This video work on show at the Spacex Gallery, Preston Street Exeter from 29 June to 3 July, explores the social, particular and historical significance of bells through their sound. The sound of a bell is a complex sound, not only in trying to determine the perceived pitch of the bell, but also in what we perceive the bell to be 'saying'.
This video looks at different ringers and their relationship to their tower, and follows the casting of a bell, and some ringing at Buckfast Abbey, with Hosanna, the bourdon bell.
Marcus Vergette and Jonnie Williams were commissioned by Aune Head Arts (AHA) as part of the Dartmoor Changes project in which the peals of 33 church towers were recorded as an audio, video and photographic record of this special tradition. The 33 towers are all within the boundaries of the Dartmoor National Park.
Spacex is open from 10 to 5, Tuesday to Saturday, and entrance is free.
Bob Southwood The Reverend Robert Southwood, known to most ringers in the county, died on 28 May in Torbay hospital. He had been admitted that morning suffering from breathing difficulties. Bob was a former president of the Guild, and organised and co-ordinated the Ringers Carol Service on behalf of the Devon Ringers Council. He also was a trustee and committee member of the Devon Church Bell Restoration Fund.
Bob learnt to ring in Plymouth, and lived in Devon for most of his life. He trained for the Anglican priesthood at Salisbury and served as a curate in Winchester diocese before returning to Plymouth as Priest-in-charge of Ernesettle. He was then appointed Archpriest of Haccombe, and Rector of Combeinteignhead and Stokeinteignhead. The present writer recalls that when inducted to the parishes, he had determined not to chime the bell (as most clergy do to show they have taken the freehold of the parish) but to ring it full circle, and, of course, Bob couldn't set it! As popularly this is taken as a sign of how long the priest intends to stay in the parish, the good people of Combe and Stoke thought he would be with them for a very long time!
Much negative comment has been made about the need for the procedures recommended by 'Protecting All God's Children', the Anglican Church's national policy document about child protection. But these procedures are meant, not only to make our churches safer places for children, which I know all bell-ringers would concur with, but also to protect ringers from false allegations, provided the procedures have been followed.
Concern has been expressed about turning away good volunteers with the introduction of such measures. However experience has shown that most people today understand the need to protect children from abuse and they are willing to submit themselves to these checks I order to ensure their safety. It would indeed be a tragedy if experienced ringers withdrew from activities with children and young people simply because of these safety measures.
The young people we are entrusted to protect will be the church of the future. It is essential that they should feel safe in our communities, otherwise they will not be interested in following our footsteps later. I have personally witnessed the trauma caused to abused children-especially those abused by a member of a church community. The damage done to the young person remains with them for the remainder of their days. Anything that reduces the opportunity for abusers to prey on children is worth introducing.
However, a word of caution-CRB checks, job application forms, references etc offer only limited protection and are not fool-proof. A CRB check is only valid on the day that the check is carried out. Most abusers are not convicted, due to a lack of corroborative evidence in most cases and many abusers are never detected
It is likely that the introduction of these policies and procedures will take some time to implement. It is also likely that only certain individuals will be required to submit themselves to a CRB check, e.g. the tower captain and possibly one other individual, to ensure cover in the Captain's absence. This would seem to provide a compromise solution, which I believe most towers would be prepared to accept. However, in towers where there are good numbers of young ringers, it might be advisable for all adults to complete the necessary checks.
I can quite understand people's concerns about the procedures, although as a professional with some thirty years practice in this field, I can say with confidence that the Anglican Church, along with other Christian communities, is coming to terms with life as it is in the twenty-first century.! What we are being asked to do now, has been policy within most professional organisations for the past twenty years or more.
The St Peter's Shield, perhaps uniquely, combines both Devon traditions in one competition and entrants can opt to ring either 10 minutes of call changes or 240 of Doubles. For the second year running Cullompton scooped the Shield with their usual fine striking, but rising stars, Bampton, were only a few faults behind, pushing the two Tiverton towers into third and fourth places.
