Well, what a year 2016 has been for our tower! It started with the completion of the augmentation project in January. What a thrill it was to hear all six bells ringing, after all the hard work through 2015 in creating the bells, and the extra work needed to install them in the tower. The new tenor altered the key of the bells, and the re-tuning of the third and fourth bell of the peal meant that the whole set of bells sounded like they were meant to be!
Quarter Peal Attempts
We attempted to ring a Quarter Peal to celebrate the successful completion of the augmentation project at the end of January, but alas a technical problem (the rope on the treble jumped off the bell wheel) meant this was lost around half way through the ringing.
However, the Quarter Peal was to be rearranged for summer and coincided with a weekend of events celebrating the restoration of St James’, the official 90th birthday celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II, and a dedication service for the new bells. On June 12th, we successfully rang eight touches of Plain Bob Doubles for the the first ever quarter peal at Ab Kettleby, in around 45 minutes.
The dedication service for the bells took place on 13th June 2016, and was led by Rev Dr Peter Hooper. We also welcomed back Ab Kettleby’s former priest, Rev Sue Paterson, who had given her blessing to the casting of the bells in early 2015. There was ringing before and after the well attended service, and a link video link from the bell chamber was projected onto a screen for the congregation to view each of the bells as they were introduced throughout the service.
Alan Jacques Award
Last year, our tower captain, James, was nominated for Leicester Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers’ Alan Jacques award, in recognition of the work carried out in running the augmentation project, and recruiting and training a brand new band of ringers at Ab Kettleby.
E. Alan Jacques (1932 – 2011 aka “The Boss”) was a very talented person. His unique character enabled him to achieve high standards and be a very proficient ringer whilst still being able to be approachable and an encouraging member of the community often helping learners and less experienced ringers to progress. After celebrating his life, a donation of £1000 was made to the Guild. This was from collections and family donation After discussions with his family and the Recruitment & Education (R&E) Committee, this award has been established.
The Award will be given each year to an individual whose presence in his or her tower has proved beneficial to the rest of the band in whatever capacity. This may be a newcomer, but not necessarily a young person. It may not be the best ringer, but someone who has consistency and determination. It is a person who as Alan Jacques would say, “does their best and enjoys the ringing”. Alan Jacques was a role model for the new ringer and encouraged all ringers to come and enjoy the ringing community. ‘You’ll always be welcome in any group of ringers” he would say, and this was an important part of supporting the ringing community.
James wasn’t successful in 2015, but the nomination was carried over to 2016, and at the LDGCBR AGM in October, much to James’ surprise, he was presented with the Alan Jacques Award. James comments “I am truly honoured to have been presented with this award, however credit must be due to the whole team at Ab Kettleby. The commitment and enthusiasm from the team of ringers we have trained in just over two years has been the key to our success! As a result, we continue to grow in numbers and knowledge!”
Ringing, Ringers and Ringing Course
We’ve come a long way from the early days of novice ringers learning to handle the three original bells, back in June 2014. We now have a core band of six Ab Kettleby taught ringers who are present at most practice sessions and service ringing. Captain James receives invaluable help from two experienced local ringers on practice nights, so there is plenty of opportunity to learn and progress. It’s notable that we usually have more than enough ringers on the Wednesday practice nights to have all six bells ringing. We also have a wider base of not quite so regular ringers – who for whatever reason struggle to join practice nights now, but we are always pleased to see them! In total, fourteen ringers have so far been taught or are in the process of being taught to ring at Ab Kettleby! A truly remarkable number, given the relatively small size of the village and wider issues surrounding recruitment and retention of church bell ringers.
Three of the team attended The Leicester Diocesan Guild Ringing Course in September. They all enjoyed the ringing, and have made significant progress following a dedicated weekend of ringing with a far more experienced band and excellent tutors. Two are now able to ring inside bells on plain courses of Plain Bob Doubles; skills we look to consolidate at every opportunity!
The bells of Ab Kettleby have a unique place in the bell-ringing community – namely we are the first tower (alphabetically!) to be listed in Dove’s Guide for Church Bell Ringers. The addition of the three new bells has made our tower a very attractive place for ringers to visit since the augmentation completed. We’ve had half a dozen different visiting bands arrange ringing throughout the year, along with hosting the LDGCBR Melton District monthly meeting in April and local group Society of Framland Ringers in August. Our visitor book is rapidly filling up, as we also have a steady of stream of visiting ringers join occasional practice nights and services.
We have been delighted to welcome BBC Radio Leicester and Melton local station 103 The Eye into the tower to report on our progress and activities throughout the year. Ben Jackson from BBC Radio Leicester popped out to see us in January, as a following up to his original visit back in October 2014. The new bells were in place – very different from the rusty three he visited a year earlier!
We were invited to join 103 The Eye at the end of January, and spent the best part of an hour on-air talking about the augmentation project, the new and old bells, and more generally about ringing. 103 The Eye followed up in June by visiting the church during our quarter peal.
So what does 2017 hold in store for us at Ab Kettleby?
Technically, there are some jobs that still need to be finished off following the augmentation:
- In the Spring, we will look to replace three old bell ropes on the original bells with some brand new replacements. We’ve held off from doing this so far, as the introduction of all new un-stretched slightly springy ropes would likely to have been a bit of a handful for our lesser experienced ringers.
- There is still a small amount of frame painting to finish off which we simply haven’t got around to during 2016. We’ll give the bell chamber a clean up at the same time and then plan to update our photography stock on the website.
Ringing wise, we continue to teach handling, and progress towards change ringing methods. Hopefully more of the team will attend the Ringing Course in 2017!
In March 2017, we will be ringing for our first wedding since the augmentation was completed; an occasion we’re all looking forward to! Our band of ringers will continue to support neighbouring tower Asfordby when they’re short of ringers for their numerous weddings throughout the year!
Happy New Year!