Ringing World YouTube competition

The Ringing World of last week saw the launch of a YouTube competition that will run from now until Christmas. Details can be found here https://cccbr.org.uk/youtube-competition/, where there is also a link to a YouTube video on how to make a YouTube ringing video (should we be back in our towers before Christmas).

This competition could be of particular interest to those ringers who do not use traditional media for their ringing news, particularly young ringers.

Ringing Room

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…