On Saturday 2nd March 2024 we welcome the York Ringers to Bradford Cathedral, who will be ringing here ahead of taking part in the National 12-bell Striking Contest at the end of March. We spoke to Edward Mack from the York Ringers to find out more about them and their preparations.

Could you introduce yourself, your role within the bell-ringers, and a little about the bell-ringers themselves?
I learned to ring as a child, and after a decade in Bristol I moved to Yorkshire. I live in Northallerton but travel into York to ring at the Minster. Some of our band live in York, but several others travel in like me. We are a mixed group, diverse in age and background. For the contest, our youngest team members are in their early 20s, and our oldest in their 60s, but across our wider band we have teenagers and octogenarians!

You are coming to practice a 12-bell piece before you enter the eliminator contest at Portsmouth. What does a 12-bell piece involve?
Each bell has one person assigned to it, so 12 bells means 12 ringers. Each performing team will ring the same set piece, with each ringer having learned their part. After you’ve learned the instructions for your bell, the challenge comes from the timing: when you pull your bell, there is about a second delay as the bell swings on a wheel before it actually strikes. So you have to be well coordinated with your team members to ensure that your bell strikes in sequence, and ideally with perfect evenness between the other bells. This takes some practice! The swing time of bells varies across different venues, so it’s really good practice to visit different venues before a contest.

Have you entered this contest before and, if so, how have you done previously?
York has entered the contest many times before, and won the contest twice in succession 25 years ago. After a few years absent, last year we were effectively a new returning team. It’s really exciting to bring York back into the fold. Last year we came 4th in our eliminator, just missing out on a place in the final (top 3 go through). You can imagine our target for this year…!

Are you looking forward to the contest?
Absolutely! I really enjoy the contest. In my first years competing I was really nervous. These days, I enjoy the festival atmosphere, as the contest brings teams together from across the country. Participating feels privileged; you get a feeling of being part of a national community of ringers where you can make friends for life. It also focuses teams locally, helping us to achieve our best and most enjoyable ringing possible. As we practice more, our ringing gets better, and that’s really satisfying.

What do you most enjoy about bell ringing?
I have made many friends through ringing, and I even met my wife through ringing! So it’s the people first and foremost. I really enjoy touring around the country with friends, visiting different places. Most towers are very open and welcoming to those who can ring safely. It’s a huge privilege to ring at different places, especially the Cathedrals! Beyond that, there’s the personal coordination of operating your own bell, and perfecting your technique so that you can strike your bell perfectly in time with your team. It’s really rewarding when your team does it well, but perfection is near impossible, so the challenge never gets old!

How can people find out more about your group and can they follow your progress at the eliminator?
If you’d like to hear the bellringers at York Minster, the bells can usually be heard on Tuesday evenings (7 – 9 pm) and Sunday Mornings (9 – 10am). As for the contest, the results will be published on the National 12 Bell website; there is also a Facebook page that you can follow. Results are usually posted straight away!

Finally, for those interested in bell-ringing, what would you say to encourage people to get involved?
Anybody can get involved in ringing! And Bradford Cathedral has some wonderful bells. 10 of the 12 bells were cast in 1921 by John Taylor & Co, the smallest 2 added later on in 1973. Bells cast by Taylors in that era are considered to be some of the finest in the world. I imagine the local ringers at Bradford would welcome new recruits, or if they don’t have the capacity to teach right now, I’m sure they would be happy to direct interested recruits to other places nearby that can teach. There is also a Yorkshire Association where you can find more details and towers and groups that ring across Yorkshire.

Everyone at Bradford Cathedral wishes all those taking part in this year’s competition the best of luck. You can find out more about the competition – which takes place on Saturday 23rd March – on the official website.

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