cultural heritage can only be considered as such when it is recognised by the communities, groups or individuals that create, maintain and share it, it will be these groups and people who will be able to nominate the UK’s cherished traditions to be formally recognised.


    The process for adding items to the Inventory will be to call for items to be submitted by communities, groups or individuals. We anticipate requiring information about the item, its location(s), categories, and practitioners. Then, subject to a light-touch approvals process, the new entries will be announced on a regular basis – probably quarterly. We will look to engage and provide support for those who wish to submit items.

    So if it is "light touch" and doesn't take a huge effort to get registered, I can't see why not. But as you say, it's early days yet.
  • Tristan Lockheart
    I think official recognition as a piece of cultural heritage would certainly do no harm.

    Firstly, it provides us with a boost to one of our core purposes - preserving heritage. Many ringers currently rally around the duty of ringing for Sunday services; this could give them something similarly 'official' to ring for.

    Secondly, it gives us a bit more clout when dealing with all sorts of officialdom - redundant churches, noise complaints, etc. "Please don't remove our heritage!" is not as convincing as "Don't remove our UNESCO Assets of Intangible Heritage!". It repositions ringing towards being a legitimate heritage/traditional activity, rather than the preserve hobbyists or religious people (although both are still valid reasons to ring, of course).

    In my response, I intend to emphasise the need to consider soundscapes as well as the activity itself and associated physical infrastructure.
  • Steve Askew
    For what it is worth, I think the CCCBR should lobby for bellringing to be included in the UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
  • Alan C
    Another logo to add to the publicity material :smile:

    Can't see a downside to being listed.
  • Stuart Palin
    It would seem preferable to be on the list rather than not. This is the sort of list that could end up being used as a starting reference by other bodies (particularly government ones) and not being on it might become a barrier to accessing other benefits. For example, being a recognized tradition might make it easier for ringing societies to qualify as a worthwhile cause for charitable or philanthropic support - independently of any religious connection.

    Considering change ringing's history in England/UK it does seem like the sort of thing that ought to go on the list.
  • DRD-mus
    I think it should certainly be listed - not only for its ancient origins and present-day continuation (though increasingly patchy), the publicity dimension is worth pursuing wherever possible.
  • Richard Pargeter
    I agree that there doesn't seem to be a downside. Happy to help, but I'm a bit unclear as to how. It would help if the CC could say what they would like us to do, please.
  • Alison Hodge
    Even though inclusion was not feasible previously, that hopefully will not stop another application (or whatever is required).

    Why should it be included -
    History and heritage - and we have lots of evidence - newspapers, peal boards, books, etc
    Business - bell hanging companies and their history
    Physical exercise - not just the ringing but climbing the stairs and working in bell chambers provides more effort than many gyms
    Mental learning, understanding, recall
    Maths - group theory in methods, but also applied maths for the compound pendular (ie bell and clapper motion) plus forces / stresses on towers
    Geography and geology - influence on architecture and structure of towers, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, but also som international - USA, France, Belgium, Italy etc
    Design and engineering - towers and the bell installaitons
    Age independent
    Wide community engagement - gender, race, etc neutral
    Green and eco - no power needed for the ringing (the travel for tower grabbing is more questionable, but most activities have that and more besides!)
    Public demand - Christmas, weddings, funerals, state occasions .... - the public expect it to happen but few don't realise what is involved until shown!

    What else?

    What is required for the application?
    We can probably find the necessary contributions.
  • Roger Booth
    I don’t know how many of you have followed the link and completed the survey, but as ringers we are often too focussed on our own perspective. At this stage it is a consultation about what categories of intangible rather than tangible heritage should be included.The Convention text groups Intangible Cultural Heritage into 5 categories or “domains”:
    • oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
    • performing arts;
    • social practices, rituals and festive events;
    • knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
    • traditional craftsmanship

    The following additional categories are also being consulted about.
    • traditional games and sports; and
    • culinary traditions / knowledge.

    To be listed, itangible cultural heritage needs to be something that is currently practiced and recognised by the wider community. Therefore, things such as the ringing of bells to mark the new year would seem to qualify quite easily.

