100 Ringers

We did it. 100 ringers rang 100 changes in 100 minutes.

31st July 2011
Photography by Roger

The Prologue

To celebrate 100 years of The Ringing World, 100 ringers from 35 different towers in the Peak District and the Derby Diocese joined together to ring in relay for 100 minutes. Most ringers rang for about seven minutes, more advanced ringers rang a little longer and one ringer, Simon Humphrey, rang the tenor throughout. This event used the most ringers ever for one single piece of ringing. There were ringers of all levels of experience. Alison Rooke from Eyam had only been ringing for a few months, while Anabelle Abel and Christian Yeomans were the youngest at 15 and 17.

This was an opportunity to involve ‘rank and file’ ringers in a county-wide event, and indeed, success depended on them. So much ringing uses only the elite and yet there are hundreds of ringers who seem almost forgotten. They keep the towers maintained and ring, very competently, for services, weddings, and other celebrations. Many have done so week-in-week-out for years and years. They keep alive that distinctive sound of bells that is loved by so many in England.

For each ringer, the process started at the bottom of the tower. There, they became part of a group of four. When four ringers came down from the tower, Chris let the new four go up. As they entered the staircase, they could hear a new tone in the bells, the notes resounding against the stone. As they ascended, the notes were louder, with more boom. Then they entered the ringing room, and the tenor beside them was keeping a steady toll. The tower was full of people – standing, sitting, ringing – neither needing nor wanting to talk, for the work was in progress and concentration was required. Only Clive was talking. Very quietly he ushered a waiting ringer to a steward, referred to a list and told the steward which bell to take the ringer to. While the ringer and steward waited by the bell until the allotted time, Clive ushered in the next ringers. At a suitable opportunity, the steward took the rope from the current ringer, who left the circle. The next stepped in place and was handed the rope. By then there were four ready to leave the ringing room, they waited for a further four to arrive, then they descended. Thus the conveyer belt of ringers continued. After 100 minutes, the ringers were commanded to ‘stand’ and the tension in the room relaxed. Everyone clapped. There were no slip-ups and no bumped stays. Done.

Downstairs while all this was happening more than a hundred are having teas. In the church a group is ringing handbells and encouraging others to have a go. Bric-a-Brac and terracotta bells are for sale in aid of Ashford Church Toilet. The Ringing World Stand has complimentary copies of their centenary edition and old calanders and diaries for grabs. The bell founders, Taylors have set up poster and information. There was also a display of pictures of the towers from which ringers had come. Outside, groups of ringers are dotted around the graveyard enjoying the sunshine and listening. On the back of their programme sheet is a list of Call Change names. Maybe they are discussing that. One group who had traveled for an hour had set out picnics and sat chatting. Their back-drop the dark stone on the church, in front of them a vista of the stone tiled roofs of Bakewell and the wooded hills beyond. Elizabeth Simpson wrote: ‘It felt a privilege to attend & I met so many ringers I knew & had good conversations with many I do now know’

We hope that this event will encourage some to progress further with their ringing and encourage all to go to other towers and help with the ringing and keep in touch with others who ring. Most of all we wish to congratulate the Ringing World for supporting ringing for 100 Years.

Now have I told you soothly in a clause 

Th’estate, th’array, the number, and eke the cause
Why that assembled was this company
In Bakewell at this gentle sanctuary
That hight All Saints, fast by The Bell.
But now is time to you for to tell
How that we born us that ilk night.
When we were in that high belfry alight;
And after will I tell of our changing
And all the remnant of our ringing.

(with apologies to Geoffrey)

Organiser’s tale:

The first step was to get permission – or at least a general agreement that this project should proceed. Then we needed the tower and a day and then, the people to ring. Only when we had one hundred ringers signed up could we say that The 100 Ringers Event was definitely happening, and only then could we start organising other activities for the day.

The idea of 100 Ringers ringing call changes came to me on the way down from the Arack the steep hill outside the village where I live. I had plodded up because Weight Watchers would be proud of me and I had counted my steps, to spur me on. I counted in batches of 100. Descending, the number 100 must have been on my mind. The great thing about this idea was that it would use all those ringers who are keen yet rarely involved in anything beyond their home tower. I put the idea to the Peak District committee and expected either a ‘yes, that’s great. We’ll take it on’ or a ‘silly idea’. I didn’t expect a ‘yes, you do it’. Well, I’m semi-retired and they are mostly busy working people so, I supposed I should do it. That was the permission received.