After the results were announced ringers and friends set to work on a splendid buffet provided by the Wyndham Arms and connoisseurs ticked off a few more of the available ales from the beer festival. Only one discordant thought went through some minds: why hadn't one or two more of the 27 eligible bands entered a team this time? If you ring in Tiverton or Cullompton Deaneries why not give it a go next year? We really do try and make taking part "seriously good fun"!
Leslie Boyce, St. Peter's Tiverton
Following an inspection, Bridgerule bells are now silent, and the ringers and church have the task of raising £30,000 to replace the cast iron frame, which is corroding. Lester Marland, one of the sixteen strong band of ringers said, "We had to buy new bell ropes at Christmas, and that cost £500, which in itself was a struggle. But nothing prepared us for this."
Canon Ryder Lisle, the Vicar of the parish, which sits on the River Tamar close to where it rises, admitted that the situation is very frustrating, and although certain grants may be available, obtaining them is proving difficult. A number of fundraising projects have been planned, including a sponsored ring in twenty local churches over a twelve hour period.
Bridgerule bells (8: 10cwt) were installed in 1926 and were cast by Gillett and Johnston. The regular alternate Monday method practice now takes place at Kilkhampton.
Councillor Alan Connett said, "The bells are universally appreciated by the village and this is the first time I have heard of anyone complaining. If you move into a rural area and live near the church, you should ask when the practices are going to be. Monday night is probably not the worst time in terms of people having other social engagements that would be disturbed. I certainly enjoy listening to the bells, and I think most people in the village do as well'.
Local people interviewed by the paper endorsed Mr Connett's comments. David Blair said, 'I think it's a lovely sound. I can't think of anyone in Kenton who objects. Our sympathies are certainly not with the complainer'. Eddie Granados said 'The bells are part of village life... People move here because they like the village, but then they want to change it'. Nikki White said, 'I'd much rather hear the bells than the traffic. If people don't like it they should move.'
Tower captain Mike Adams was reluctant to comment to the paper because the team did not want to cause problems within the village. The ringers intend to continue their practices.
In autumn 2004 there will be two public events on Dartmoor to celebrate the publication of the project's 2-CD set (audio and CD-Rom) which will include information on each of the towers and interviews the ringers and the local communities. The website will be launched at the same time, featuring interviews with ringers and people in the community talking about the meaning of the bells for them.
A number of listening walks have taken place, but readers of these pages still have the chance to join the walk between Gidleigh and Throwleigh on Saturday 19 June. Meet at Throwleigh church at 10.15am.
There were seventeen person and a dog in the walking party at Shaugh Prior taking part in the walk on 27 March. The most remarkable thing on such a still, overcast day was that we were never out of earshot of the bells. It was good to hear lots of spring birdsong as well, from skylark, song thrust and chaffinch to dunnock, yellowhammer etc. The ringers were so helpful, organising climbs up the tower to see the bells while several of the walkers tried their hand at ringing itself, under the close supervision of Neil Trout. Afterwards, several walkers and ringers met for a de-briefing and an excellent bite to eat at the nearby Moorland Inn.
The Church at Walkhampton is remote from the village, on a hill with its own copse and colony of rooks. While the local ringers raised the bells, about twenty folk turned up for a listening walk on Saturday 17 April. Several of the walkers had returned, having done the last walk at Shaugh. The first part of the figure of eight route led down an ancient footpath to Welltown, across the fields to the village, and back up to the churchyard. The bells could be heard for most of the time, but not while we were in the village itself. Having climbed the hill back up to the church, the first arrivals immediately took advantage of the opportunity to sample the refreshments so kindly provided in the church by the ringers.
The second part of the walk led down the footpath to the northwest of the church and along the private path to Higher Dittisham. The bells could still be heard from here with the local free range hens in the foreground. By the time the walkers had returned across the field and rescued a sheep trapped in a wire fence, the bells were silent. Most of the walkers then took their leave, but there were enough ringers in the party to ring a half peal of call-changes, and to lower the bells, before retiring to the village pub where they caught up with some of the local ringers.