    A while ago I attended a Heritage Lottery Fund seminar for applicants, and one of the other applicants there was a group promoting Caribbean Cookery. As a bellringer this might seem a little odd, and not heritage in the same that restoring a set of bells is. However, by participating in the seminar I came to realise that those who came across on the Empire Windrush had brought their culture with them, and several generations later it is now established as one of the UK’s diverse cultural traditions.

    Therefore, it is important that we as ringers do not stay out of sight in our church towers, in our own little world, but engage with the wider community in every way that we can. Otherwise, we will lose out.
  • Neal Dodge
    The move to equalise recognition of cultural heritage to match built heritage is a welcome one.
    This thesis is a relevant read, looking at the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in England and the potential implementation of the convention. https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/36760/

    The convention requires that each state Party shall take the necessary measures to ensure the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage present in its territory. Safeguarding is defined as measures aimed at ensuring the viability of the intangible cultural heritage, including the identification, documentation, research, preservation, protection, promotion, enhancement, transmission, particularly through formal and non-formal education, as well as the revitalization of the various aspects of such heritage.
  • Mike Shelley
    "Community engagement" seems to carry weight in bids for money for bells - might it also be a useful concept for inclusion in any submission for recognition?
  • Peta Steadman Bee

    I’m afraid I’m late joining this conversation however I agree that we shouldn’t ignore the potential opportunities inclusion could create & raising the cultural profile of bellringing may be extremely helpful in the future.
    It should be a concern with dwindling numbers of ringers & also steeplekeepers, that the majority of members of the public, including church congregations have little appreciation of the art & science of bellringing & its long history. Their assumption is that the sound, to their ill tutored ear each Sunday, is the same each week understandably not being interested or appreciating the level of work entailed by ringers to learn a new method or to strike the bells perfectly particularly in Call Changes.
    Recognition by UNESCO surely can’t be regarded as anything other than something positive providing us with an opportunity to change this perception & encourage new interest & band members?
    It would be useful to hear if there is a strategy in place by the CC to pursue this.
  • Tina

    Further to this discussion, the Council exec have created a couple of open public consultation sessions. This is early days on this topic but we would like to get a good range of ideas and thoughts to help shape how we present ourselves for this. You may join either call via the eventbrite registration links below:

    Sunday 28th January 8pm


    Sunday 11th February 3pm:


    Look forward to seeing you there!
  • Alison Everett
    Thanks Tina, the consultations held back in 2020 to consider the Council’s size and the various options to reduce the number of representatives were a good opportunity for a diverse section of folk to contribute to the discussion and canvas others' views so I hope a decent number register for this opportunity
  • Roger Booth
    and funding slightly easier. I think any effect on recruitment would be indirect.John de Overa

    and associated physical infrastructure.Tristan Lockheart

    It would be useful to hear if there is a strategy in place by the CC to pursue this.Peta Steadman Bee

    In the 1990's I was a member of the CC's Ringing Centres Committee an we received a large grant from the Founders Livery Company to set up new ringing centres, with the objective of being a focus for the promotion of ringing and the training of new ringers. Whilst to start with this resulted in a number of new ringing centres being set up, this became increasingly difficult, and we had to work very hard to spend all the money. There was a focus on physical infrastructure, and some of the proposals were used to justify ambitious augmentation schemes, whereas there were other towers that would make ideal teaching centres with far less investment. We also learnt that successful ringing centres were about people. Once a key leader ceased ringing there, they became no different to any ordinary tower.

    In the 2010's I was also involved in the CCCBR establishing the Ringing Foundation. This had the objective of levering in external finance to support ringing. We quickly realised that we could not make the case to external funders to plough in large sums of money, unless we had an effective training scheme in place. Hence, why we established what is now ART.