Choosing the tower was relatively easy. Bakewell is nearby and has the same vicar as my home tower. It has eight bells; not too many for most ringers to be confident to ring and not too few to necessitate too many swaps. Indeed they are lovely old bells and quite straightforward to handle. There is plenty of space in the ringing room for waiting ringers and for people to stand by a bell for the handover. Pauline, the tower captain at Bakewell, is a friend of mine, so working with her would be fun. Bakewell had two drawbacks: the stone spiral staircase with 56 steps and the absence of a church car park. Getting ringers up and down the stairs would just have to be regulated. Parking cars in Bakewell on any day of the week is expensive and would mean a steep walk up to the church. The parking was solved by getting permission from a local school to use their overflow parking field. This was also what decided the date: it had to be in the school holidays when the field was not in use. We chose a Sunday to avoid weddings and hoping that the people going away would return on a Saturday. So now a place and time was set. The next was getting the ringers. Without them, there was no event.

Getting the ringers was nerve-racking and fun. I had expected people to be keen, so I was a little disappointed when only a few volunteers responded to the invitation sent to towers. Good ringers thought that only the ‘rounds and call change’ ringers were wanted, whilst the ‘rounds and call change’ ringers thought they couldn’t be needed – after all they never are. It became evident that I would have to invite everyone individually. So I reached for the telephone. This was about six weeks before the event. Not long to go. I had not made calls sooner, because I had been heavily involved in another project, but fortunately the timing proved to be about right. Any sooner and people would not have felt able to commit; any later and it would have been impossible to organise. Indeed I got in touch just before some people went away, and they would be back in time for the event. Ringing around brought me in contact with people I hadn’t seen for a while and with new people. I discovered ringers I didn’t even know existed – whole bands of ringers emerged that were not members of the Derby Diocese Association. I decided to try to get someone from each ringable tower in the Peak District, and that in itself encouraged some who would not otherwise have felt required. Many people, experienced or otherwise, needed reassurance about handing on a bell. Getting the first few ringers was slow work. People needed a few days to confer with others before committing. A week later, on the Monday, I remember meeting someone in town and saying that I had forty names. I went home wondering if it had, in fact, still We did it. 100 ringers rang 100 changes in 100 minutes.

The Ringing Master’s Tale:

(or how I learned to love Microsoft Excel)

A major organisational job like this definitely requires computerised help and the good old Microsoft Office came to the rescue. Here I used two linked spreadsheets, one holding a database of the available ringers and the other forming a minute by minute schedule of which ringers were on each bell.

Discussion with Simon, the conductor, lead to the idea of changing the ringers over in blocks, allowing some time for steady ringing in between the disruption of changeovers. I decided that ringers could be changed in pairs, with two pairs changed in quick succession. This tied in with needing three ringing stewards – two to do the changeovers and a spare steward who could stay with a ringer if they were having difficulties with a bell. Our ringing stewards had already been selected – Alec, Richard and myself and we practiced handovers at our own towers in advance of the big day.

The pattern of changeovers meant that ringers naturally grouped into fours. We would start ringing with the first two groups and then need to change with a new group put in place every four and a half minutes. One big concern was keeping the quality of the ringing at an acceptable standard. We had ringers of all abilities and a careful selection of who rang when was going to be needed to prevent lots of crashing around. A grading scheme, of the ringing master’s own devising, was applied to the database of ringers whereby good ringers, who could improve the ringing rhythm, were scored at plus one. Learners and inexperienced ringers, who were a bit erratic, were scored at minus one and others, who were consistent but tended to ring visually and neither worsened or improved the rhythm, were scored at zero. For obvious reasons, the grading had to be kept secret to all but an inner clique. An unfortunate slip by the timing steward, who had been sent an advance copy of the schedule spreadsheet, was covered up by some deft political footwork without the secret being fully revealed.

So now to building the main schedule spreadsheet. A grid was set up with a hundred rows, one for each ringer, and two hundred columns – the time divided into half-minute slots. In each cell was the bell number that any ringer would ring at any time and a conditional format coloured the cells with the ringers ability by cross-reference to the ringers database. This allowed the columns to be checked – each should add up to 36 – and a score for “total ringing ability” was also kept. The plan was to ensure that this never dropped below zero, but there was the odd minus one column during some changeovers.

