Guild Newsletter

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Covid Winter Plan – updated guidance for England Wales and Scotland

England comes out of lockdown on Wednesday this week and enters the three Tiers system. The rules in Wales have not changed since 9th November and the Tiers will not apply. In Scotland, Covid restrictions are governed by five Protection Levels. Central Council guidance is now moving to respond to the Tiers and Protection Levels and so will now be different in England, Wales and Scotland.

England

First the good news and perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel for other areas. Just before we went into lockdown for the second time a month ago, we had reached agreement with the House of Bishops Recovery Group to drop down to 1m+ distancing, and then introduce local risk assessment based on the characteristics of the ringing environment and also risk assessment based on personal circumstances. Our guidance is that in Tier 1 this can now happen, although at first we only recommend ringing for 15 minutes until ventilation in towers is better understood. However look to the end of this statement for our plans in that regard.

In Tiers 2 and 3 we are still recommending that we stick to the government’s guidance that is the same for both Tiers, and that is that “No mixing of households indoors, apart from support bubbles.” As was discussed when the lockdown started, one can argue the definitions of mixing, interacting and mingling, some might even try and argue that ringing is an act of worship or even employment, but the clear intention of the public health experts is to reduce interactions as much as possible so that we get through the winter without another wave of infection. That restricts ringing in Tiers 2 and 3 to families that live together and other households, or the ringing of single bells as currently.

Handbells

The opportunities for handbell ringing will improve over the lockdown conditions. In Tiers 1 and 2 a maximum of six people can meet in any outdoor setting including a domestic garden, so provided you are warm enough, socially distanced handbell ringing is viable. Tier 3 is slightly more restrictive in that mixing of households outdoors needs to be in a public space, e.g. parks, public gardens or churchyards. Again this give the opportunity to meet perhaps outside the church and ring handbells. Not that you should not travel from a higher tier to a lower tier for handbell ringing.

Wales

Wales does not have the Tier system but does have social distancing of 2m and a recommendation that indoor gatherings other than with your household or extended household is avoided. However, the Church in Wales has specifically recognised ringing in its guidance for places of worship and specifically permits ringing as follows:

“Bell ringing is permissible, but bell ringers should observe two-metre physical distancing and hygiene and cleaning regimes should be implemented. Careful consideration of how bell ringers will access the building suitably distanced from other attendees needs consideration e,g diff erent entry points or staggered arrival times. Bellringing arrangements should comply with guidance available from the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers at https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus/ ”

Our guidance in Wales is therefore that ringing should still follow 2m social distancing and be restricted to 15 minutes. Ringing for longer could come following the ventilation trials explained below.

Handbells

Ringing handbells outdoors in a public space is allowed subject to the overall guidance on social distance and avoiding large gatherings. Handbells in gardens is allowed however there is a rule that only householders and their one extended household can meet in their gardens. However that still might present some handbell opportunities on warmer days.

Scotland

There is an overall social distancing restriction of 2m between people (not ropes) which is a key driver for practical ringing.

In the top Protection Level 4, ringing has stopped because public worship has stopped. However, in all other Levels ringing is possible provided the social distancing guidelines are possible and duration restricted in accordance with previous guidance.

Handbells

Ringing handbells outdoors is allowed subject to the overall guidance on social distancing. In Levels 2 3 and 4 up to six people from two different households could ring handbells outdoors, subject to social distancing and woolly hats. In Level 1, that increases to eight people from three households. The household restrictions do not apply to 12-17 year olds.

A summary of all the different levels and guidance can be found on the main website here, which is also linked from the Virtual Hub on Bellboard.

Ventilation and increasing ringing time

At first the guidance in Tier 1 is still only to ring for 15 minutes (as it still is in Wales also), however we are going to be working with some ringers on the Isle of Wight and in Cornwall, the two regions with bells that will be in Tier 1, to understand the benefits of ventilation using CO2 meters.

The use of CO2 meters as a means of measuring the effectiveness of ventilation came from studies summarised in a recent review from the Royal Society. Indeed CO2 measurement is the industry standard used to demonstrate effectiveness of commercial ventilation systems. In an enclosed space like a ringing chamber, our breathing causes CO2 levels to increase. Ventilation brings in fresh air and the CO2 level drops. A CO2 meter is a pretty good proxy for the adequacy of ventilation, which in turn will help us estimate if ringing for longer than 15 minutes is safe (because Covid infected aerosols don’t build up). If the CO2 level in the room does not increase, it is likely that the ventilation is good, and we can ring for longer.

