We had a good meeting with Mark Betson of the CoE Recovery Group this after (Mark Regan, Phil Barnes and me). We agreed in principle that our guidance could be amended to reduce distance between ropes to 1m with mitigations, i.e. face coverings in our case. We will need to adopt some form or tracing procedure in case of a ringer testing positive for COVID after ringing, which is made easier by us knowing who we ring with.
(Note that any guidance on social distancing in countries other than England will override this 1m rule – it can only be applicable in England because 1m is in overall UK government guidance.)
We further agreed to develop a roadmap for more localised decision making based on differences in tower settings (ground floor, balconies, large ringing chambers etc) and geographical areas, bearing in mind that local restrictions might get increased as may be about to happen in Birmingham. This would use the widely used five level COVID scale.
We will also discussed the use of simulators for practice in church settings, and ringing for longer periods by members of a single household, both of which were agreed in principle.
We have to provide a tracked change version of our amended guidance for approval now. Mark said that such changes do not need to be referred to PHE provided we are not seeking permission to do something that is outside overall government guidance (which we are not).
I am not going to give a timetable for revised approval but intend to have revised draft guidance with them early next week. We have also had false dawns before so please stay patient. We were only able to meet Mark as his colleague Brendan was away, but hopefully they will be of one mind.
Ringing should be in accordance with current guidance for now, which is otherwise unchanged this week.
The CCCBR have released an update – see the link below. At the bottom of the page are a number of useful documents relating to safe ringing.
CCCBR update: https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus/
Four months have passed since lockdown silenced our towers, four months in which much has happened and, simultaneously, very little.
We are making small steps to returning to ringing, but certainly not as before. There are still copious guidelines to be followed including restricting the number of ringers in a tower to comply with social distancing requirements, the length of time we can ring and the need to take many precautions to keep other ringers safe from viral contamination. All the details can be found on the Latest News drop down on our website home page. Please read the information, consult with the priest in charge too, because they may not be familiar with the guidance for bell ringers and it is their responsibility to ensure the safety of church workers.
Enough of the gloom! For, as we expected, ringers are energetic, enthusiastic and inventive. The plethora of handbells and Ringing Room activity has honed skills and continues to develop an eclectic range of entertainment. These are the ringers who will return to church bell ringing with the energy and probably enhanced skills – well done to everyone!
There are also many ringers who, for different reasons have not embarked upon such projects and are waiting, quietly, until they can return to the ringing room to take hold of the sally and be rewarded by that glorious, resonant sound that has summoned worshippers for centuries and cannot ever be confused with handbells or simulation. (Yes, I am putting my hand up and admitting my preferences; this will come as no surprise to those of you reading this who know me well – please do not resort to grumpy emails because I support you all and remain in considerable awe of everyone who can ring two bells at once. And my mobile ring tone is Little Bob 20 in hand, so it can’t all be bad.)
Sadly, and inevitably, there will be bands where ringers will not return; the habit may be broken, interest declined, other activities prioritised. The ODG has an ageing membership and many weeks of inactivity may have an impact on physical abilities and so prohibit further ringing.
The future for the Church and State remains unclear; we have unknown obstacles to overcome, ringing will return to different towers at different rates. I believe some good must come out of these exceptional circumstances; so, let us make sure we provide support, encouragement and guidance to one another as we work together to rebuild our ancient art and historic culture. There will come a time when we can reunite and I am certainly looking forward to that day.
On Tuesday 14th July, a number of changes will be made to the Guild website. No downtime is anticipated, but you may find things look a little different. Please be patient with us while we make these changes. If you have any questions, please contact the webmaster.
The following update has been received from Simon Linford, CCCBR President
Although it has not been finally signed off, all indications are that the PHE guidance is based on the Central Council guidance notes which have been amended a little. We have been working towards final drafts which have been submitted to PHE for approval. On balance the result of the review and associated negotiation has been positive, although there is no sign that they will be looking to relax the guidance in the short term. Note this is Church of England guidance specifically, but the guidance on ringing generally should be interpreted in local context.