A strategy of keeping the more experienced ringers in for longer times (about twelve minutes) and the less experienced for short times (about four minutes) resulted in a rolling pattern of changeovers that repeated every 12 minutes with some fudging at the beginning and end of the ringing to ensure a good start and a good finish. Most of the stewards who had other jobs during the ringing were incorporated at the end, and the ringing score finally rose to five for the last seven minutes

Bell allocations were made at the ringing master’s whim, but stronger ringers were kept on the treble and seventh bells and of course Simon rang the tenor throughout. Short ringers were allocated to the second or third which had longer ropes (in retrospect too long) although I didn’t know all the ringers so there was some guesswork here. We should have asked the ringers height when doing the initial booking!

Once the ringers’ time slots were decided in the schedule spreadsheet the group numbers were automatically allocated back into the ringers’ database so all of the group and name lists could be printed from this, along with a timetable for each ringer.

John Thorpe

The Conductor from Wetton’s Tale:

When Linda asked if I’d act as the conductor I didn’t think twice about it. Call changes? Piece of cake! An hour and 40 minutes at Bakewell? No problem for a peal ringer!

The basic plan for the call changes was to keep the treble and tenor fixed in 1st and 8ths, with me as conductor on the tenor throughout. This enabled Linda and John to arrange that less experienced ringers would not have to lead, and that the succession of treble ringers would always know which bell to lead off.

Nearer to the date I began to think about what approach to adopt. Rather than just calling changes ad lib on the day I knew I’d be happier with a systematic plan worked out beforehand. Maybe something based on the 17th century Plain Changes? (This ancient “method” has only one pair of bells changing at a time and is well suited to call changes.) An extent of Plain Changes on 23457, with the treble leading and 68 behind should sound quite musical.

But then the practicalities began to dawn.

One way of accommodating 100 ringers in 100 minutes would be for a handover to take place from one ringer to the next at one-minute intervals. But assuming it would need some time for the ringing to settle after each handover, this might well leave no time to in which call any changes. So John planned to batch the handovers in 2 pairs every 4 minutes, which hopefully would leave at least a couple of minutes clear for call changes in between.

With 25 4-minute periods there would be 50 minutes in total for the call changes to take place. Executing a Plain Changes extent, 120 changes, would only allow 25 seconds between calls, though – achievable, perhaps, but probably a bit tight in the circumstances.

Eventually I decided to call exactly 100 changes, as being more appropriate to the occasion, and devised a “touch” made up of 4 blocks with 678, 748, 468, and 568 behind. With the treble leading there are 24 different changes available for each block (easily obtained in call changes by executing Double Canterbury or Double Court Minimus on the 4 working bells), making 96 changes in total. After a little further thought it proved possible to get from one block to the next and back to rounds with just 4 more changes, making up exactly the 100 required. A simple plan, but I found it surprisingly hard to memorise, harder than learning a new method for instance. 

On the day, the initial 8 ringers went up for a preliminary try-out, and to enable Radio Derby to record the bells from the ringing chamber. It would have been foolhardy to try to accommodate their reporter in the ringing chamber during the performance itself. (With my mind on the job ahead,after standing the bells I was somewhat startled to find myself on the wrong end of the microphone, but hopefully the interview wasn’t broadcast!)

It was a bit disturbing, though, to find the tenor rope was extraordinarily springy;and also the bell tended to give a strange lurch at backstroke. Was the wheel loose on the headstock? Too late to worry about that now.

Presumably erring on the side of caution, the tail-ends on all the other bells had been adjusted to be on the long side. About the one thing that hadn’t been included on John’s spreadsheet was the height of the individual participants, so all the backstrokes, it seemed, were suitable for the shortest ringer.

With the initial band back in the tower, countdown on the radio-controlled clock commenced and we pulled off at exactly 2:30. All the ringers in this first batch were experienced, so after the rounds had settled I grabbed the opportunity to get ahead and called 8 instead of the planned 4 changes for the period.

The first handovers then took place, spot on time, the ringing steadied straight away and I was able to get another 8 changes in. Not all of the next handovers were quite so smooth, and we had hardly settled down before the third group of ringers started to take over – no chance of calling any changes this time!

This became the pattern for the afternoon – each successive batch of ringers would arrive in the ringing chamber on schedule, and often the handovers went without hitch. But quite often they didn’t! One or other of the new ringers would struggle with the long tail ends, and the ringing wouldn’t settle before the next handovers, and on these occasions I didn’t dare to attempt any calls.

At times the scene was quite chaotic: some ringers temporarily losing the battle with the long ropes, with their minders dashing across the circle to retrieve the sally; the occasional desperate cry of “who am I SUPPOSED to be following?” or “what IS this change?”;a constant bustle of ringers departing and arriving; and continuous background conversations between the minders and their charges. At one point these conversations became rather more foreground as the minders strove to make themselves heard, and it became very noisy, to the extent it was sometimes difficult to hear the bells, and, probably, for the ringers to hear my calls.

As the touch progressed, the minutes started to tick away faster than the changes. I was determined to achieve all 100 changes, but time was running out, and pressure began to mount steadily. The soaring temperature didn’t help either: it was a rather warm day, and it became very hot in the ringing chamber.

Luckily, as we approached the end, a good number of smooth handovers were executed, allowing me to catch up with the call changes; and by the time John announced that all 100 ringers had taken part I still had 5 minutes in hand for the last 4 calls. Looking round, I saw that everyone in this final band was a well-experienced ringer, so I could have made many more calls had it been necessary. All part of John’s master plan, no doubt, but I wish I’d realised this would be the case earlier! In fact, the only problem at the end was that the tallest ringer had been assigned the 6th bell, directly between me and the clock which he completely obscured! Fortunately, on being asked, he moved aside (looking somewhat puzzled), and I was able to call stand exactly on time. (Which everyone did, except me, for the tenor had made a particularly wild lurch at the backstroke that I failed to control.)

I wouldn’t want that pressure every week but it was certainly a unique occasion, and I was pleased to have taken part.

Simon Humphrey

The Timekeeper’s Tale:

It was a day to remember when 100 Ringers rang 100 Changes over 100 Minutes. My first task on Sunday 31st July was to welcome all the ringers from around Derbyshire and beyond to this event at Bakewell parish church as they stood on the church steps for the group photograph. Later it would be to get the raffle drawn and give a final blessing. But my main task was up the tower stewarding during the 100 minute ring. John Thorpe had produced a spreadsheet of who would ring which bell and when, taking into account the ringers’ abilities (ranging from just learnt to ring in rounds through to peal ringers), and their height to suit the different lengths of the tail-ends.

Ringers arrived in the ringing chamber four at a time, roughly every four minutes. Stewards at the top and bottom of the stairs controlled the traffic up and down. I introduced each new ringer in turn to one of the three stewards doing the hand-overs (John Thorpe, Alec Humphrey and Richard Angrave) ready for when I gave the order to swap ringers. Sometimes there was a need to hold back whilst the ringing settled again or else to advance a handover where someone was struggling. The nerves and the buzz were quite palpable as people waited for their turn. Seven bells were used for the handovers, the eighth being rung by the conductor, Simon Humphrey, throughout the hundred minutes.

Having achieved the target we stood the bells for the stewards who had not been one of the hundred to take hold for one hundred changes of Original conducted by John Thorpe and a nice steady lower.

A brilliant and unique celebration of 100 years of the Ringing World, thanks to Linda Pelc who had devised the project and tirelessly worked to plan and implement it, even to making commemorative terracotta bell plaques for everyone to take home.

Revd Clive Thrower

The Tower Captain of Bakewell’s Tale:

It was on a Sunday morning after service ringing and over coffee that Linda said ‘I have an idea’! How about celebrating 100 years of the Ringing World with 100 ringers ringing for 100 minutes, swapping over ropes between ringers and ringing continuously for 100 minutes. I groaned and said we coooo—ould!! And so the event started to take shape.

The new Open Door cafe in the Newark of All Saints was well used and the ladies did us proud in providing teas, coffees, cakes and sandwiches all afternoon. The Ringing World

Chairman brought information boards, the Whiting Society brought lots of books. Taylors, Earye and Smith also had a display. Radio Derby came and did several interviews including talking to the youngest ringer and the newest ringer. Nobody was left out, and the church was buzzing and there was gentle discussion with the sound of handbell ringing in the main body of the church.