Phil Barnes and David Pouncey have both bought a particular kind of CO2 meter from Canada which can be connected to a laptop and display the change in CO2 levels over time. In the Isle of Wight trial, a couple of bands of relatives will ring for 30 minutes in towers with a broad range of ventilation characteristics and measure how the CO2 levels change. This will then be used to give much better guidance on what other towers need to do to improve ventilation. By the time other regions drop into Tier 1 we hope that this work done by the Isle of Wight and Cornish ringers will enable us to move straight to ringing for longer in towers where the characteristics show that aerosol transmission risk is low.

Conclusion

Overall, there is cause for optimism. There will be disappointment for many in Tier 2 areas particularly that the Tier restrictions do not enable us to get back to where we were in the summer, but then that is something the government has thought about in maintaining and indeed increasing their overall restrictions. December 16th may bring more Tier 2 areas into Tier 1. Hopefully the work that will be done with CO2 monitoring will help us to increase ringing times in more towers as more regions drop into Tier 1.

As has been said by various ministers and public health officials, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to, and the Tier rules “are not boundaries at which to push, but limits of what you can do.”

Ultimately being sensible and being aware of the risks is a sound basis for deciding on whether to ring or not.

Simon Linford
President, Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

Tony Hocking 2/10/1935 - 28/9/2020.

Tony volunteered to learn to ring in 1980 at Wolston when the scheme to restore the four existing bells and augment them was in the early stages, the work in the tower to be done on a DIY basis to reduce costs. A new group was formed to learn to ring the existing bells, which were ringable but out of tune. As well as learning to ring Tony joined the restoration team which was carried out most weekday evenings for 9 months as the team at that time were in full time employment. Tony's skills as a woodwork and metalwork teacher were a great use to the project. After the restored and augmented eight bells were dedicated in 1982 Tony along with the rest of the new team joined the Guild, membership which continued until his retirement from ringing in 2015. Tony supported, in addition to his home church Wolston, practices at Stretton, Bubbenhall and Ryton after the bells in those churches were restored and also Shilton.

Tony rang in over 50 quarter peals all of doubles and minor at St Margaret's and other local churches.

It was a pleasure to have known Tony over the past 40 years and as soon as it is possible to gather together again his ringing friends will attempt a quarter peal at St Margaret's in his memory.   RIP - Tony

KFC

What’s Happening After the Pandemic?

At the start of the first lockdown we were still looking forward to ringing events in the summer. There were plans for a grand “Ringing Returns” festival to mark the end of the almost unprecedented few months off ringing. Three months without ringing would be painful but not seismic. We would get a bit rusty, but we could recover.

It now looks clear that by the time ringing returns to ‘normal’ we will have missed at least a year. A year without ringing, a year without recruitment, a year without training, a year without the social intercourse that makes ringing what it is. Not only that, but we have months more in which to try and cope without the activity that some of us live for.

We therefore face two challenges. Survival through a bleak winter with little in the way of ringing to keep us motivated, and then rebuilding at least some of what we had before. That is going to need a lot of effort from a lot of people, but we are not going to wait until next year to start. There are things that can be done now, particularly in terms of survival.

ART and the CCCBR are already working on ways in which we can help ringers and bands stay together and then recover. For instance, we are working together to produce a Survival and Recovery Toolbox from which ringers, bands and even ringing societies can pick the tools that will best help them keep going until ringing can resume and tailor them to local needs. The toolbox will give access to training, a variety of new (and old) ideas and the opportunity to learn from what others have done or are thinking of doing.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll start to roll out tools, resources and ideas for replacing the routines, friendship and opportunities that we have lost because we’re not ringing. Let’s try and keep as many people as possible enjoying ringing this winter so that we can recover and rebuild when ringing returns to ‘normal’. Some of it will just be helping more people to find resources that already exist.

Questions about some sort of centralised recovery strategy have been popping up on social media, in email chat lists and have arrived by email. We want to assure you that a recovery strategy is being discussed and developed, with the Survival and Recovery Toolbox being just a start. The Council Executive and ART Management Committee are thinking about recovery strategies at a more fundamental level as well. If you have any ideas or would like to help in any aspect of this – building, delivery or engagement – then please get in contact with us. Working together is the best way of building a positive future for ringing.

President’s Blog #22

The ‘Cast of 1000’ was introduced in the Council’s Strategic Priorities document that was produced early in the year. The idea is to establish a roster of 1000 experienced ringers who are prepared to go to one additional practice a month provided it is reliably organised, well run, and for some folks’ specific benefit. It is an idea specifically aimed at middle and upper reaches of the ‘Red Zone’ where many aspiring ringers are getting stuck for opportunities. 1000 ringers could deliver 30 additional surprise major practices every Saturday and only have to go once a month each. It is an idea that has College Youth and Cumberland support but which was put on the backburner when ringing stopped.

