Looking back at 2016

So what happened in 2016?  Well, in the big wide world, a long list of interesting things, many of them not good ones, but this isn’t the place to discuss those.

A little nearer to home the year finished with a very public row about the dismissal of the entire York Minster band of ringers, numbering thirty, by the Dean and Chapter.  The situation is still developing and the outcome is hard to predict, but the underlying problem revolves around child protection.  Whilst we all hope that nothing of that sort would happen here it is worth being aware that a problem can arise without warning and the after-effects invariably last years. It is up to us to ensure that we act properly and remain vigilant, regardless of the rights and wrongs at York Minster.

The other ringing-related thing that came along towards the end of the year was the news that the premises where Whitechapel Bell Foundry has been located since 1739 are being sold and that the directors have put the firm up for sale.  The initial headlines to the effect that the business was finished were premature, and there is hope that a buyer will be found who can relocate it.

In our own little world there has been less drama, and most of the developments have been positive ones.  However I will note some sad events, one of them being the death of David Fowler, former tower captain at Dereham, and a good friend to many of us.  We also lost Donna French, whose wedding we rang for in 2015, and Liz Russell, who taught at Scarning school before her retirement and was responsible for safeguarding matters within the Dereham group of parishes.  Tricia has taken on this role for Scarning and Celia for Dereham.  On the last day of the year we had the happy news that Michael Fillenham, our rector’s husband, has been awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to education.

Looking back at my wish-list written at the end of 2015 I see that I hoped that we could find another two new ringers during 2016.  Well, we ticked that off the list and Sarah and Andy, along with Sian who started learning during the latter part of the previous year, are all established members of the band.  Do we need yet more ringers?  Well, I am looking forward to teaching my next learner, but that’s a different matter entirely.  I think it would be good if we could take on at least one new person in 2017 and I know that we will all be keeping a lookout for likely candidates.

Another thing that was in my mind at the end of 2015 was that I believed that almost any progressive band ought to have a simulator in their tower.  At that point it didn’t seem likely that Scarning would be able to justify the outlay, but rather to my surprise we end the year with a system in place and being well used.  This is due to the generosity of some anonymous benefactors, and we are very grateful to them for making it possible.  Our now-regular Friday evening simulator sessions have produced immediate positive results, and we have also had one ‘silent’ practice on a Friday, using all the bells and with experienced ringers helping us.  This was specifically to allow our band members to work on more advanced things that are difficult to do in the course of a busy Wednesday practice.  All being well this will be a regular monthly event.  I believe the benefits of the simulator, if used to its full potential, will be profound in the longer term.

A great deal of work went on in the belfry during the year, much of it not apparent from down below.  Under Dean’s stewardship the bells have been checked by both Whitechapel and Taylors and found to be basically sound, and a number of small but important maintenance jobs have been carried out.  In addition the headstocks and all the metal bracing on the bell frame have been wire brushed, undercoated and given a coat of Post Office red paint.  They look very smart and we are thankful to the Post Office for donating the paint and to the various ringers who joined in the work.  The PCC funded the provision of new steps between the clock room and belfry, with a trapdoor at the top, as well as the repair of some dangerous holes in the floor and the installation of an emergency light in the ringing chamber.  Towards the end of the year we invested in a new carpet for the ringing area, which matches our curtains and makes the whole place look more cared for and welcoming.

Apart from all that it has been a busy year generally, and it would take too long to go through it in detail.  Three of the band went on the Association Training Day in March and two of them attended follow-up workshop sessions at Gressenhall.  We took part in the revived Western Branch striking competition and also had an afternoon outing to Gimingham and Southrepps.  We rang for a number of weddings, and at a good standard, and the improvement in our ringing was clear on these occasions.  There were some visiting bands during the summer, who found our bells difficult, suggesting that the technical competence of our ringers might be better than they sometimes appreciate.  Our practices have been well attended, to the point where on one occasion, with nineteen people present, it became difficult to give everyone much of a ring, let alone work on anything specific.  Our tradition of having a coffee break at half-time continues and at these particularly hectic practices Trish and those who help her were rather stretched.

At the Western Branch AGM in November Sian was elected to the committee and I was re-elected.  Sarah, somewhat nonplussed by the reluctance of some of those present to get involved, offered afterwards to help out if she could.  She was co-opted onto the committee, where Scarning now has a strong presence.

There is much more that I could say.  I think it has been an enjoyable year for all of us, though challenging at times certainly, and the level of dedication and enthusiasm within the band has been maintained and strengthened.  One of the things that makes me so happy to be part of the Scarning band is the way people get along, and think about each other, and the ringers’ Christmas party, held in December in the village hall, was an example of Scarning at its best.  The evening was organised by Tricia, everyone played some part in the proceedings, and it was a fine way to celebrate the approach of Christmas.

As I write this, on 31st December 2016, our ringing for the year is over, apart for a few dedicated people who will be helping the Dereham band ring the old year out and the new one in.  I hope that 2017 will be as productive and rewarding as this year has been and that in twelve months time we will be able to report that the band is still thriving and progressing.