From the Ringing Chamber

New recruits are ringing the changes
at St John's

St John's reputation as a leading location for learning the art and science of bell ringing and recent initiatives to recruit more ringers around the country has led to a surge in the number of trainees at the tower.

Among St John's new learners are Jenny Alford and the Groves family.

Jenny began learning to ring in the middle of last year, when she was 14, as part of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award programme.

"I was already volunteering in a sport - archery - as part of the programme and needed to volunteer to learn a skill, says Jenny.
"I had always wondered how bells were rung, so I started looking for places to learn" she explains.

Jenny found out that bell ringing was more complex than she had imagined.
"Getting the technique right was difficult," she says, but she is now skilled enough to ring regularly for St John's services and has rung bells up to including St John's 8th, which weighs 8.5 cwt - 431kg - despite being only just over 5ft tall.

After bringing Jenny along to several practices, her mother, Cal who is in her 40s, was persuaded to try her hand at ringing.
"I found it quite nerve-wracking," admits Cal, but she is persevering, all the same.

It was Ruth, an anaesthetist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, who got the Groves family ringing.

"Whenever I walked past the church I wondered what was in the bell tower and then I saw a 'Ringing Remembers' poster in the library, where I do some voluntary work," says Ruth, who is in her 50s.

Ringing Remembers was established to commemorate the 1,400 bell ringers who died in the First World War by recruiting as many new ringers, during 2018, a century after the War ended.

Ruth thought she and her youngest son, David, 17, could learn to ring, but husband, Jeremy, an intensive care specialist at Chesterfield Royal Hospital and older son, Matthew, 19, decided they would join in, too.

Despite being the instigator, Ruth admits: "If it had just been me, I would have stopped.
"I found it a bit frustrating at first, but now I can see that one day in the future, when I can ring properly, it will be great fun.

"Anyway," adds Ruth, wryly, "Now, if I want to see all my family I have to come here!"

Although Matthew has now left Sheffield to go to university, he is continuing to ring at college and all four of the Groves have rung for services, so it may not be all that long before Ruth finds she has the skills and technique to enjoy ringing fully.

(The article above appeared in the Mar/2019 issue of Inspire)  

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