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Friday 18th June 2021

I think most of us were at one point becoming increasingly hopeful that the proposed final easing of restrictions planned for 21st June would actually take place, but a new Covid variant has delayed things for at least another month.

In the meantime we have been doing some service ringing and have even had some limited practice time, though things are far from how we would wish them to be. In order to comply with the recommendation that ringers should stand no closer than 1 metre apart we have been ringing the front five of our bells, since the ropes for the 5th and 6th hang quite close together. This is restricting but in practical terms a shortage of ringers has more often than not been the limiting factor. Although we have sufficient people in the band to ring all the bells we have lost one member through ill-health, another is not currently able to ring and it is uncertain whether he will be able to in future. A third has been shielding and her husband is vulnerable medically so she has sensibly decided to wait for the time being. Our youngest ringer now has scouts on the same evening as our practices, though he is happy to ring on Sunday mornings subject to other activities. Our learner isn’t quite confident enough to make a start again without close supervision, which isn’t possible at present. Others just have busy lives and other things to do.

There’s nothing unusual in any of this and I suspect that bands all over the country are having a similar experience. It underlines the rule of thumb that you need twice as many ringers as ropes to allow for the inevitable absences and we find ourselves several short of that. What we need is a recruitment campaign and some new learners and we are trying to establish what is likely to be possible after 19th July, or whenever the next stage of easing occurs, in relation to one-to-one training in bell handling. My feeling is that we could do worse than to do a careful risk assessment and then put a proposal to our incumbent, who thankfully is a ringer himself, and let him make the final decision. If, as I suspect, there will be a surge of enthusiasm and good feeling after 19th July I would like us to be in a position to catch the wave, as it were, and try very hard to attract some new recruits.

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