The 115th Central Council meeting was held in Chester in the county famous for its disappearing grinning cat. Chester Diocesan Guild even came up with the smiling animal on a special logo to mark the occasion (see above).
Smiles were in evidence as bellringers are generally pretty sociable, but I do have to say there was quite a bit of pressure on delegates as we were all attending over the very busy Jubilee bank holiday weekend. As luck would have it, the only really good sunny day (Monday 4th June) was the day we all spent in discussions in the Queen Hotel, Chester. Attendance I believe was a little down probably due to ringing events up and down the country to celebrate the Jubilee. With both Chris and I there on your behalf, I'm pleased to say Four Shires reps attendance was 100%.
This is the only second conference I've attended but I and others were taken aback when we learnt of the passing earlier in 2012 of Harold Walter Rogers who had 64 meetings to his credit. A truly remarkable record of service to ringing and is by some distance the record for the longest service by a Council member. (Read more about this remarkable ringer in Ringing World No.5267 April 6th 2012.)
business of the day was dominated by discussion on change ringing for the
future. This really sprang from the Wellesbourne Conference in November last
year and the actions that were being taken to reverse the declining trend in
the numbers of ringers. Initiatives that surfaced in the discussion included
the ITTS (Integrated Teacher Training Scheme) and the importance of good
quality teaching to a consistent standard, the New York City Schools Project
(see Ringing World No.5276), the pros and cons of focusing of young ringers,
the importance of reaching out to lapsed ringers and the importance of links
with the church that give us the
why we ring.
There were some business matters settled. The adoption of a motion to include a statistical analysis of peals using simulated sound probably created the most discussion but was comprehensively adopted by the conference. Other matters less controversial were the elimination of a potential problem with voting at the meeting of The Ringing World and the Ringing Foundation and the tidying up of the terms of reference of the Public Relations Committee.
The reports of the various committees came next. Before delegates speak at the meeting, they must give their name and the body they represent, so when Chris seconded the Towers & Belfries Committee's report, it was good to hear 'The Four Shires Guild' echo round the room. Chris's elected term on this Committee expired at this meeting, but he was re-elected for another 3-years.
So the message from the conference was to use the Central Council as a support for your own initiatives to build ringing numbers, improve technique and standards. Use its materials, its resources, its committees to share ideas, thoughts, successes and indeed failures. Ask ourselves the question what are we doing to secure the future? We all enjoy our ringing but if we can all do a little something to bring someone new to that enjoyment, we won't disappear like the Cheshire cat and we'll all be smiling that curious smile.
Keith Murphy, Central Council Rep.