District Secretary's report for 2016

In 2016, we have held a full programme of District meetings. In fact, this year we have visited an unusual number of towers outside our own district.

In April, we had an excellent outing to the Peterborough area, visiting Maxey in the Peterborough DG, Market Deeping and West Deeping in the Lincoln DG, St Mary and St John the Baptist in Peterborough itself, and ending at Old Fletton in the Huntingdon District of the Ely DA, where we had a go at Old Fletton Bob Doubles. Our July meeting took the form of a mini-tour visiting nearby towers in the Huntingdon District, ringing at Ramsey, Warboys and Somersham. In September we added Hilton in the Huntingdon District to Lolworth and Conington, which are our two west-most towers, and in October we followed a visit to Swaffham Prior with the nearby tower of Bottisham which was then in the Cambridge District. Coincidentally, at about this time the Bottisham ringers requested a move to the Ely District, as Bottisham is in the same benefice as Swaffham Bulbeck and Swaffham Prior, and the ringers at those towers already operate as a joint band. This was approved by both Districts and the General Committee so Bottisham, and also Stow cum Quy which is in the same benefice, are now included in the Ely District.

For the other months, we rang at towers in our own District. The ADM in January was held at Burwell; in February we rang at Sutton, for the first time in several years, and Wilburton; in March we went to Doddington and Chatteris. The striking competition in May was held at Longstanton and attracted a record number of entries: 8 for the Call Change section and 4 for the Method section; the local Longstanton A band won the Call Change section, and the Cottenham band retained the trophy in the Method section. In June we rang at Cottenham and Landbeach; the August meeting was held at Stretham; in November we rang at St Mary’s, Ely and Haddenham; we finished the year in December at Swaffham Bulbeck.

In addition to the monthly District meetings, Dee Smith, as Education Officer, has arranged a 5 and 6 bell practice at Stretham on the third Saturday of each month; these practices have focussed on plain hunting and basic methods such as Plain Bob Doubles and Minor and Grandsire Doubles, and have also included Stedman and Cambridge Surprise Minor by special request. The ringers at St Mary’s, Ely, have established an 8-bell practice on the second Friday of the month, at their usual practice time, and this has attracted visitors from other towers and from the Wisbech District. An Association 10-bell practice has been held at Soham on the third Monday of each month; thanks to the Association vice-president Alan Winter for arranging these practices.

We have also taken part in Association events. The Association 8-bell striking competition was held at Terrington St Clement in May. All four districts entered a band in the competition, and the Ely District were placed joint second with the Cambridge District, the Huntingdon District being placed first and the Wisbech District, with many congratulations for entering, were placed fourth. The Ridgman 10-bell striking competition was held at Daventry in June, and two Ely District ringers were included in the Association band which was placed first. The Ringing World National Youth Contest was held in London in July, and the Fen Tigers, which is the new name for the Ely DA Young Ringers and included three ringers from the Ely District, was placed joint second in the Call Changes category with an A- grade.

In October, the Ely District hosted the Association quarter peal event and Special General Meeting, based at Oakington. Compared to two years ago, when we last hosted this event, fewer ringers wished to be involved, but five quarters were rung over the weekend including a first quarter, a first away from cover and three firsts of Bristol Surprise Royal at Great St Mary’s in Cambridge on the Sunday.

While some District meetings have been well attended, with around 20 ringers present, others have not attracted much interest. The low point was having just 6 ringers at Cottenham in June; we attempted a quarter peal which was unfortunately lost in the last few minutes, by which time another ringer had arrived. When a meeting is not well attended, we cannot tell whether it was because the type of meeting or the location were not attractive, whether it was simply at the same time as other events, or whether everyone individually was committed elsewhere. The District committee have spent some time discussing, by email and in person, what District meetings are for, why they are important and how to make them successful.

We have agreed that District meetings are important because they allow ringers to visit other towers, to ring on different bells, and perhaps try ringing things that are not available at their usual towers and practice nights. Equally, when District ringers visit a tower, that provides contact and support for the local ringers who may be a bit isolated and not aware of what is happening elsewhere. District meetings provide the opportunity to expand the repertoire of methods, and to spread good ideas for teaching and all aspects of ringing around the District. And, of course, the chance to chat to other ringers and enjoy tea and cake together is also important, and helps in arranging more ringing in the District.

For 2017, the District committee has agreed to provide a programme of ringing meetings which is similar to previous years, but to make some small changes to try to encourage ringers to attend. Hopefully, if ringers come to one meeting and enjoy it then they will come to another one, and bring others with them. The programme of ringing meetings is intentionally designed so that we visit every ringable tower in our District over the course of two or three years; this pattern is continued in 2017with 15 of our 27 towers included in the programme. As a change for 2017, we will re-introduce special methods for ringing meetings – this is a way of spreading a wider range of methods through the District as a ringer can have a go at a method at a ringing meeting and then take it back to their local tower to ring again. The ringing masters will try to arrange for a brief theory session on the special method, or another topic, before the start of ringing at a District meeting, but this will depend on people arriving promptly to take advantage of it. New for 2017 is a Loyalty Card for each ringer with space to record a visit to each tower in the District during the year. Everyone is invited to fill in their card during the year, and return it to the District Secretary at the end of the year, or at the latest by the ADM in 2018. The names of the people who have visited the most towers will be announced, and will be entered into a draw for a small prize. The ringing programme for 2017 is published now – I hope to see lots of you at the District meetings.

And finally, I would like to thank everyone who has 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