However, a version of it can now work now, especially as we have noticed that many more experienced ringers who could be very helpful are inactive and not getting involved in any ringing on Ringing Room. There is very little developmental Surprise Major ringing going on except ringers in isolation on simulators. So, two ideas – a personal project of starting some PPE-focused practices and getting the Cast of 1000 going – will coalesce with some trial PPE practices on Saturdays in December.

Accelerating this is just one idea of a joint CC and ART team looking at survival and recovery – how we not only look to rebuild ringing next year but also just how we help more ringers get through the winter. Everything is more difficult when it’s dark and cold (except growing mould and stalactites).

ART is launching its “50 Virtual Ringing Things” to supplement the very successful 50 Ringing Things (it is currently in final pre launch testing). ART is also going to start running workshops to help people run successful Ringing Room practices.

Is there a psychologist in the house, or someone with similar experience? The aforementioned Survival and Recovery team is quite keen to find someone who can help with developing some articles and other things that can help ringers cope in this continued period without ringing, and maybe managing the anxiety of returning to the end of a bellrope when it happens. Contact me or if you could help.

Our consultations on direct membership continue, with the first of our sessions with young ringers last week. And very interesting it was too. The young ringers expected that there would be an overall membership organisation but valued greatly the support of their local associations and the opportunities they provide. The lack of any overall coordination of major events was a puzzle, and Bellboard was favoured as the channel for ringing information and news, combined with a decent ringing app. We have two consultation events coming up where we would like to gauge the opinions of anyone who is just generally interested in ringing and doesn’t mind spending about an hour debating direct membership. 19th at 8pm and 24th at 8am (for morning people!) Email us –

Ringing opportunities are of course few and far between everywhere, unless you live in a Covid free zone, but a few ringers were able to mark Remembrance Sunday with the ringing of a single bell, and in some cases Ellacombe chimes. Bells on Sunday on Radio 4 treated us to the haunting sound of half muffled Stedman Caters on the Minor 10 at Worcester Cathedral (credit to Phil Orme for his continued effort with Bells on Sunday).

Lewis Benfield, a young ringer from Leicestershire, had been hoping to visit St Martin’s Birmingham to ring on 16 for the first time on his 16th birthday. When that plan was not possible, the Conductor of the St Martin’s band, Stephanie Warboys, arranged a special performance on a bespoke 16 bell tower in Ringing Room, with Lewis successfully navigating 3-4 through a couple of leads of Littleport 16 (now the relevance of the top picture becomes clear).

I was delighted with how a feature on bell ringing turned out in the children’s newspaper ‘The Week Junior’. Every issue features a different activity to try, and the young Brumdingers, and Max in particular, did an ace job of selling their hobby to their peers. Interestingly the journalist used a picture of Italian bellringing as the main feature shot when we weren’t able to deliver bellringers and bells in the same frame. It did not detract from the piece though.

Bruce and Eileen Butler are still deliberating on the October YouTube competition. Although there were only 12 entries, given they were training videos they are quite long, and the Philadelphian jury is taking its responsibilities seriously. If you have not seen the Playlist you can find it here. We are into the last month of the series now (unless we think of some new categories? A Christmas special perhaps? Or Champion or Champions? You’re getting carried away…Ed) with November’s topic being the “Film that promotes ringing in the most positive way” – there is still time to give that some thought.

I think I have mentioned the Salisbury DG newsletter before, and had the good fortune of seeing the winter edition of ‘Face to Face’ this week. It really is a tour de force of newsletter writing, managing 36 sizzling lockdown pages. I particularly liked new CC Rep Vicki Prowse’s very positive report of the CC Annual Meeting, of the work of the Council and it’s workgroups. Vicki takes her place on the beer tea or cake list.

Most ringers will know that the management of The Ringing World is grappling with a difficult situation, not made any easier by it being played out on social media. Spare a thought for them and the difficult job they do on our behalf. Also remember that although the Board is unpaid, the Ringing World does have employees who may read all that is said about it.

And finally, this will be the first time my blog has not been printed in The Ringing World. The Friday 13th issue (unlucky for blog writers) is a special one as you will soon see, and a contribution from me would have spoiled it. So I have been a bit of a rebel and pushed my word count out to 1013 and an emoji 😊.

Simon Linford
President CCCBR