District Secretary's report for 2014

This has been a busy and successful year, at least from the perspective of the District Secretary.

District striking competition at Wilburton.
Photo: Ruth Bramley.
We have held a full programme of ringing meetings, starting the year with the ADM at Histon. We held two monthly meetings with ringing at a single tower (Burwell in February and Littleport in December) and four meetings with ringing at two towers (Cottenham and Landbeach in March, Rampton and Oakington in August, Haddenham and Stretham in October and Doddington and Chatteris in November). Our District outing in April went to the Towcester area, which was a little further afield than in recent years, but was very well-attended with many ringers appreciating the opportunity to ring on the twelve bells at Towcester itself. We also held the District striking competition at Wilburton, and our September meeting was a mini-tour jointly with the Cambridge District, visiting Swaffham Prior and Swaffham Bulbeck in the Ely District and Horningsea and Fen Ditton just across the border in the Cambridge District. A Plain Hunt training morning was held at Stretham, attended by improving ringers from five towers in the district, and some of our district ringers attended an ITTS Module 2 course held at Bardwell in Suffolk.

It was the turn of the Ely District to host the AGM and inter-district striking competition for the Ely DA. This was held on the first Saturday in May instead of, as in recent years, on the early May Bank Holiday, with the striking competition at Longstanton, general ringing at the Millcroft Campanile in Willingham and more general ringing, service, tea and meeting at Over. Holding the meeting on the Saturday instead of the Monday certainly did not reduce the numbers attending, though of course some individual members would have found the Monday more convenient, and the Huntingdon District are planning to hold the meeting on the first Saturday in May again in 2015. It was also our turn to host the autumn quarter peal event and meeting for the Ely DA; for this we chose the fifth Saturday in November, so it did not conflict with any District meetings. The tea and meeting were held at Burwell, with quarter peals rung at Exning, Haddenham, Over, Stretham and Wilburton, and attempted at Fordham, Isleham and Soham. 

In 2013 we were saddened by the loss of two of our long-standing, stalwart District members: Rosemary Palmer and Colin Johnson. At the District committee meeting in November 2013 it was proposed that we ring quarter peals in their memory at as many of the District towers as possible, and – the really optimistic part – that this should be done in the month of April 2014. Dee Smith offered to coordinate the ringing, with the intention of supplementing a local band if necessary, or providing a complete band where there were no local ringers. This was not like a normal quarter peal month, as the aim was to score a quarter peal in each tower, so if the first attempt was not successful then another one was arranged. In the end, we managed commemorative ringing at 26 towers, with quarter peals at 25 of them (two quarter peals at Chatteris) and 1260 changes on tower bells and handbells by young ringers and supporters at Lolworth. The first quarter peal was at Landbeach on 30th March, and the last quarter peal was at Doddington on 13th August. Tower fees were waived for the commemorative ringing, and a total of £200 was collected for each of Macmillan Cancer Support and St John Ambulance. Arranging and ringing the quarters was, of course, a significant achievement for the District, but it was really pleasing to see how many individual ringers managed personal achievements as well. These included: a first quarter peal for Chris Franks, a young ringer at Fordham, a first on an inside bell, two firsts of Royal, a first of Major, firsts on six and eight bells, a first of Cambridge Major, a first of Surprise and a first of Cambridge Major as conductor. Thanks and congratulations to all involved, and a worthy memorial to Rosemary and Colin.

Last year’s initiative, master-minded by Barbara Le Gallez, to provide more opportunities for young ringers to ring together developed into a flourishing Young Ringers group. Barbara arranged a series of monthly meetings, mainly to fit in with the Ely or Cambridge District meetings, and these, together with the regular Young Ringers practices in the Huntingdon District, provided the basis for an Ely DA Young Ringers band to enter the Ringing World National Youth Contest. This was held in Worcester on 4th July and, apart from the contest ringing, included a 12-bell master-class, ringing at the Worcester Cathedral Teaching Centre and ringing at other towers within the city. Our young ringers acquitted themselves well in the striking competition, being placed 5th equal in the Call Changes category. And another significant outcome was that the whole team enjoyed their day in Worcester together and, in August, the Young Ringers themselves organised an outing visiting towers in three of the Ely DA districts, and also a quarter peal at St Benet’s in Cambridge which was a first quarter peal for Rachel Frost of Sutton and for Ben Edwards of Isleham. We were pleased that several of the Young Ringers could join us on the District outing, and a Young Ringers touch was included at each tower. As part of their preparation for the RWNYC, the Young Ringers entered a scratch band for the District striking competition and, while a scratch band cannot win the trophy, the Young Ringers were placed first and their performance was greeted by a spontaneous round of applause. Reece Perry of Landbeach took part in the Ely DA quarter peal event, and rang his first quarter peal at Wilburton.

This was not the only initiative involving young ringers within the district. Swaffham Bulbeck have recruited some young ringers from the primary school next door to the church; three of these were included in the band who rang for the school’s end of year service in July, and also joined the District mini-tour in September. Barbara Le Gallez has started a group who meet at Millcroft Campanile – this includes young ringers whose situation makes mini bells more suitable than tower bells, and is working towards plain hunt and simple methods. The Longstanton initiative is a response to an initial contact from the local primary school with a request for pupils to ring for their Carol service in December. Sessions only started in October, but much has been achieved in a short time and school pupils were able to ring backstrokes for the Carol service. There is a lot of enthusiasm, so we hope this will continue into next year. All these training initiatives have benefitted from ringers who have attended the ITTS modules organised in our area, so that there is a consistent approach to teaching and a common pool of resources and techniques are available.

The Recruitment and Training Subcommittee (RATS) of the Ely DA was set up in February 2014 to give greater focus to recruitment and training of ringers within the Ely Diocese. The subcommittee includes a good representation of Ely District members, including chairman and secretary, and one of the initial aims of the subcommittee is to set up a Ringing Education Centre at Stretham. There is an ear-marked Recruitment and Training fund within the ELY DA account, and profits from the Ely DA events held in the district have gone to this fund. Two concerts have been held within the district to benefit the Recruitment and Training fund: a Singing for Ringing concert in Oakington church of songs with a ringing connection sung and accompanied by Ruth Bramley, who rings at Haddenham and Stretham, and her singing partner Ann Briggs, and a Handbells at Christmastide concert in a candle-lit Stretham church which included the Cottenham Handbell Ringers, the Bottisham Handbell Ensemble and local change ringers.

Thanks to all who have made this a successful year for the district: to the ringing masters for making the ringing enjoyable and useful for us all; to the district officers and committee members for their hard work and enthusiasm; to all the incumbents for use of their bells; to the local ringers for welcoming us to their towers and providing wonderful teas; and to our district ringers and visitors for turning up and supporting the district events.

Janet Garnett