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111th Annual Meeting of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers
26th May 2008

The late May Bank Holiday weekend is always the time for Central Council. This year it was in Newcastle. Newcastle and the surrounding area is stuffed with interesting and unusual bells from the super heavy eights at Low Elswick and St Margaret’s to the tens of Gosforth, Roker & Northshield. Our new Bishop Nigel came to Suffolk from Northshields.

As was proven by past President Mike Henshaw, ringing over the Central Council weekend is usually very poor. It is always a case of “lots of people very few ringers” and it is worrying that these poor performers form the bulk of the decision making process of Council. Fortunately much like the Guild AGM, the percentage who actually ring at Council is very small, which beggars the question as to why they are involved with a “ringing” organisation yet do not ring?

For a good few years I have been ringing with a predominately Yorkshire Association band at Council and we have had some good peals. This year we tackled the eight at St Johns, a terrific Gillett 11cwt eight and Newcastle Cathedral. I was able to get Richard into the band and one “could have been better” peal of Bristol Major and one first class peal of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus were scored. There was an interesting problem with peals rung at Council again this year. The D&N requested that if not rung for the Central Council, peals should be rung for the D&N. However the D&N rules require 50% of the band to be resident to either ring it for the D&N or elect new members. Doh.

The Saturday usually sees a number of towers open for grabbing. The usual tower grabbing problems were prevalent: two bobbed leads of Little Bob, poor ringing and selfishly rushing off leaving insufficient ringers to ring. It is such a shame that people behalf like that. None-the-less I grabbed three towers and met and chatted with a large number of ringing friends old and new.

The Sunday saw open ringing at various towers. There is usually an open meeting on a ringing related topic on the Sunday afternoon. In the past we have discussed the Ringing Foundation, Sound Control, Standards in Ringing and Training. This year there was no open meeting, but instead a briefing for new Council Members. Richard duly attended to find out what it was all about. This was an innovation that I was involved with on the Education Committee some years ago. Because of the Triennium structure of Council this briefing only takes place every three years.

The Monday saw the meeting at the Scotswood Suite of the Centre for Life, Newcastle. It is interesting that since we (The Suffolk Guild) pioneered Stewards in distinctive tee shirts back in 2000 every other Guild/Association has copied us.

Once again The Suffolk Guild was fully represented with our full complement of four in attendance. For those not aware of what Council is like a few words. Council is much like an AGM only much longer. There are lots of petty points raised and the usual suspects raise their own pet quibbles year after year. Unlike most Guild/Associations 99% of the work of Council is done by the committees and comprehensive reports are published in The Ringing World.

The marathon session started on time with prayers from Lawrence. New members were welcomed and Frank Blagrove was congratulated on attending his 50th meeting. Loss of members through death produced concern that some listed were given their titles e.g. MBE, whereas other were not. It was also concerning that John Scott was not listed as being a past president of Council.

The accounts were passed very quickly. At this stage it seems that with the increase to £20 per member, the Council finances are in good order. The question as to how it is that Honorary Members seem to get away without paying remains unanswered.

Andrew Stubbs was proposed as a Life Member, primarily for his work on the Ringing World Diary, The Ringing World (Past Chairman) and as Steward of the Rolls of Honour over the last 20 years. Andrew’s commitment to the Council over the years has been substantial and after a vote he was duly elected.

Honorary Members and Officers were then elected. Tony Smith takes over as President at the conclusion of this meeting and Kate Flavell as Vice-President. Ian Oram (Secretary) has given one year’s notice of retiring.

And so to the first motion. The object of this motion was to reduce time taken for committee elections and to allow new Council Members a better chance of participating.

Committee work involves travelling the country and a large commitment of time. Whilst none of your reps are currently on committees Lawrence, Stephen and I have been involved with the Analysis, Education & Composition committees in the past. I still assist the Education Committee and do work for the Felstead Data Base. Getting on to these committees has always been an issue particularly for new members and election of a full committee every three years adds a considerable time to the CC meeting. This motion was carried. As of now one third of each committee will retire each year and each year there will be a chance to get on to a committee. In my view this is an improvement but committee membership is so incestuous with the same people clinging to power and being proposed by the same old groups. To the un-initiated it looks like it is all cut and dried prior to the meeting which of course it is, hardly good for democracy.

