For a long time, I have marked the passing years by the amount of daylight at practice nights. After the long summer evenings when it is warm and light at nine o’clock, we now have the winter months when we arrive in darkness to a dimly lit church, and possibly chilly ringing room. What a contrast to the heat of the summer when sandals and shorts are the preferred dress code and a ringing room with a fan is a positive blessing.
The summer brings a plethora of wedding ringing, tower outings, fetes, barbeques and a general air of celebration. We have had much to celebrate with the ODG Team winning the Ringing World National Youth Striking Competition in July at St Francis Xavier, Liverpool. It was a superb achievement for everyone involved in the preparation and the successful outcome and, again, I am delighted to congratulate Izzy (South Oxon), Daniel (Reading), Corey (Central Bucks), Ben (EBSB), Thomas (Reading), Sophie (Old North Berks), Dougie (North Bucks) and Josh (Old North Berks) not forgetting the adults who, nurtured, coached, persuaded and supported all the team, especially Colin Newman and Jenny Page. Thank you all for putting our younger ringers right in the spotlight.
The success of the ODG young ringers neatly takes me to our more mature ringers – of which I am one! From time to time I overhear comments which can be translated to something like ‘There are an awful lot of old ringers and we need to do something about it’. Yes, we do need to recruit, retain, encourage and support young recruits and there is much going on in many parts of the ODG to achieve this. More needs to be done and more will be done.
We also value our stalwart ringers; older, maybe wiser, often hugely experienced, sometimes just taking first steps into their ringing journey. In my travels around the guild territory, especially away from the city and larger town centres, these are the ringers who keep the small churches and village bells sounding out across the local communities; communities who most appreciate hearing their bells being rung for services and practices. The more skilful the rounds, call changes or doubles, the more pleasure our ringing brings to many non-ringers and worshippers alike; the music is a resonant comfort and an echo of centuries.
So, let us make all young ringers feel excited about developing their ringing knowledge and skills, welcome them on every occasion and cherish the loyal, steadfast members too.
And finally, by the time the next Odd Bob edition is in the towers, Christmas will just be just a few weeks away. At this time ringing comes to the fore, congregations will expect to hear the bells at carol services, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, ringing out the old year and bringing in 2020. Enjoy the festivities and recognise how important our ringing is to so many people who never see us, but they hear our message.