9th May 2016

Ringing myths exploded

There are many myths about ringing. Better information should help to dilute them, but powerful ideas have a habit of lingering long after they are known to be untrue. Always be prepared to confront misconceptions, and explain how things really are. Here are some common myths and potential responses to them:

  • Just pulling a rope? – There’s a lot more to ringing than ‘pulling a rope’. To control a bell in full circle ringing requires considerable skill, and change ringing adds an extra layer of mental skill that can provide endless fascination. Ringers often get hooked on it.
  • Bells rung by machine? – Apart from a few tunes and clock chimes, English bells are hardly ever rung by machine. When you hear English style ringing, there is a band of skilled ringers in the tower, helping to carry on a 400 year old tradition and bring you that special, unique sound.
  • Not the right type? – Ringers are male and female, old and young, and from all walks of life. The status of ringers reflects their ringing skill, not their age or their job.
  • Nerdy ringers? – Ringers are keen, and some times passionate, about ringing. But so too are people about other forms of sport, music and hobbies. If you want to see how sociable ringers can be, join them in the pub after ringing.
  • Going to church? – You don’t have to be a Christian to ring. Many ringers are members of the church where they ring, but many others aren’t. They ring for church services in return for the pleasure that they get from ringing, for services and at other times. The modern Church supports many activities that involve the community outside its own members.
  • Too old or too young to learn? – You can learn at any age. Teenagers probably find it easiest to learn, but some very young children learn too, and many ringers these days learn in their 40s, 50s or 60s. Whatever age you learn, you can ring for the rest of your life.
  • Need to be good at music? – Not in the conventional sense, providing you can develop a good sense of rhythm. Ringers don’t need to read music because the music is generated automatically by the methods being rung.
  • Need to be good at maths? – Not at all. The structure and richness of change ringing is underpinned by a lot of maths but most ringers are unaware of it – they just learn the methods as patterns.
  • Being taken up by the rope? – It can happen, but it is so rare that most ringers have never seen it, let alone done it. When properly handled, a bell is perfectly safe – just like any other heavy equipment.
  • Dangerous? – Compared with most activities, ringing is very safe. Ringing societies can get very good rates for accidental insurance cover for their members, because the risk is so low.
  • Monks swinging on bell ropes? – If you ever see anyone swinging on a rope, they are not real ringers.  Don’t believe everything you see on TV! (If you should ever come across a real bellrope, don’t be tempted to swing on it, or even pull it. If you don’t know what you are doing, bells can be dangerous.)
  • Campanologists? – Ringers rarely call themselves campanologists – it is a word mostly used by non-ringers. Normally we just call ourselves ringers. The literal meaning of campanology is the study of bells.
  • A closed shop? – Not at all. It takes time to learn, as with any skilled activity, but ringers are very welcoming to those who want to learn, as well as to people who are just curious to know what it is all about. Try visiting your local ringers.
  • An isolated activity? – Spending your time in a bell tower might seem isolated, but ringing is a team activity so you are always with others who share your interests. Ringers are also part of a much wider community that spans regional and national borders. A ringer walking into any tower in the world where English style ringing is performed is treated as a friend and invariably invited to join in the ringing.

If you know of any other ringing myths that you think ought to be exploded, please let us know.

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