Ely Tower Open Day

Open day at St Mary's Ely, 29th June 2013

The open day at St Mary's, Ely, uncovered a wealth of potential ringing talent for Ely District towers.

Organised by members from the Ely District of the Ely Diocesan Association, a Bell Ringing Open Day was held at St Mary’s Ely (8,17-0-25) on Saturday 29 June with the aim of raising the profile of ringing and identifying potential new learners for the District’s 36 ringable towers. Ely was chosen as the venue to attract the greatest possible numbers of people.

Knowing the usual difficulty in generating a sufficiently good response to such events, considerable effort went into advance publicity. The Association’s Public Relations Officer, Peter Binns, distributed over 60 posters in Ely and surrounding villages, erected a 2.5 metre banner outside St Mary’s in the centre of Ely, and sent press releases announcing the event to all local media resulting in several column centimetres of coverage.

On the day, the message was further reinforced by a live interview on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Breakfast Show with Jane Smith in which Peter was able to encourage people to come along. Also part of the marketing plan was Ely’s Town Crier, Avril Hayter-Smith, whose cries bid those in various parts of the town to go over to St Mary’s and find out more.

We were not to be disappointed as, after an expectedly slow start at 11.00am, a trickle of people and children of all ages turned into a steady stream of inquisitive would-be ringers, more than enough to keep us busy. On the lawn outside the church, the Vestey mini ring, loaned by Brian Whiting of the Suffolk Guild, attracted much attention from passers-by. Dozens of youngsters, and some of their parents, tried their hand under the expert guidance (and patience) of Sue Marsden from Chatteris. Also outside was the Association’s mobile demonstration bell tower overseen by Landbeach’s Barbara Le Gallez who coached many of the older youngsters to try ringing up to the balance.

Having had a taste of being on the end of a rope outside, almost everyone wanted to visit St Mary’s ringing chamber where Association Education Officer Phil Bailey, aided by Roderick Johnstone of Over, Dee Smith of Burwell, Simon Smith of St Mary’s, Geoff Grayton of Histon and others, introduced the continual flow of visitors to ringing backstrokes, handstrokes and, in some cases, both together.

Meanwhile, down in the church, District President Roger Palmer and Membership Secretary Rosemary Palmer were on hand with Stretham’s newly-refurbished set of 12 Warners handbells in E for visitors to hear and try for themselves. Rosemary also served refreshments in the church room aided by Bill Murrells and Evelyn Binns.

Phil Bailey was delighted with the level of response, and the variety of people who attended: “It has been really rewarding to see so many people showing an interest in bell ringing here today. Equally pleasing has been the wide range of people coming along. As well as the many children wanting to find out about bells we’ve had adults in their twenties, thirties and beyond, plus a lady who hadn’t rung for over forty years but might take it up again. We even had a ringer and his young son from Brewster, New York, drop in whilst sight-seeing in Ely!”

All in all, approaching 200 people visited the Open Day and Phil and his colleagues are confident that their efforts will result in several of them asking to start learning to ring at St Mary’s or one of 17 other church towers in the District with regular practice nights.

Peter Binns, PRO, Ely DA

These photos show: The Ely DA mobile bell in St Mary's churchyard and, in the ringing chamber: Demonstrating how to hold a bellrope, Trying the handstroke; A visiting ringer from Brewster, New York state, with his son ringing the backstroke.

The Ely DA mobile bell in St Mary's churchyard

Demonstrating how to hold a bellrope

Trying the handstroke

A visiting American ringer, with his son ringing the backstroke

Reading the Ely DA display boards

Young visitors having a go on the mini-ring

Ely District members ringing the mini-ring at the end of the day