The Church of England Recovery Group are happy with the revised guidance, particularly now that there has been dialogue with PHE. Whereas a week ago
they said “we would really prefer it if you didn’t ring” they are no longer saying that. Unless between now and tomorrow PHE come back negatively, and that does look unlikely, ringing in accordance with the CC guidance now has the Church’s blessing. No one is telling anyone they cannot ring provided it is in accordance with the guidance.
There is a significant relaxation in terms of the distance between adjacent bells that fall in a straight line. That suggestion actually came from the PHE themselves. One proposed change that we have resisted is for the ‘two household’ rule to be applied, on the grounds that is it not being applied to churches generally. There is still a chance that PHE will want that in, but as things stand they haven’t.
The guidance notes will now get published in line with the final drafts submitted to PHE. Once these have been uploaded to the website, I am busy for the rest of the day. Phil Barnes is also busy with the Kent County Association AGM. The guidance will not therefore be looked at again before Monday, it at all.
The principal changes that have been made are:
2. Making your tower as safe as possible
The minimum distance between ropes has been reduced to 1.5m for ropes that are in a straight line, as long as ringers are facing forwards and the ringers opposite are at least 2m away.
Perspex screens are not approved
All surfaces to be cleaned regularly
The notes about Perspex screens and 15 minutes only being a start have been deleted
4. Running safe ringing sessions
A comment about ringing the minimum number of bells that are ‘appropriate for the occasion’
Clarification that members of the same household can ring adjacent bells, plus the 1.5m for ringers facing forward is reiterated
Increase ventilation as much as possible
5. Can I go ringing safely
Clarification re ringers who have already had Covid-19
Clarification on why you shouldn’t touch your face
Additional note about not raising your voice (conductors note!)
Note about arriving on time and not hanging around
The FAQs have also been updated accordingly.
We had a further update from the Church of England Recovery Group last night that Public Health England (PHE) now wants to issue specific guidance about bell ringing but they will not be able to publish it until next week. They expect it to be based on what we have produced. Although the Church has published guidance, which we shared, they are understandably nervous about ringing this weekend in advance of PHE publication, especially if it gets into the press.
We had a conference call with Brendan McCarthy and Mark Betson of the Recovery Group this morning and whilst they stressed that anything published is guidance not instruction, they would really appreciate us waiting to restart ringing until after the PHE guidance is published. Given this is a new relationship that could be very important to us, we do not want to rock this boat for the sake of a week and some disappointment.
In the meantime, we have accumulated all of the questions we have received from ringers on the current guidance into a set of FAQs which we have publish on the website. This will include such things as why the guidance is still 2m rather than 1m, and whether family members can ring on adjacent bells. That can be found here:
We are studying the Scottish, Welsh and Irish guidance but in all cases church opening appears to be on a slower timetable than the Church of England.
An update on the ringing situation has been published here:
Due to the Coronavirus lockdown we were unable to hold our AGM as planned at Blewbury on 16 May. It was particularly disappointing for the ONB Branch who had already spent time making arrangements for the day; when we cancelled there seemed no immediate prospect of being able to reschedule.
Gradually it became obvious that there could be a way of holding the AGM online, if we could find the right people to oversee the technology.
We are so very fortunate to have ringers with all the skills and after several meetings and much diligent paperwork, on Saturday 30 May, the Guild held the first AGM online.
Although lockdown is easing, we do not yet have any update on when we will be able to return to ringing church bells, in towers, in close company with other ringers. Therefore, all ringing, training and actual meetings remain cancelled. As soon as we receive directives from the Diocese and the Central Council, we will update the information. Until then it is essential to wait patiently and keep well.
All the information that has been circulated can be found at https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus/ and https://www.oxford.anglican.org/coronavirus-covid-19/
The Guild had a very successful virtual AGM on 30th May. All business was completed with 118 members attending. More information will be available later but in the meantime here are the records of the attendees and those who sent apologies.
The Central Council have recently shared the following awareness video on social media. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2Qo1wK9yNw
Please feel free to share the video wherever and with whomever you wish. If you have contacts so the audio can reach local radio and the video local TV, all the better.
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.