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Reform Magazine | November 27, 2020

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I am… a bell ringer

I am… a bell ringer

Mary Jones describes being a bell ringer

I responded to the call to learn to ring for the 100th anniversary of the First World War armistice in 2018. Learning to ring was not easy – it took many hours of dedication and perspiration, not least for the teachers, who generously take on trainees for no payment whatsoever. Eventually, I became part of a ringing group based at a tower in Norfolk. But just when we were beginning to get somewhere, ringing independently without the constant need for outside support, all ringing ceased. I was locked out of my tower because of the Covid-19 restrictions.

When we lowered the bells at the end of practice on the evening of 16 March, we had no idea it would be for so long. I felt sad. All that work to gain a new and deeply satisfying skill, and, just as I felt poised to really take off and contribute, the opportunity to put all my learning into practice was whipped away.

The demands of ringing church bells are so complicated that, although one may safely handle a bell after a few months of tuition, it takes hundreds of hours practice to ring anything but the basic patterns well. Once I do get my hands back on to a sally – the fluffy, usually stripy, section of the rope – I will have to relearn skills that I had hoped were already secure. I pity my poor teachers, who will stand by me, again, as I crash about making errors and muddling everyone else up.

But, for those of us who are determined to continue to learn, has ringing really ceased? Tower ringing of church bells has been curtailed; all but the very grandest churches and cathedrals struggle to distance their ringers by the required two metres. But since lockdown restrictions eased in June, we have been able to ring handbells outdoors, as a socially distanced group. …

Mary Jones is part of the band that rings at St John the Baptist Church, Reedham, Norfolk

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This is an extract from an article published in the September 2020 edition of Reform

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