In July I noticed a post on a Facebook page calling all new ringers to a ‘Learning the Ropes’ festival in Norwich, aimed at SmART Ringers up to Learning the Ropes Level 3. As keen students at the Birmingham School of Bell Ringing, this was of particular interest to me and my husband Tony as we felt it would be really focused on our current skill levels. The programme included three different workshop sessions in the morning and three in the afternoon. We chose ‘Raising and Lowering’ for our morning workshop and ‘Say It Out Loud’ for the afternoon.As we live in Birmingham, with our home tower at Coleshill, Tony and I were a bit concerned that the long distance travel and, on top of that, ringing all day would make us feel so tired. Therefore we decided to stay for the whole weekend and we ended up staying nearby in Great Yarmouth. Midlanders love the seaside!
A few weeks after booking this event I was called into hospital for hand surgery and therefore had to cancel my booking. However this didn’t stop us from coming as we were both looking forward to a lovely and unusual weekend away. So I just cancelled my workshop event so at least someone else could fill my place.I then planned to sit and watch Tony working hard at both the workshops, taking it all in and taking some photos.On arrival we were greeted with such a warm welcome by the event organisers. We registered and were given our badges, so off we went with the map we were given and walked to our first tower and workshop.The Raising and Lowering workshop had quite a large range of student skills but was extremely well organised. The teacher, Catherine Sturgess,had taken the time to contact all the students prior to the event and establish everyone’s skill levels. This meant she could put a prepared programme together. On the day, Catherine covered all the elementary basics of how to hold a rope, make the coils, feeding up and down the rope, without any of the students actually raising or lowering bells. The group was split up into skill levels and allocated teachers and helpers,and the raising and lowering began. As an onlooker, this was such a great workshop with some really excellent teaching from both the teacher and helpers. Everyone left with smiles on their faces. Tony was very pleased with himself.Lunch had been organised by the St Peter Mancroft ringers in The Octagon attached to St Peter Mancroft Church. We pre-ordered our jacket potato, followed by tea and a whopping big piece of delicious home-made cake.
After lunch it was a short walk to the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre, passing by the Carter Mini-Ring on the way. I just had to have a little go at one handed ringing! It was the only ringing I was capable of doing so I loved every minute of it.Moving on to the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre, Tony had the opportunity to practise his plain hunting while I had a look around and took some videos and photos. One of the teachers stayed with Tony and everyone was encouraged to join in. The support and guidance of the teachers was of excellent quality and again, knowing that all the students were around the same level, really allowed the teachers to focus in on this. For the students it helped develop more confidence and not feel intimidated by much higher skill levels. After a ring in the Discovery Centre we went further up to the tower to the ringing chamber. Wow, what a privilege to stand and see such a magnificent ringing chamber with a wall made of glass looking down into the church. Tony was then asked if he would like to ring. I sat down but was fascinated by the tenor (37cwt) and would have loved the opportunity to ring this bell if my hands had allowed it. All the students were allocated a bell and a few attempts of simple Rounds were made. Not all perfect but a wholehearted attempt was made.
Next stop was a walk though the city centre to our next workshop ‘Say It Out Loud’.Led by Lesley Belcher and aimed at building up confidence to say things whist ringing it started off by the treble saying “Look to” and then worked its way up to Called Changes. This covered the timing of when things need to be said, the volume of how loud you say it and then watching to see if the command had taken place. It was a very well organised and thought-out workshop. The teacher made sure everyone had an input regardless of skill level. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this as I felt I could still learn from this although I was only watching.We decided to call it day after this and to retire to our hotel in Great Yarmouth. However the ringing didn’t stop there, more opportunities were available to continue to ring at various historic towers around the city centre. So that was our first Learning the Ropes Festival of Ringing in Norwich.I would highly recommend attending an event like this and would definitely love to do it again (with me able to ring). I’m wondering though, as everyone learnt so much from this one, we will need a Level 4 Festival next time! So to finish, a big thank you to organisers Ruth Suggett and Nikki Thomas, all the teachers, helpers,churches and bells for putting on such a well organised event. What’s next year’s festival date and can we have it over two days next year please? Since returning to our home tower, Tony’s raising and lowering skills have much improved and he is practising calling out loud.