National Twelve Bell Competition - June 2012


After months of planning the great day finally arrived - not exactly bright and sunny but much better than most this 'summer'. The bells had been thoroughly checked over, microphones, Hawkear, Strikometer and all the other high-tech equipment were in place making the vestry and Honner Room resemble NASA's Mission Control and - most importantly for some - the beer racked and settled in the tent on the Dower House lawn. The barrels had been delivered on Thursday and closely guarded by day (and by night!) by the captain of our team, Christian Peckham. Wayne Spiers arrived early to set up the BBQ catering for early arrivals needing breakfast, and our ringers and volunteers, resplendent in blue polo shirts, set out drinks and home made cakes in the Senior Citizens' Centre and St Mary's Hall. Television crews from both ITV and BBC interviewed organisers and contestants, the results being screened by both channels with the evening news.
At 11 o'clock the church was full (standing room only at the back) for the welcome and draw. The five judges were already imprisoned in Church House for the entire day - food and water provided. Our local ringers pulled rabbits, each with a team name attached, out of a splendid Magician's Hat made by Shirley Granelli. Birmingham (the favourites) were drawn to ring first - not the most popular spot tactically - would it be their undoing? Melbourne team came in eighths place and due to ring at 3 o'clock but unlucky St Paul's Cathedral had to ring last at 4.00 pm - a long time to 'hang around' and keep away from the beer tent!
The church emptied and the contest began. Most people stood around outside to listen as the first band practised, adjusted rope lengths and then rang the test piece of Stedman Cinques. At 12.00 noon the church door was unlocked, the Birmingham ringers emerged and headed for refreshment while the second team, Leeds, took their place. This pattern was repeated all day until St Paul's ringers completed their piece at 4.30 pm. Meanwhile people patronised the food stalls and bar and wandered round the pool and Church Square listening to the bells while children played on the bouncy castle and enjoyed the many other activities provided for them. A couple of slight showers dampened the day but not for long, and even the sun appeared briefly.
While the judges compared their findings, the church filled again first to listen to an organ recital by Simon Collins, followed by a short service led by Revd Mark Powell. At last the results were ready. First a critique of each piece was given, and then the list read out by the chief judge, Professor Ian Roulstone, in reverse order. The tension rose as the top two teams remained - had Melbourne managed to dethrone Birmingham?? ......... Not quite, but a very close-run contest and our team's highest position yet!
The Chairman of Derby Association of Church Bell Ringers, Revd Clive Thrower, presented the trophy once again to Birmingham. Thanks were extended to all involved in the organisation of the event and the crowd dispersed to take final refreshments before heading home to Exeter, York, Leeds, London, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Birmingham. Next year's contest is to be at Ripon Cathedral - who knows, it may be our chance to beat the Brummies!
Thankyou to all in Melbourne who supported and contributed to our wonderful day in so many ways; the scouts for the tents, Griselda who lent us her lawn, the cake-bakers and helpers, Simon Collins and Mark Powell for the recital and service, our local tower and handbell ringers, and the team who organised much of the day and then rang so well.
Ruth Smith
Ringing Master