Last year Philip Earis bemoaned, with good cause, the number of Central Council Committees and their overlaps of scope and operation. The Admin Committee went away and out of 16 committees proposed amalgamating the Records Committee and the Peal Analysis Committee. This is hardly what Philip was on about but a start and is disappointing as these two committees sole concern is ringing. After a short debate it was agreed to join the two committees.

The Towers & Belfries Committee reported that they were concerned about new EEC working directives and were looking into it. They have been in contact with Ellis’s Ropes and rope production has now increased to assist with the loss of Pritchard’s. Whilst delivery is still about a year, if you have an urgent serious problem contact Ellis’s and they will help. Concern was expressed about the longevity of the hemp currently being used, in one case it lasted less than 6 months. Ellis’s are also looking into this.

The Education Committee reported that a “New Ringers” book will be available in the autumn. This is an update of the old Beginners Handbook and is well overdue. Mike Henshaw and I worked on this 6 years ago. There will be a new DVD version of the handling video released next year and Ringing Practice Guidelines are now on the web site. A request for more courses was received and the new committee will be looking to provide or facilitate more courses.

The ICT committee was criticised for not having details of the CC meeting on the web site. It seems nobody sent the details to the web master. He must have known about it however because he was there.

After lunch it was the Ringing World Meeting. Very quiet and business like after the excitement of Norwich when the whole board stood down. There were three points of interest.

1) Profit is reliant on donations to the RW.

2) The Calendar did not make as much as it should because it had to be re-printed because of a mistake. This is amazing as weekly the RW goes out peppered with mistakes.

3) Subscriptions number are still going down.

It does seem that the Board are oblivious to the views of members as to why the subscriber rate is down. Time after time they are told it’s the contents yet nothing appears to be done. It is a shame because the quality of the RW is now very professional but the content…………. As Roger Bailey put it “The RW is the best weekly ringing magazine in the country”.

Back to the committees. The Method committee advised that Treble Dodging Minor, Plain Minor and rung Surprise had now been updated and were available at this meeting. A request was made from the floor for a definitive list of Doubles variations particularly double call ones. One of the previous Doubles collections did cover single call variations but the CC has always been very stuffy about double call ones. These are where you ring say Plain Bob but use Grandsire Bobs and Singles. Tony Smith has for years held an unofficial list and the committee will now consider making this available on the web site.

The Records committee was asked why no details of first peals in Doubles variations were kept. I would have thought that it was pretty obvious given the way Council has over the years looked down on variations. The answer was that you can find out by searching Felstead.

This whole question of variations is still problematic and there is no clear guide from the CC. If you ring April Day Triples, Plain Bob with Grandsire singles, it would be recorded as Plain Bob with Grandsire Singles not April Day. However given that variation ringing is, like variable cover, a minority interest, Council time could be wasted looking into it further. (I have a composition of April Day Triples so the matter may be forced to a head in a few years).

The Public Relations Committee gave a very forceful promotion of The Ringing Road Show. It has cost Council £20,000 to book Stonleigh so a full turnout is required to make it profitable.

The Redundant Bells Committee reminded Council of the problems caused by increasing bell-metal prices. £200 a cwt last October, £400 a cwt last month and expected to rise to £500 a cwt by August.

We then had the Ringing Foundation meeting that was chaired by Brian Meads in David Hull’s absence. They reported that grants would be issued before the end of 2008. Watch out for further progress of the Ringing Foundation. They are preparing teaching materials for mainstream schooling and need professional educationists to help. They are particularly interested in somebody with experience of professional teaching of teachers. As if we do not have enough teachers and ex-teachers on Council already. If you know of anybody who could help contact David Hull.

Next years meeting is in Worcestershire, a little nearer home.

David Salter