“Ring Out the Old, Ring in the New”

It may be that some future commentator will reflect on the CCCBR proceedings in Edinburgh over the May bank holiday weekend, and refer to them as “a seminal moment” in ringing history. In the meantime there will no doubt be lots of commentary and analysis in The Ringing World and other fora, discussing the events and their ramifications for ringing.

At its meeting in Portsmouth in 2016, the Central Council voted to establish an arms-length review of its structure and activities, and to report back to the 2017 meeting with recommendations. Members of the Council Review and Action Group (CRAG) have been diligent and conscientious in their task, bringing to the meeting a straight-talking analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, along with a proposed timetable for reform.

Some have expressed concern that CRAG’s consultation was not sufficiently broad, and stakeholders have not had sufficient time to respond or deliberate. The counter argument is that CRAG has used all possible communication channels throughout the consultation, and has stuck to the timelines agreed in Portsmouth.

Around 170 members of Council were present at the AGM in Edinburgh, and the motions to adopt CRAG’s proposals were passed by a large majority, followed by spontaneous applause (a somewhat rare event at Council meetings!) The assembled change ringers became change agents, and the appetite for reform and renewal has never been stronger.

Into this milieu I have been elected as President and, although it’s not surprising to feel somewhat apprehensive about the task ahead, I feel privileged to be in a position to help carry forward this agenda. All stakeholders, through their representatives on Council, have given us a clear and bold mandate. The work cannot be done entirely by the Officers, and the CRAG recommendations encourage much wider participation in Council’s activities than in the past. I trust that those with the relevant skills, experience and enthusiasm will step up to the challenge!

I would like to give tribute to those who stepped down from office at the Council meeting. Chris Mew has worked tirelessly as President on behalf of all ringers, and we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for all he has done (and continues to do) to support ringing. Kate Flavell, as former President and more recently as Public Relations Officer, has similarly been an unstinting advocate for ringing and ringers, leading the PR team (which she will continue to do) to raise our positive public profile. Andrew Taylor steps down as Treasurer, having kept a steady hand on Council’s finances over these past three years.

Ringing faces many challenges – recruitment and retention, leadership, clergy relations, potential church closures, communications, compliance, financial viability and more. We come away from Edinburgh energised and ready to take on these challenges, embarking on a journey with our fellow ringers everywhere, to revitalise our wonderful art, and leave a positive legacy for those who follow.

Christopher O’Mahony
President
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers