One house, one day, three dozen ringers and a similar number of planned quarter peals. That was the formula for the 2012 ODG Handbell Day, held in Reading Saturday. It’s an annual event that has grown over the years. The first one I attended, in 1987, was in a village hall with two rooms (one extremely hot and the other so cold we rang in coats, hats and gloves) with I guess fewer than a dozen ringers.
Yesterday there were six rooms allocated to quarter peals, with one attempt in each 1 hour slot through the day (except lunch) and another for general ringing by those not ringing in the quarters. As you can imagine, the schedule to make sure everyone had several quarter peal attempts in the methods they wanted, and in bands that gave them a reasonable chance of success was quite complex.
The participants ranged from very inexperienced to very experienced, the latter being essential to provide the conductors and steady ringers necessary to give the former a fair chance. Looking through the list, I would say around a third were hardened handbell peal ringers. Some were members of the group that holds a weekly handbell practice in and around the Reading area, which has developed several ringers over the last few years. Most participants were from within the ODG, but a few came from father afield.
22 of the 35 attempts were successful - over 60%. Interestingly failures got more common as the day wore on. All six 10am quarters were scored, and only 4 lost during the morning, compared with 8 lost during the afternoon. Kent Maximus was lost, but Plain Bob (x3) Kent, London, Bristol & Lincolnshire were all scored. At the other end of the spectrum success was a bit lower: 1 / 5 Plain Bob Major, 1 / 4 Little Bob Major and 1 / 2 spliced Plain & Little. In between were Stedman Triples, and Kent, Oxford, Yorkshire, Cambridge & Bristol Major.
What makes a day like this so successful (apart from the hard work of the organisers, the food providers and the host who welcomes us to overrun her house)? Undoubtedly it is the way the more experienced give their time to help the less experienced to do things they couldn’t routinely do. As an example, within the group of ten or so who hold regular Thursday practices, we routinely ring up to Plain & Kent Royal, and Yorkshire Major, and several of us have conducted quarters, but our collective ability to get quarter peals round is relatively limited.