Central Council Meeting, Edinburgh.

26th – 29th May 2017
CDG Delegates: Annie Hall, Becki Johnson, Joy Pluckrose, Chris Mew.

From reading the Ringing World, one might have thought the very future of bell ringing would be determined at the Central Council meeting to be held in Edinburgh on 29th May 2017. Our Guild had 3 new members representing its interest and so it was with some trepidation we made the long journey north. Owing to Training Strategy commitments in our own Guild, we did not travel to Edinburgh until Sunday 28th – although Chris Mew, our fourth member and President of The Council, had been there since Friday.

The ‘New Members’ Meeting’ on Sunday afternoon resembled a University’s Fresher’s Fair! After an initial welcome and introduction to Officers of the Executive we were turned loose at the mercy of the Chairs of each of the various sub-groups, all vying for our membership of their particular group. This in itself seemed a pointless exercise since the CRAG report, to be discussed and voted on the next day, was advocating the demise of the groups in their present form, in favour of new working groups with new remits.

The location for The John Taylor Dinner and Ceilidh on Sunday evening was at Ghillie Dhu a dramatic vaulted Georgian hall with booths for Scottish dining, live music and ceilidhs – a stunning venue. Access was via a wide sweeping spiral staircase and the main function room was divided into an eating area, a relaxed sofa’d area and an enormous bar! The evening was opened by The Rev Ian Gilmore, Vicar of St Andrew’s and St George’s (where the main meeting was to be held on the Monday) – a very entertaining, witty, and sincere man who set the atmosphere for the rest of the evening. And, of course, all staff were dressed in traditional Scottish dress – kilts and all! It’s amazing too how many bellringers are competent folk dancers too!

Monday brought us to the nub of the weekend – the main meeting taking place at St Andrew’s and St George’s Church, an absolutely ideal setting for a meeting with a good refectory, a circular meeting room with gallery and excellent acoustics.

After the initial welcome and introduction of New Members, and the usual business-generated items of an agenda, the rest of the morning was devoted to the CRAG report, the contents of which had been widely published with a follow up of a 28 page document on FAQs.

Dr Phillip Barnes sought to give us the background to the Consultation following a mandate from last year’s CC meeting, and the position of the CC from both actual and perceived opinions of it. This is what I would deem to be ‘The Starting Point’.

Following on, he then took us through a number of motions that outlined the principles for change and the vision of the Council from 2018. This I deemed ‘The Finishing Line’.

What I could not get my head round was ‘The Process’ of how we get from the Starting point to the Finishing line - there seems to be a great faith put on a sort of ‘Osmosis’ procedure or a ‘Phoenix rising from the Ashes’. An amendment to the ‘Adoption Motion’ that the vote on it be delayed until 2018 when ‘the Process’ would be transparent, (our choice) was defeated and so the CRAG report and all its changes for 2018 stands.

After lunch the Annual Ringing World Meeting was held, and it is obvious that this publication will only survive if more people use it. Do you subscribe? Do you have a copy in your tower? If the answer is ‘No’ the Newsletter has details of you can rectify this and help sustain this valuable part of our ringing exercise.

The final part of the meeting was, quite frankly, boring and beyond the reach of the coalface ringer. Groups had submitted their reports for us all to read and then proceeded to justify their existence. I understand that ‘setting standards’ is essential and part of their remit, but really, do we have to debate whether 5040 changes rung on a mini-ring of flower pots constitutes a bona-fida peal?

The weekend could be dubbed ‘an experience’ and there are some changes we would like to make to our Guild meetings in light of our involvement in the Council as ‘rookies’.

  • Were the delegates warm and welcoming – I think not.
  • Is the Council still dominated by ‘The Old School Tie’ brigade – most certainly.
  • Will the ‘New Look Council’ appeal more to the ordinary Sunday Service Ringers – I would hope so, or CRAG has been a waste of time.