June 6th at Wisbech
The steward’s report by Marj Winter
The Ridgman competition was initiated by members of the Ely Diocesan Association to stimulate ten bell ringing within the diocese and friendly collaboration with neighbouring guilds and associations. In this aim, this 2015 competition has well met its founders’ intentions. Of the ten associations that have in the past been represented in the contest, eight were represented on the day. From the Ely Diocesan Association, three of the four districts were represented in a band which has developed and benefited from a monthly diocesan ten bell practice, inspired indeed by the Ridgman competition of 2007.
The standard of ringing was good, solid clean ringing with few method mistakes. Our judges, David and Caroline House from Brighton agree with me on this. The ten at Wisbech are a noble set of bells, but not necessarily the easiest to strike well. The greatest challenge seemed to be settling to a suitable pace. By comparison with recent peal times (3:10 - 3:22, from the last ten years on Campanophile) the afternoon’s ringing was in general slower, with only two teams ringing faster than 3:30 pace. There is nothing wrong with being stately (or is there?), but settling promptly to a speed congenial to all is central to success in striking competitions.
The steward has a privileged position for observation, staying with the bands during their practice, and hearing the discussion before the start of the test piece. Speed was a common theme, with the back end inevitably urging a brisker pace. However, attempting to set a different pace in the test piece from that of the practice is always unsettling. Why there should have been a tendency to spread the bells out was also discussed. Suggestions ranged from the sheer size of the tenor box and the proportions of the tower to the particular characteristics of large bells hung on headstocks which accommodate elaborate crown staples. A further popular topic of discussion was the purpose of the small hatch in the floor immediately in front of the ringer of the 6th; many interesting suggestions were made, but I will suppress these in case a future organiser at Wisbech might wish to make a competition for the most imaginative suggestion. This probably had no bearing on the quality of the striking.
Striking competitions are of course not simply about the striking. They are about sitting comfortably around tables in the church hall, munching through a mountain of sandwiches, pork pies, sausage rolls and cakes, with the aid of Elgood’s ale (supplied free by the Brewery which we acknowledge with gratitude) and a limitless supply of tea and coffee, in the company of old friends and new faces. This doesn’t happen without many hands behind the scenes. The Wisbech district ringers did a splendid job, keeping cups and plates filled having judged the supplies to within a handful of sausage rolls and a couple of pints of bitter. Many congratulations to David Appleby and his team for ensuring the smooth running of the event. Logistic success may be measured by the complete absence of any hitches that a reporter might comment on. The phenomenon of the judges’ gazebo breaking its moorings and heading across the church lawn on a broad reach before a force 7 gust cannot be held as the organisers’ responsibility; in general they did a fine job with the weather. The Wisbech team get full marks, and the hearty thanks of all ringers and friends who had the fun of being there.
Dates for 2016 and 2017
The Committee have been glad to receive an invitation from the Hertford County Association to act as hosts on 4th June 2016, and provisionally from the Society of Cambridge Youths for June 17th 2017.