There was a group photo before the ringing on the steps of the Newark in the most glorious sunshine with a welcome by the new Derbyshire Diocesan Association chairman the Rev Clive Thrower. S.Anselms school generously allowed us to use their new field to park the cars as people had travelled from all over the diocese and beyond.

Having co-ordinated the use of the church, cafe, parking, my part in all this on the day was to ring for my allotted 7.5 mins, make sure all the church activities were provided with all that they needed and act as general co-ordinator on the day incase of emergencies. Lots of members of the church and other friends joined the ringers for tea and cake and chat and a good day was had by all.

Having arrived at 10.00am I finally left at 7.00pm having checked everything was tidied away and locked the church.

A marvellous time was had by everyone, we achieved the 100 mins by 100 ringers with all stays intact. What a wonderful achievement to celebrate the centenary of the Ringing World. Well done everyone.

Pauline Boyle

The Photographer’s Tale:

My personal impression of the day was that it was fantastically supported and brilliantly organised.

It was particularly satisfying that everyone came together for the group photograph really quickly and positioned themselves, so that everyones face could be clearly seen, with minimal instruction from me. It was just a shame that we then heard the bells ringing and discovered Radio Derby had kidnapped eight of the ringers for their interview. Thankfully everyone else was very patient and we only had to wait for a few minutes.

After that, the process of getting people up the tower, in and out of the ringing then back down the tower was well thought out and went extremely smoothly and as for the weather… Perfect.

People came from far and wide and were able to sit out on the grass listening to the bells and we even had a couple of tourists from Amsterdam, who have a holiday home in the area, who came over especially to listen to it.

Overall, a memorable day and I’m proud to have been a part of it. I hope you all enjoy my photographs. Go to the Derby Association website to see more.

Roger Lawson

Handbell Ringer’s Tale:

100 Changes of original minor.Demonstrations were given throughout the afternoon on the Association Handbells. A specially composed touch of 100 changes was rung few times. Ringers and non-ringers were encouraged to have a go at ringing 3-4 to Plain Hunt Minor which they all managed. One ringer who many years ago had leant to ring bob minor was thrilled to find she could still ring a plain course.

Gill Hughes

The Steward of Derby’s Tale:

When the idea of 100 ringers ringing for 100 minutes was suggested I made short work of offering my servic3s to the enterprise. Eventually Linda allocated me to be a ‘baton’ in the relay. There were to be three of us. Richard. John and myself. Our task was to take control of a bell from one ringer and then pass it on to the next appointed ringer. We found some strange contrasts. Many people, despite obvious trepidation., managed to the takeover very successfully whilst others who we knew to be more competent, appeared to struggle momentarily . The overall impression that I was left with was that this had been such a worthwhile experience for every participant.

Alec Humphrey

Whiting Society Tale:

I was privileged to be involved in a “100 Ringers” event at Bakewell yesterday, organised by Linda to celebrate the centenary of the Ringing World. I still don’t really understand it, so complex was it, but it was organised and executed with military precision. We are honoured to have landed a superb organiser in our ranks. Well done Linda. I set up the bookstall to give it an airing, and we took £96.

Michael Foulds

Epilogue

I knew the day would be a busy, frantic whirlwind. Some ungrounded optimism made me think I’d get some time to listen and see all that was going on. Not to be. So, from early morning to late afternoon, I rushed about, seeing 100 ringers go in, and 100 ringers go out of the church. I only got a cup of tea because June took pity on me. Yet at the end of the day, I sat alone on a garden step, waiting for Clive to return with the car. Beside me, an empty bookcase, and in my hands, three large balloons: 1,0,0. A passer-by joked “those balloons are not for you” – I said: “it feels like they are”. Exhausted, I was enjoying the peace and fading sunshine. While I sat there, I had a chance to reflect on the day. It had been a success. We had done it: 100 Ringers had rung 100 changes in 100 minutes. People seemed to have enjoyed it. A lady from radio Derby had come and I’d seen the delight and interest she had stirred. There were things I’d planned and forgotten, but that hadn’t mattered. At that point, I had no idea just how much people had enjoyed the day. Not until all the thank-you notes and emails started appearing did I really feel that it was a success. Even a month later, people are sharing photos and experiences of that day. Everyone was part of it. Everyone had worked together. If you are thinking of following suit, do so. Much was gained by many, as you will glean from reading on.