    We also talked to a fund-raising consultant about approaching external bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund. Following an initial enquiry to HLF we were advised that we would need to demonstrate a successful regional pilot first, before rolling out nationally. Also, we would need to put in some of our own money first, before they would consider matching it. The problem was that the CC and RF had limited funds, whereas it was the Guilds and Associations that held large reserves. We identified over £3m held in BRF's, but any suggestion to increase CCCBR affiliation fees, or for Guilds and Associations to change the amount allocated to their BRF, and allocate a proportion of their subs towards PR, recruitment and training projects, was highly controversial.

    The RF did lever in significant donations from private individuals, and was able to allocate some grants. You can support a lot of very worthwhile PR, recruitment and training projects with the amount spent on just one typical restoration or augmentation project, but the other problem was that the ringing community generally is not yet in right mindset to do this on the scale that is needed, especially now.

    It was very interesting that the Essex Association received two very large bequests totalling £373,000 in 2021, and many good ideas were put forward by its members, but I am not sure what progress there has been since https://eacr.org.uk/about/bequests.html
  • John de Overa
    I am not sure what progress there has been since https://eacr.org.uk/about/bequests.htmlRoger Booth

    There's an interesting document linked to from the very bottom of the page that seems pretty recent, and is an interesting read.

    We also learnt that successful ringing centres were about people. Once a key leader ceased ringing there, they became no different to any ordinary tower.Roger Booth

    What sort of level did the ringing centres teach up to? It's possible to teach handling and probably as far as Plain Bob Minor on a "one teacher, one tower" basis, but I suspect to get beyond that needs a different approach, and different support. But "key leader" sounds like they were also based around that model?
  • Tina
    On the back of last night's successful and interesting consultation, Cathy Booth has shared this YouTube video that supported Spain's application for 'manual bellringing'.

    It was part of last night's discussion what we might or might not include in a similar application - but the Spanish approach appears to have been 'all possible variations and supporting crafts'.

    It's a good video
  • John Harrison
    It's a good videoTina

    Indeed. Just watched and it is excellent.
  • Simon Linford
    "A festival without bells is like a house without bread"

    The Italians do seem to have created a stronger bond between their communities and their bells/bellringers than we have.
  • Alison Hodge
    Yes, and that is probably helped by the Italians definitely classifying their ringing as MUSIC. This is since they do ring recognisable 'tunes' using some of their ringing styles. They also make a very visible presence to the public with mini rings at ringing festivals (and other festivals) etc etc in town squares. But this is not throughout Italy - just in certain areas. They perhaps focus on quality not quantity of rings and ringing across the country. Similarly in the parts of Belgium, France and Holland where they have carillons.
  • John Harrison
    The Italians do seem to have created a stronger bond between their communities and their bells/bellringers than we have.Simon Linford

    That comes over very clearly. I've just watched George Perrin's video again and while the production quality is just as good the content is quite different, with the focus almost entirely on the experience and activity of ringers. Only half a minute out of the whole nine minutes was about the community view of ringing. I didn't count but my impression of the Italian film was much more balanced, not just the views from outsiders but the ringers showing they were aware of their role in the community.
    It could be said that the comparison is unfair. It's reasonable fo a video was aimed at recruitment to focus on what being a ringer is like, but you wouldn't recruit into an orchestra without mentioning the role of concerts and the delight of audiences.
    So why do we not feel such a strong bond with the community (and they with us) as in Italy? I think it may be the downside of Belfry Reform. When the Church took over ringing it gave us an enormous boost with the propotion of change ringing and the connectivity provided by universal ringing societies. And the introduction of ringing for church services probably increased the amount of ringing, and in doing so shifted the focus away from community ringing. While the church was strong that wasn't a problem but with churchgoing a minority activity it means most people see ringing as 'something the church does' rather than 'ringing our bells'.
    We still have a lot of community goodwill, probably driven by the psychological effect of the sound, but we need to build much stronger community bonds if ringing is to thrive in the future.
  • J Martin Rushton
    An interesting and good point John. You often hear the assumption that all ringers much be good church-going folk, and indeed I know of one church where the incumbent insists that all ringers are regular attendees.
Add a Comment

Welcome to your Ringing Forums!

If you would like to join in the conversation, please register for an account.

You will only be able to post and/or comment once you have confirmed your email address and been approved by an Admin.