Secretary's report, 2009

This year saw the 900th anniversary of the Ely Diocese. The anniversary was celebrated in the Ely district with special ringing, throughout the year and especially during the ringing week of 20th – 28th June, and the Bell Ringers’ Fete in the Churchyard of Ely St Mary on the 27th June. In the Ely district there was ringing at all ringable towers, including ringing on all numbers of bells from three to ten, and quarters and peals were rung throughout the year as well as during the ringing week.

Handbell ringers at the Bell Ringers Fete
The Bell Ringers’ Fete was jointly organised by the Ely and Cambridge districts. The morning of 27th June was cloudy, with a forecast that the cloud would 'roll back to the coast'. So the stalls were set up outside, and we gathered quite an audience for our demonstration of how many bell ringers it takes to set up a gazebo over a mini ring. Just before the Fete was due to start, we were taken by surprise when there were a few drops of rain. Then the rain got more persistent, so out came the umbrellas and there was a rush to put up more gazebos and move the stalls under them. The Fete was a bit quiet to start with, although a good number of ringers turned up. Gradually the rain stopped and more people arrived. The mini ring was a great attraction, the mobile bell had a steady stream of people trying it out, there was occasional ringing from St Mary's bells as visitors were shown the ringing chamber, and the Palmers’ handbells were put to good use.

The Fete had the two aims of promoting bell ringing and of raising money for the Bell Restoration Fund. The money raising part of the Fete was also successful, with a total profit of £276 to the BRF and a donation of £100 to Ely St Mary. As is often the case, the cake stall was the best money spinner, with a profit of £151. It was also impressive that the supply of cakes lasted through the afternoon, with the final cake being sold as the stalls were packed away. Very many thanks to all who contributed in any way; this enabled the Fete to be the success that it was.

We held our usual programme of ringing meetings throughout the year. This included seven full meetings with two ringing sessions, tea and service, two evening meetings with one ringing session, a barbeque, a striking competition and an outing. For the April meeting, at Doddington and Chatteris, we were joined by members of the Cambridge district as the date of their meeting fell within Holy Week, and also several tower grabbers taking the opportunity to ring at Doddington. The special methods for this meeting were Chatteris Bob Minor, duly rung at Chatteris, and Shipway Place Doubles. Some ringers were so enthused by Shipway Place that they practised it before the meeting and rang a quarter of it afterwards. Special methods for other meetings included Woodbine and Willingham Surprise Minor, the latter rung at Willingham. The outing to Norfolk in October included ringing on the ten bells at Wymondham Abbey, and also on the anti-clockwise six in the round tower at Brooke. Other commitments meant that several ringers could not go on the outing, so in 2010 we are scheduling the outing for April to see if this has fewer competing events.

Eight-bell practices were held in nine months of this year, on the third Saturday evening to avoid clashing with tower practice nights. We tried a new format with a quarter peal attempt by a pre-arranged band immediately preceding a somewhat shorter general practice. The quarter peal attempt was intended to ensure that at least eight ringers were present at the start of the practice. This was a complete success, with the practices including a good variety of eight bell ringing from called changes to spliced surprise major, and the quarter peal attempts were useful in themselves. We successfully rang quarter peals of Plain Bob Triples (twice) and Cambridge, Yorkshire and Superlative Surprise Major as separate quarter peals; two of these represented significant firsts for their conductors.

Thanks go to the ringing masters for making the district ringing enjoyable and useful for us all and to the district officers and committee members for all their hard work in supporting the district. This year, particular thanks are due to three people who are standing down or not seeking re-election: to Mike Davies who has served us as Central Council representative for over twenty years, to Kathleen Rosewarne who has been membership secretary and has successfully converted the district records to electronic format and to Peter Johnstone who has brought a fresh approach to Striking Features but has to resign as editor due to pressure of school work. Thanks also to all the incumbents for use of their bells and for taking the services, to the organists and lesson readers, and to the local ringers for welcoming the district meetings to their towers and providing wonderful teas.

Janet Garnett