June 4th at Holy Cross, Daventry
The Host Guild's report by Odette Dawkins, Peterborough Diocesan Guild
After months of planning and endless emails, Saturday 4th June finally arrived for Holy Cross Church, Daventry to host the 29th Ridgman Trophy Competition. The draw had taken place at Holy Cross Church two weeks earlier during the Tuesday night practice with each band being given a strict start time.
By 12 noon all was ready and the bells rung up in anticipation – if only they knew what was in store for them!
The band from Bedfordshire started to arrive, followed by Essex and then other bands began to congregate, many sampling the sumptuous teas, sandwiches and cakes supplied by the fantastic team of ladies from Holy Cross Church.
The first band to ring - Bedfordshire - entered the ringing room and began, their ringing was magnificent, I had never heard the bells here at Daventry rung so well, with great gusto and with such a lovely sound. It was amazing – yes, I know I’m a learner but wow, what a shock to hear such ringing! Bands were outside listening too, doing their very own judging and then our own Peterborough band began to arrive.
Suffolk rang second, team photos were duly taken and then it was our turn. With the bells, being still loud and majestic the Peterborough band began. How proud I was, these were my people, I knew them all – how brilliant! - but the competition was still on and the bells, oh how they worked, never tiring, never losing their power or sound, absolutely fantastic.
Essex went next, they were brilliant and then Ely, oh I’m afraid they were rather good, then magnificently followed by Lincolnshire. Finally Hertfordshire, who really did end the competition ringing on a fantastic level.
The day was drawing to its final leg. The committee sat then returned after discussing next year’s competition and as a great treat, anyone who hadn’t rung were invited to ring the bells and ‘grab’ the tower!
With bands gathered we all entered the church to hear the results. Peterborough Guild Ringing Master Andy Timms duly thanked Canon Michael Webber for the use of Holy Cross Church, Richard Waddy, Tower Captain, for the use of the bells, the magnificent ladies who laid on the splendid teas and Alan Winter, Secretary for The Ridgman Trophy Competition, for bringing the competition to Daventry. Alan Winter thanked the judges, Jeremy and Anne Pratt enormously, and presented them with gifts.
Jeremy then took the floor and described the bells as glorious, how he thoroughly enjoyed listening to them and that the standard of the ringing was much better than 5 years ago when he had last judged this competition. Jeremy finally said that all teams had done very well and concluded that there are 3 golden rules to competition ringing:
Know the rules
Learn the method
Get your leading right
This said, Jeremy carefully summed up all the teams individually. His fellow judge – wife Anne Pratt - then announced the results. Ely retained the trophy, well done!!
Hertfordshire Ringing Master – very keen to return to Daventry after 10 years, bells can be challenging for a striking competition but a lovely sound and enjoyed the day.
Peterborough Branch Ringing Master (but ringing for Lincolnshire) – a fantastic opportunity to visit and ring the 10 bells; If you can’t enjoy ringing like this then ringing is not for you!
Barry Johnson, Captain of Ely Band – most of us were here to defend our position and to win back the trophy, glad to be taking it home, great bells and enjoyed the day.
Well, what a day, the bells now hanging silent and resting – they really were magnificent and with Ely clutching the trophy all the bands made their weary way home.
Next year it will be over to Great St. Mary’s Church, Cambridge with the chosen method of Yorkshire Surprise Royal.
For me, I would certainly advocate that all learners should come and listen to striking competitions, you hear and learn so much, you can find the drive to keep going through the dark days of clipping bells, leading wrongly, too close, too wide! etc, but you meet so many lovely people, bellringers from all over, it really is worth the effort to get out there and join in.
The Steward's Report by Marj Winter
It was a perfect day. It is a nice feeling when everything, or very very nearly everything, goes right. The prayer of every organiser, that all will be right on the day, is sometimes answered. The wind did not howl, the rain did not fall, the acoustics in the judges’ gazebo were ideal, all clappers stayed attached to their respective bells throughout (although one tail end came untucked in a practice piece), all seven teams assembled at their appointed times, complete and correct, without apparent drama. Tea coffee and conversation flowed freely in the adjacent church hall, complemented by made-to-order sandwiches and a wide choice of cakes, a spacious pub was available a short walk away. Idyllic, actually. The standard of ringing was high, from every band, in every test piece, without exception; ringing that any tower could be justly proud of.
