Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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Your Central Council representatives attended the 2014 Council Meeting at Maidstone on May 26th. Yes, it's a long drag down there, but Helen and I returned from France that morning and Maidstone was en-route from the Channel Tunnel! There are various activities and associated meetings apart from the council Meeting itself that weekend, but I attended just the main event.

The Council Meeting opened at 9.30am with a prayer. The Hon Sec gave an outline of the representation making up the Council: 66 affiliated guilds/associations/etc (2 hadn't paid their fees), 196 representatives with 5 vacancies, 4 Life Members, 10 Additional Members and 8 ex-officio members. Just as the FSG did four years ago, another guild (the Guild of St Agatha) was requesting to affiliate. They were successful in the vote and their rep took a seat.

A Welcome to New Members came next and this year was something of a record in having 46 new representatives, of which one was Andrew Gunn (although a returning member, having filled the seat when the FSG was admitted initially). There were a number of very young representatives this year: one aged 16, two aged 17 and two aged 18. They reduced the average age of the delegates by many decades, let alone years!

The Minutes of the 2013 Meeting were accepted without amendment and there were no Matters Arising. After this we had the Annual Report of the Council, which was adopted, and then the Accounts. Derek Harbottle (from the G&BDA), the CC Treasurer, has had an amazingly long run of Accounts accepted with little or no comments, and this was again the case. What a treat to know the money has been in such good hands. However, Derek has elected to take a well-earned break and was to hand over to his successor after the Meeting.

Occasionally members are proposed for Life Membership of the Council, but those accepted must have made an outstanding contribution to the Council, and at least 80% of the eligible votes is required to give this honour. There were two people proposed this year: Alan Frost, CC member, who has given significant support technically and managerially over many, many years, and David Kelly of the Keltek Trust. Very pleasingly, both received much more than the minimum vote required.

The election of the CC's Officers followed. The appointments are for 3 years (the ‘Triennium'). Chris Mew (a Guild member) was elected President, Christopher O'Mahoney Vice-President, Mary Bone continued as the Hon Sec, Carol Franklin became the Hon Asst Sec on the retirement of Robin Walker (also a Guild member) and Andrew Taylor took over as Hon Treasurer from Derek Harbottle. The newly-elected Officers took their posts at the end of the Meeting. Please doff your caps, bow, scrape or curtsey to Mr Mew when you meet him next, as I surely shall…

The Council allows a certain number of non-reps to be members. These are ringers who are extremely useful to the working committees through their past work. They, too, have to be voted in with at least 50% of the eligible vote. There were 6 and they were all successful. Their appointment is for 3 years.

We then got down to the Proposals. In many cases these are mild amendments to the Rules, and this is what the first Motion was all about.

The amendments as proposed were successful. The next Motion was the one that was expected to be (a) very technical and (b) way above the average ringer. There had already been correspondence on the subject in The Ringing World - how to categorise some strange/unusual methods that have appeared in peals throughout the previous 12 months — and whether to accept them as "proper" performances. To be honest, this stuff affects a very tiny percentage of ringers and peals, being generally confined to ‘specialist' 12/14/16-bell ringing. You are unlikely to be affected. The average ringer/representative is inclined to "turn off" when discussions of this type occur; and I guess this happened in many cases again. Not to me of course…

The next part of the meeting is the acceptance or otherwise of the reports by the various working committees. This is the chance to ask the Committee Chairman any questions on their reports, which appear prior to the Council Meeting in The Ringing World and on the CC web-site. There is the report of the Admin Committee, which covers the general running of the CC, then the 15 "specialist" committees that deal in detail with particular aspects of ringing. Reports are given by the Stewards of very specialist and individual items, in particular the Carter Ringing Machine, the Dove database and the Rolls of Honour. Finally the CC runs a Rescue Fund for Redundant Bells, which is a registered charity, and report came from this body. A report was given about the "Change Ringing for the Future", which is a recent CC initiative. The allotted time for these reports includes voting to include members on the committees. Voting for members to serve on these committees used to be for the full number of members once every three years, but that particular meeting was also a very long one for that reason. Voting for new members is now divided up, with a third of members retiring every year. I serve on the Towers & Belfries Committee. As a new member of Council Andrew Gunn said he'd been advised to wait a year to see how the Council works before becoming a member of a committee.

The 2015 CC Meeting will be in or around Beverley, Yorks.

As part of the Council meeting, The Ringing World Ltd (a company wholly owned by the CC) holds its AGM. This is traditionally held first thing after the lunch break. Although the Company had undertaken various steps to reduce expenditure, there was some disquiet about the size of the loss that had occurred during the year. This is in tandem with a reducing reader base in this digital age. Three directors retired after a 3-year term and three more were voted in. While the main thrust of the next trading year will be to reduce outgoings further, there will be a campaign to attract new readers.

You may wonder what effect the Central Council has on you. Is it a talking shop, as has been suggested on occasions, or does it push forward change for the benefit of all? It has been said that the Church of England has the power of a lawnmower engine and the brakes of a juggernaut. Although there are some parallels, the CC is not that bad. The large proportion of the commonality and order that exists in ringing today comes from the work of the CC over the last 100 years or so — but occasionally that progress is hard won!

Chris Povey, CC Rep.


Chris Mew is continuing Kate Flavell's practice of writing a monthly blog, to let people know what is happening. His blog for June can be found at