As I write this I am on the train home from the dedication service and opening of the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre. They can tell you better than I can what this project has been about, but in brief, they have created a new ring of 8 training bells (dumb bells with a simulator) underneath the magnificent ring of 12 bells in the tower where the first ever peal was rung (at the same time as moving the ringing room up the tower creating a dizzying and spectacular view of the roof). They aren’t the first tower to do something like this (Worcester are another good example), and there are lots of other towers where the original bells can be silenced and rung with a simulator.
However, two big things stood out for me tonight.
The Mancroft ringers and congregation have endured significant disruption to their church, in part to a project that will never be directly heard. This project has the explicit aim of preserving and promoting ringing for future generations, by providing a dedicated training environment where new and experienced ringers can learn and develop their skills, thus ensuring that ringing itself has a future. The bells of Mancroft, Norwich, East Anglia and the whole world will continue to ring in part because of this project and others like it. They’ve done all of this because they care about the art, not for their own pleasure (although they are a lot of fun to ring). As I’ve already alluded, my comments aren’t meant to take away from the magnificent efforts of ringing teachers all round the world who are doing the same thing in varying circumstances, and with varying support – I salute you all. I was just taken this evening by the scale of Mancroft’s ambition, foresight and dedication.
I said that 2 things stood out for me. I was also impressed by their relationship with the church. All too often we talk about strained relations with the churches that we ring at, that have nothing to do with liking or disliking bells, but which can cause no end of pain on both sides of the conversation. St Peter Mancroft and the ringers have a wonderful relationship, that was uplifting to see (even to jaded old ringers like me). The church was heavily supportive of their project, seemed delighted with the results, and were undeniably proud of their own ringers. I’m not a religious person, and I wasn’t brought up in the church. I didn’t start ringing because of the church – like lots of us, the church is just where bells happen to be. But over the years I have developed a strong affection, admiration and respect for the church and its core aims, and through this have developed my own better understanding of their needs, compared with my own. Tonight put it into focus for me. I want to be like Mancroft. The church and the ringers all want the same thing – for each other to be happy and successful, and are prepared to support each other in that.
I’ll find it hard to sleep when I get home – lots of food for thought.