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Ringing on the BBC

This is an article written by John Harrison for the Sonning Deanery Branch Newsletter (Spring 2019).

“It’s not often you are offered an opportunity to get ringing shown on TV, so you grab it with both hands. One of our ringers has a friend involved in Field Archery. (No, I didn’t know of it either – its a kind of blend between archery and orienteering.) It was featured in the sport slot on BBC Breakfast, and when the presenter heard about ringing he was keen to do a piece on that as well.

Some of you may wonder why ringing would appear in the ‘sport’ slot, but it fits very well with the widely used definition of sport as: ‘all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels’. Of course, ringing is much more than just a sport–notably as a form of music– which is why it is so special. But the more angles we can get covered to help raise public awareness the better. The presenter, Mike Bushell, is interested in exploring and presenting all forms of sport, and according to Wikipedia (look him up) he holds the world record for trying different sports–over 350 different ones.

On Monday 15th March we welcomed Mike and his cameraman Ian to our practice at All Saints Wokingham. They arrived in late afternoon for Mike to get some hands-on training beforehand, but Mike was delayed and Ian arrived early so we re-jigged the plan. Ian got shots of the outside the tower and the splendid view from the roof – in glorious sunshine– and he also took lots of shots inside, including showing the size of the bells. The altered plans meant that instead of the intended two hours of initial tuition, Mike only got about an hour. He was an enthusiastic learner– perhaps a bit too enthusiastic– and made pretty well average progress, ringing both strokes after a fashion by the end of the hour.

We then adjourned to The Ship (which in the late 1700s used to sponsor ringing competitions) and after a quick meal returned to the tower to join Ian and the other ringers assembling for the practice, at which we had a record turn out of over 20. Mike was filmed being taken through the teaching process and the rest of the time was spent filming typical exercises with the learners and various examples of normal ringing– from all angles: close up, wide shot, looking down from the clock room, viewed from the nave and looking in to the bells themselves.

A lot of the time was spent interviewing individual ringers, from our youngest recruits to long standing members, since the focus of Mike’s programmes is to capture not just ‘what’ is done, but why the participants do it and what makes them so keen.

BBC Breakfast has a total audience of 12 million. The sport item is shown four times between 6am & 10am, nominally at 6.40, 7.40, 8.40 & 9.40 though it can vary. It’s quite a short slot– 3 minutes – so it’s less of a documentary and more a stream of vignettes that give an impression of what the sport is like.”

A shortened clip of the segment can be found on BBC Breakfast’s Twitter page.