Fred:

Hi Linda,

I wanted to say thank you again for yesterday’s brilliant event. I thought it was particularly good that you managed to involve so many less experienced ringers. It all seemed to go like clockwork, thanks to what was clearly a lot of detailed preparation. Most importantly, everyone seemed to be having a great time – Mary and I certainly did.

Fred Bone
IT Systems Director
The Ringing World Ltd

Len:

Hi Linda

Many thanks for such a well organised event and for the opportunity to take part in it, I appreciated it very much and was glad that I could assist. The day went very well and everyone was rightly complimentary to both you, John and your team of helpers.

Rich:

“Rich Westman filmed the event and the 100 changes on handbells for YouTube, and both these videos can be found through his channel at www.youtube.com/8spliced

Anne:

Thank you so much for having the vision and putting so much effort into organizing the 100 years of the ringing world event. You and your team had organized everything to perfection. It was wonderful to incorporate all levels of ability – it could so easily have been restricted to the experts. I shall treasure my commemorative bell.
Please extend my thanks and appreciation to all who made it possible.

John and June:

Many thanks for allowing us to ring in your 100 Ringers Event. Everything was organized excellently and the bell changeover wasn’t as frightening as we thought.
Our thanks to John also – he worked so hard and always had a smile on his face.

Philip:

Dear Linda,

My apologies for the late email.
I wish to thank you for such a well organised day in Bakewell last week. It was a fun day, and a privilege to be part of it.

Yours faithfully,

Philip,
St. George’s, Poynton.

Geoff:

Linda
Just to say well done, and how much work you and the others must have put in, to make the day a great success.

Gill:

Well Done!
Brilliant afternoon.

Pauline:

Hi
Well done. That was incredible.

Elizabeth:

Hi Linda – many thanks for a superb event. It felt a privilege to attend & I met so many ringers I knew & had good conversations with many I do now know. Congratulations on such a professional & well organised occasion. Hope to see you soon. Liz.

Ian:

Thanks for this!
It was a great event, very well organised.
The posters, flyers, etc. were very professionally prepared – an excellent job.
It was a great idea, well executed. I think everyone enjoyed it (I certainly did!) Writing this moored on the Oxford canal on the way to Banbury …

The Hundred Ringers were from:

Ashford (x3), Bakewell (x5), Belper (x2), Brackenfield (x3), Castleton (x2), Chapel en le Frith, Chelford (x4), Darley Dale (x3), Derby Cathedral (x3), Derby Peters (x3), Dinting Vale (x4), Disley (x4), Eckington (x2), Edensor, Elton, Eyam, Fairfield (x3), Hartington (x8), Hathersage (x4), Hayfield, Hope, Matlock (x6), Muggington, Old Brampton (x2), Poynton (x2), Riddings (x4), Sapcote, Stanton Peak (x3), Staveley (x6), Taylors Bell Foundry, The Ringing World (2), Tideswell, Unattached (x3), Wetton (x2), Winster, Yardley, Youlgreave (x5)

Our thanks to the 4 100 ringer reserves.

The rows in the hundred minutes of ringing were counted by a simulator using Abel. There were 2610.

The 100 Changes in hand and in the tower

The Handbell Ringers were Gill Hughes, Chris Willis and Sally Bamson. They rang 100 changes of Original Minor. The touch, provided by J Cater, was:

100 Changes of Original Minor
Treble Observation Bob: 1, 4

O 5 I L
  2 –   1 2 3 6 4 5
–     – 1 2 4 5 3 6
–   – – 1 4 3 6 5 2
–   – – 1 3 5 2 6 4
–   –   1 5 6 3 4 2
–   –   1 6 4 5 2 3
–   –   1 4 2 6 3 5
–   –   1 2 3 4 5 6

The 100 changes of original major were rang on tower bells by: John Thorpe(c), Emma Humphrey, Linda Pelc, Fred Bone, Clive Thrower, Alec Humphrey, Roger Lawson, Richard Angrave. The touch provided by John Thorpe was:

100 Changes of Original Major
Treble observation Bob: 1, 4

7 8
– – 1 2 3 6 8 7 5 4

repeat 4 times