I had forgotten how utterly nervewracking it is to ring with people watching. The awareness of the audience puts me into this lightheaded state and suddenly it takes massively more concentration to keep on the lines.
We were ringing, with Jonathan and Angela, for the Christmas Fayre at our local primary school. Tucked away into a little corner by the ticket desk and barricaded behind a nominal barrier of music stands with informational leaflets, we rang through the endless queue of people waiting to get in. We stopped every once in a while to see if anyone wanted a ‘go’, but at that point the children were all too shy. I don’t blame them, it was quite a crowd to be watching you fumble with some handbells for the first time.
Towards the end of the evening we attracted the intense attention of a crowd of boys, who drew nearer and nearer, sidling their way past the music stands until they were just about sitting in our laps (putting Yorkshire to rest in a premature way). Curiousity overcame shyness and we had about forty minutes of a steady stream of schoolchildren having a go at ringing.
In the end there was such a queue that we put two of them in at a time, and let them ring rounds on 8. They all did very well, and a couple were definitely natural bellringers: one girl even intinctively got the handstroke gap. Most impressive. We had one boy back for a second try and he was very good too. Ironically, they weren’t signed up for the handbell club, but still, it was quite impressive.
We start the school handbell club next week, and I have put together a website with useful resources for them. Last night was a good dress rehearsal, and we are keen to get started now.