There’s more to say on that point. Jeremy and Anne Pratt are no strangers to the Ridgman competition, having judged the competition held in Ipswich in 2011. Their first emphatic comment was “What an improvement”. Not just this team or that team. Across the board. Some hard work has been put in in the intervening years, and it has paid off. Well done, every guild and association, every ringer. Evidence perhaps, that the annual fit of attention to the details of striking generated by an impending striking competition really does have a positive effect over the years.
Even from high standard performances there are still things to be learnt. From the judge’s comments: Rule one: read the rules of the competition. Don’t forget the dings on the treble, unsettling to have to stand, ding, ding, restart as time to be in changes is ticking past. Rule two: don’t make method mistakes. Actually, in my hearing there were very few, certainly no inadvertent straying from the set piece Erin into the more familiar Stedman, which I would have worried about. But at a more subtle level, little uncertainties of the who-is-dodging-with-me variety do have an unsettling effect. Rule three, get the leading right. Yes, the leading was mostly, one might even say entirely, acceptable, but there again, at a more subtle level, the leading has to be the same, big bells and small leaving equal handstroke gaps, tucking backstrokes neatly after the preceding change, to establish the confident inevitability of rhythm that distinguishes excellent striking from merely good striking.
My role in the competition may have been merely that of steward, however I am no impartial observer but a non-competing member of the winning team, and fiercely proud of it. Shall I spill the winning team’s secrets? I think there are two factors which have enabled an association which is not rich in tens (three rather difficult tens in largely rural environs) or twelves (one) to win.
First, since 2007 (and inspired by the Ridgman competition) the Association has had a determined programme of ten bell practices aimed at supporting the three ten bell towers in the Diocese, endeavouring to see that there is ten bell ringing at those towers. On occasion rounds on ten has been the most that we have managed, at times not that, but we have persevered, standards of striking have improved and the variety of methods in the repertoire has increased. The format, a quarter peal preceding an hour’s open practice, providing both a longer stretch of ringing enabling a selected band to settle into a piece, as well as the opportunity for any ringer wishing to have the chance, appears to be effective. It also increases the chance of having a quorum for the practice.
Secondly, three quarter peal slots in the months preceding the competition were dedicated to the competition. On the first attempt, five (only) of the Ridgman band were present, and the attempt fired out five times in the hour. The final slot, the Friday before the competition, was not a quarter peal attempt at all, but repetitions of the test piece, over and over and over again. Time enough to learn who’s dodging with whom and exactly how to turn around at the singles. Time enough to become so familiar with the test piece that ringers could stop fretting about the method and allocate the required microscopic attention to every individual change: pull, listen, assess the result, revise action as required for the next change. Repeat. Discuss progress at the end of the test piece. Begin again.
There is a positive here that should be made explicit. It is undoubtedly true that ringing many peals (with good bands - understood) is one way to achieve excellent striking. Half of the EDA band are indeed ringers with considerable peal totals, as one would expect in a band that is chosen from the more practiced ringers in the Association. But half the band are not (yet). Given a moderate competence, with the dedicated practice that I know the EDA band to have put in, the ordinary ringer can indeed be part of a winning team at a high level competition.
The Ridgman competition itself does not produce the improvement in standards that Jeremy referred to, it is the focused practice beforehand that does the job. The principle of allocating time to such practice is possible in every tower, whatever its present standard. It is never too early in a ringer’s career to get the habit of good striking. Every competition can serve as the Ridgman has done to motivate such practice. It’s up to us to make use of this stimulus. Choose a method within the band’s capabilities. Ring it as a test piece. Pay attention to every change: pull, listen, assess, revise action, repeat. Ring it again, and again. We can all do this.
It requires dedication, of course, and that dedication is founded on the camaraderie that the exercise is famous for, camaraderie which depends on events like the Ridgman to grow. This event provided ideal conditions to foster that camaraderie; it was indeed a perfect day out. Perfect days out are made by many hands doing many practical things; manning the galley, engaging with the local press, paying attention to many details before the event so that things that might go wrong had absolutely no chance of doing so: prayers alone do not suffice but need human help. Thanks indeed to Andy Timms and the Daventry ringers for making it happen thus.
Date for next year’s diary: Sat June 17th 2017 at Great St Mary, Cambridge, ringing Yorkshire Royal. There is a suggestion to start at 9-00 and finish shortly after noon.