What a few weeks it has been. Like everybody else, I had been slowly descending into madness with the lack of opportunity to ring. It was especially bad timing for me personally, because the lockdown was announced the night before I was due to return to work (and by extension society) after my self-imposed isolation with what turned out to be no more than man flu. I know what nearly half the population are now thinking- I’m lucky to be alive…
Many discussions were taking place on Facebook and other portals about how to fight the boredom with no access to tower bells and very limited access to handbells (like many people, I suffer from being the only ringer in my family, and the thought of attempting to teach my parents how to ring from scratch was bringing me out in a cold sweat). This naturally turned to the possibility of setting up virtual ringing meets, with an online ringing circle and a way to coordinate ringers to come together. A group of 4 of us tried to come up with a solution by using Abel to ring our own bells, and a separate video call to communicate and hear everyone else’s bells. However, we had limited success with this due to the fact most video conferencing apps are not set up to allow every participant to be heard at all times, and focus is on one participant. The switch from one person to another was too slow to keep up with our ringing (swapping 7 times per change, taking approximately 2 seconds per change), and so it was extremely difficult to hear every bell being rung, if they even came across at all. This was a problem common to every app we tried, and even when changing the devices being used. We tried Facebook Messenger and Discord (a dedicated gaming video conferencing app, renowned for providing very fast communication as needed for many modern games), and tried on our phones and computers, but all combinations resulted in the same issues. A lead of Plain Hunt on 8 was the best we could muster, and that was only by assuming gaps in the audio were caused by the unsuitable technology (rather than our incompetence- an assumption with questionable validity). This was not a viable solution, but it did give us hope, since the lag in audio (gap between one person ringing and everyone else hearing it) was not so great as to be terminal to a piece of ringing.
Whilst we attempted to come up with a more workable solution, a band in the US had taken things one step further, and created ‘Ringing Room’, an online belfry that could be used to ring tower bells and handbells alike, with a remote band of other bored ringers. Fuelled by a desire to be the first UK band to take advantage of the new opportunity and score our own quarter, the 4 of us reconvened. A Messenger video call was set up and a ‘room’ was established. The controls are very similar to those of Abel, and as such we all got the hang of it pretty quickly. That didn’t necessarily mean it was easy to ring though, and our first few attempts ended almost as soon as they began. At this point I must sound like I’m just making excuses, but it was in large part due to connection problems caused by slow broadband meaning the signals were not getting through as they should, leading to firing of the bells rung during the time the connection was dropped. Luckily, we were all used to ringing with the occasional row (or lead) being fired, and eventually we were able to get past these sticking points. We finally scored our quarter with the time approaching midnight, having started our first attempt at 8pm. What we lacked in competence, we certainly made up for in persistence, and became what we believe to be the first band to ring a quarter peal whilst in 4 different UK Counties.
The internet connection was variable throughout the successful attempt, but it was noticeably better than the previous attempts, and that no doubt played a major role in our success. By the time my internet connection decided to slow down (only one course from the end), we had got into a good enough rhythm that we were able to power through the final changes. However, a more stable connection would have meant a less stressful ‘home straight’ for all of us.
Our use of a video chat proved very useful indeed. Whilst Ringing Room is set up so that you do not need any other communication to ring (barring a separate chat to organise bands for touches), having the conductor able to shout instructions in real time was vital in my opinion. As brilliant as the app is, there is not yet a button for telling two bells to swap back after a mistake, and even the best touches generally require something more than just calls of ‘Bob’ and ‘Single’. Having a video call as well as audio greatly helped me as well, because seeing other people’s faces as they rang in the wrong place was extremely reassuring, meaning the gap I was intending to fill was still probably the correct gap to fill! We had rung some successful touches with just audio communication, so it is possible to ring successfully if your internet connection is too slow to allow video calls alongside Ringing Room, but it is a substantially easier when making ‘eye-contact’ is possible.
