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New generation of bell ringers sought for Suffolk as more needed to protect historic pastime

PUBLISHED: 10:17 08 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:17 08 January 2018

Bell ringers at St Mary's Church, Kersey.  Left to right: Kevin Ward, Neville Whittell, Bob Howe, Kate Banks and Richard Finch.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Bell ringers at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Left to right: Kevin Ward, Neville Whittell, Bob Howe, Kate Banks and Richard Finch. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

People across Suffolk are being urged to embrace bell ringing and take up the historic pastime – with the aim of every bell tower in Suffolk to be ringing out this November for the Centenary of the Armistice.

Bell ringing captain Neville Whittell at St Mary's Church, Kersey.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Bell ringing captain Neville Whittell at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A national campaign Ringing Remembers has been launched to help keep bell ringing alive, and as part of it a new generation of ringers is being sought to take up the tradition and keep the county’s 275 bell towers ringing.

The campaign aims to recruit at least 1,400 new ringers across the country this year, in memory of the 1,400 who died during the First World War, while Suffolk’s Guild of Ringers is aiming to get every working bell tower in the county ringing on Armistice Day.

Neal Dodge, public relations officers with the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, said: “It’s a great social activity and you are always made very welcome.

Kate Banks ringing the bells at St Mary's Church.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Kate Banks ringing the bells at St Mary's Church. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“You get to see some great parts of the country and take part in a tradition that’s been going for more than 400 years.

“The guild has around 750 members and we cover around 275 bell towers, so there are more bells than ringers in Suffolk.”

Bell ringing uses a system known as method ringing which requires ringers to learn patterns that allows the peal of notes to change but still be recognised as a melody.

Bob Howe rings the bells.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Bob Howe rings the bells. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

John Girt, captain bell-ringer at St Margaret’s Church in Ipswich, said it was the evolving nature of the hobby, alongside misconceptions about the level of strength needed, that made learning the ropes appealing.

“If you can push a child on a swing you can do bell ringing,” the 82-year-old said.

“But it’s also a mental challenge in that once you have learnt the basics there are various combinations and numbers which go into hundreds and hundreds to learn, so it keeps your interest.

Kate Banks during a rehearsal at St Mary's Church, Kersey.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Kate Banks during a rehearsal at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“It uses all your senses – touch, sight, sound, which makes it very relaxing.”

All ages are being encouraged to give bell ringing a go, with those interested able to speak to their local church or visit the guild’s website at

www.suffolkbells.org.uk to find out more. People interested do not need to be churchgoers to join.

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