There must be few people in this country who don't know the 2012 Olympic Games are being held in London in July. There's a lot of razzmatazz and hype surrounding this event as might be expected, but it's probably unexpected that we ringers are being asked to contribute to it. 'What's going on?' you might say. 'Church bell ringers don't normally get included in this sort of thing!' That's true, although we are asked to ring for great national events. There are plenty of instances of this in the past — for great events and even not-so-great events. It is thought the Olympics are a 'great national event', so some influential people are anxious to have bells ringing. Bells, after all, are loud and noticeable!
Before I go any further, I have to say I don't know (at the time of writing) what the Church authorities think about this. The bells belong to the Church and the Incumbent has full control over when his or her bells are sounded. If an Incumbent disagrees with the bells being rung and won't grant permission, then I guess there's little to be done. Sometimes the high-up Church authorities give a general OK to bells being rung on these occasions, as four years ago with St George's Day ringing. Perhaps that will happen again in the Olympics case, to clear up any 'greyness' in this respect.
For the purposes of this article, let's assume the Church authorities support ringing for the Olympics. So, what's being requested of us? Firstly, a new 'method' has been produced. I use parentheses purposely to describe it, because, strictly speaking, it's not a change-ringing method in the true sense. It's a piece of music. Come again: a piece of music? It's been designed to sound particularly pleasant to the general public. Surely change ringing sounds 'particularly pleasant'? Well, yes — but generally only to ringers. In most cases the public can't fathom the 'tunes' produced by our rather mechanical change-ringing. However, trying to ring proper tunes is effectively impossible, so the new piece of music referred to above is something of a half-way house. It follows change-ringing principles in that no bell moves forward or backward ('up' or 'down') more than one place at a time, but it breaks the rules by allowing a bell to stay in one place longer than the proper method rules dictate. The Olympics 'method' is called Five Rings Doubles, after the five rings that form the Olympics logo. Here it is, with the attendant note about method truth, both technically and that some changes are repeated:-
The operative word in the note underneath is 'fun'. Yes: fun. We can do largely what we wish — but don't ring this method in a peal, because it won't be accepted as a true performance. However, you may ring it at any other time: a quarter peal if you feel moved to do so, as there are no 'heavy' Central Council rules about those (and even in the FSG Striking Competition if you wish, Bill, as the repeated changes would be intended and therefore entirely acceptable!). Just as a matter of interest, there is a Triples version, too, but we'll stick to the simpler stuff at the moment
OK, having supplied us with a 'method', when do they want us to ring? There are two principal occasions: as the Olympics torch travels through a location on its way round the country; and the day the Olympics officially start, which is Friday 27th July. The request from the Olympics organisers of this part of the ringing is that it should be at 8.00am on that day for 3 minutes. However, the Central Council disagrees with some of this, for what appear very good reasons, and I reproduce the note written about it by the CC President (Kate Flavell) here:
This is another Olympic-related ringing project that I have referred to briefly before, where there is a move to have all the bells in the country ringing as loudly and fast * as possible for three minutes at 8 am on Friday 27 July 2012 to mark the opening day of the Olympics. We have been involved in some very detailed discussions with the organisers, during which we tried to persuade them to have the ringing at a different time rather than 8 am, or to leave ringers free to choose the best time for them and for their local area on that day. These discussions were not successful as too much had already been irrevocably decided before we were invited to become involved, although it was agreed that ringing for longer than three minutes would be acceptable. I am aware that they are now contacting associations directly. It may help you to know that the Council's position is as follows:
* There has been an update (Mid March) on this aspect of 'loudly and fast'. The Olympic ringing organisers have
written to the CCCBR:
We would like to encourage your members to ring their bells in their usual style, and to
ring a peal of their bell tower team's choosing. Bells can certainly be rung
for longer than three minutes if teams so wish.
So there you have it: ring at 8.00am on 27/7/12 if you wish, but there's no shame in ringing at another time that day. However, do obtain your incumbent's permission beforehand!