We have had a few more attempts since our scored quarter, though unfortunately none have been successful. However, it does not look like the lockdown will be lifted any time soon, and as such I am sure there will be many more attempts in the weeks to come. I also look forward to seeing many other bands coming together and attempting to score their own isolation quarters, and I am sure it is only a matter of time before a band goes one step further…
How quiet everywhere has become, not just the absence of our beloved bells, there are far fewer vehicles on our roads, no shrill playground noise, no one stopping for a gossip on the streets, no happy camaraderie at closing time, even the houses seem shut up and silent.
Many ringers are highly inventive and are trying to keep their skills alive in a variety of ways, some more curious than others. There is plenty that can be done; learning methods is an obvious diversion, planning a virtual outing including pubs could be another, having a go at composition or simply doing certain Pilates exercises to keep the right muscles trim!
It’s early days; even now I can see how we are looking out for our ringing friends. There are up-lifting newsletters, Facebook amusements, Facetime conversations, emails and text messages and, most of all, welcome, friendly phone calls which do much to lift the spirits and to hear another voice, especially for those who are self-isolating on their own.
These challenging times have left us stunned and quiet, giving us unexpected time for reflection. How often do we wonder, when was the last time …. I cut the grass, called auntie, had a haircut, dusted the house, tidied up the shed and so on? And of course, we can’t quite remember. But I expect every ringer would be able to say exactly the last time they rang a bell and enjoyed the company of other ringers. We have to hold on to the memory of those more carefree days.
I have a friend who has decided to learn a poem every day; John Betjeman’s Uffington seems to suit the time and mood:
Tonight we feel the muffled peal
Hang on the village like a pall;
It overwhelms the towering elms –
That death-reminding dying fall;
The very sky no longer high
Comes down within the reach of all.
Imprisoned in a cage of sound
Even the trivial seeks profound.
It would be amazing if we had been allowed to ring during this curfew, we would have been heard, and noticed, far and wide! That is just a dream, but hopefully when we come away from these distressing days, we WILL be able to celebrate and ring out loud and clear for all the world to hear!
The best of wishes to you all.
Katie Lane, March 2020
At the Guild General Committee meeting yesterday, the effect of the Covid-19
virus was discussed at length. As you will be aware many people are
self-isolating and we are also conscious of needing to avoid putting our
more vulnerable members at risk. We therefore decided to cancel the Radley
course scheduled for 4th April. We will also reschedule the Guild AGM and
eight-bell striking competition from 16th May to a date later in the year –
we will advise you on the new date as soon as possible.
Also Colin Newman has postponed the Training Meeting that was scheduled for
next Saturday for the same reason. It will be held in the autumn. PLEASE
NOTE THIS POSTPONEMENT URGENTLY – DO NOT GO TO COWLEY NEXT SATURDAY.
Our latest Young Ringers outing took place in and around Newbury on a chilly February day in half term. It was a really great day and I got to make lots of new friends who were all excellent ringers. The most fun part of the day was getting to try the bells at three different church towers. We started at Speen, walked on to Shaw (in the wind and rain!) and finished at St Nicholas’ in Newbury town centre. St Nicholas had really loud bells which apparently my brother could hear from the other side of the town!
Trying out at different towers gave me a bit more confidence when facing new bells. It was a really great day and I am looking forward to future outings.
Bell Fund & General Committee meeting
Saturday 14th March 2020
The arrangements for the meetings are as follows:
The Bell Fund AGM is at 2:30pm and the General Committee meeting will follow immediately afterwards. As a member of the General Committee, you are eligible to attend both meetings. The meetings will be in St Michael’s Church Hall, Routh Lane, Tilehurst, Reading RG30 4JY. There is parking both by the Church at the other end of Routh Lane, and some in the Church Hall car park.
Note that Routh Lane is closed to through-traffic, just south of the Hall entrance. When approaching from the south (e.g. from M4/A4/Calcot), follow New Lane Hill past the church and up to the Tjunction.
Then turn right into The Meadway, and then right again into Routh Lane where the entrance to the hall car-park is situated. If you are using a SatNav to drive to the Hall from the south, you are recommended to use postcode RG30 4PE, to avoid being directed into the closed part of Routh Lane.
If you know that you will not be attending the meetings, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) beforehand so that your apology can be recorded.
There will be ringing at St Michael, Tilehurst (8, 17-1-15) SU674729 postcode RG30 4JX after the meeting/tea. It is easy walking from the Hall.
Tea and coffee will be available at the Church Hall before the meeting from 2.00pm. There will be a traditional ringers’ tea after the meetings for those who want it, or just drinks for those who don’t.
Please can names for tea be sent by Wednesday, 11th March at the latest to Martin Foakes at email: email@example.com or (for those without email) by phone: 07572 546883.
Ken Darvill – Hon General Secretary (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you can offer your skills on one or more of these topics, please contact email@example.com
You can also download a copy of the poster here:Poster PR
The Guild is grateful to the late Stan Scott for the drawings of our towers which form the background of the artwork on this poster.
As part of the website update project, I set up an ODG twitter account. At the time, there was no way to integrate this with the first attempt at the website update. Now we have ownership of the development, I have integrated our twitter account with the website. This means that as soon as a new news article is published, a tweet will also be sent. If you’re not already, why not follow us @ODGCBR? You’ll see all the latest news as it comes in!
A few questions have been asked of the Facebook page recently, and I acknowledge that this is under-used. At the time of its creation the development of the website was being done by a contractor, leaving time for me as Webmaster to look after the social media. Since then, and in the absence of a Public Relations Officer, I must admit it has been sat there not really doing much. I intend to look into its role and whether it can be made less restrictive in its use. Once I have an update, I’ll be sure to post it.
In the meantime, please do follow @ODGCBR on twitter!
Young Ringers visit Newbury Branch
Wednesday 19th February.
Any young ringers from the ODG who can handle a bell safely by themselves will be welcome. Parents, ringing teachers and more experienced ringers are welcome too.
Donations of £5.00 per young ringer will be collected.
Please let us know if you are coming and any special dietary considerations.
Please complete and bring a 2020 permission form if not already provided.
13:00 St Mary, Speen (tbc) (6, 12-2-12, RG14 1SA) ring and walk to Shaw
14:15 St Mary, Shaw (6, 7-01-12) ring and walk to Central Newbury
15:15 Church Hall, St Nicolas Newbury (10, 1-2-21, RG14 7WH)
16:30 Event ends
The Oxford Diocesan Bell Fund AGM celebrated its 45th anniversary in September 2019.
Since its inception it has been able to assist bell restoration in the Diocese by granting over £400,000 to more than 200 projects. Better still because it is a capital fund, all the money that has been raised is still invested and the grants have been paid from interest and dividends generated by the capital,
Every year there are activities, which generate new money for which the Trustees are very grateful as only by increasing the capital can the Fund keep pace with rising costs, We are keen to ensure the 2020 Leap Year Sponsored Ringing Event, is a resounding success.
First organised in 1979 when Branches were encouraged to organise a sponsored Peal or Quarter Peal and donate the money raised to the Bell Fund. A special Shield was provided by Bill Butler and inscribed by Ted Gosling for presentation to the Branch raising the largest amount of money. Bicester Branch won, raising over £231. We don’t expect peals and quarters (but by all means ring them if you like), any ringing can be sponsored, so presents a great opportunity to involve all levels and abilities and to introduce new members to the work of the Bell Fund.
In 2020 the Sponsored Ringing “Week” will be the 22nd to 29th February, The Shield will be presented to the Branch raising the greatest amount per head of membership. Sponsorship money can be Gift Aided to benefit from recovery of Income Tax.
Sponsor forms are both attached below, and available from the Secretary – Katie Lane (email firstname.lastname@example.org)