The state of Scottish handbell ringing

While I was updating my records after our peal on Friday, I noticed that 2022 had equalled the highest number of SACR handbell peals in any year, with a total of 11. The previous high points were 2015 and 2017, also with 11 each. Moreover, the number of peal ringers in 2022 was 13, the joint highest (with 2015) of any year.

I then looked at the methods rung, and saw that all the peals in 2022 were of surprise, which was not the case in 2015 or 2017. My initial reaction was that this is good and shows progress. However, digging a little deeper reveals a more mixed picture. What's happened since 2017 is that firstly, an Edinburgh peal band has emerged, following James Holdsworth's move to Scotland; and secondly, Peter Kirton (after leaving St Andrews, spending a couple of years in Austria, and then moving to Glasgow) has progressed from peals of Plain Bob and treble bob to being part of the Glasgow band. Unfortunately, the other people who rang non-surprise peals in 2015 and 2017 didn't ring peals at all in 2022. So there is work to be done on maintaining a pipeline of peal ringers. On the positive side, the number of conductors has increased, from 2 in 2015 to 3 in 2017 to 4 in 2022.

After analysing the peals, I turned my attention to quarters, and had a surprise. There has been a huge explosion in activity over recent years, as the following table shows.

Year Quarters Ringers Conductors
2018 20 21 8
2019 38 28 9
2020 15 13 6
2021 66 35 8
2022 85 39 13

Of course there was a dip in 2020, but since then, all the activity has been increasing. Particularly encouraging is the appearance of new conductors in the list.

Online ringing has been important, with 28 online quarters in 2021 and 12 in 2022. We do suffer from geographical dispersion in Scotland, and online ringing is a valuable complement to meeting in person. It will be interesting to see whether the use of Ringing Room continues this year.

Since 2018, a total of 55 people have rung SACR quarters. Now, I must admit that not all of those ringers are resident members. Some of the non-residents are regular collaborators who we view as members of the "Southern branch", and some are people who have visited for a handbell day or to make up an online band. But looking just at the residents, 45 people have participated, which is about 20% of the association resident membership. I think that's a high number.

There are now four centres of regular handbell ringing. Glasgow and Edinburgh in the central belt; a northern group centred on Inverness but stretching from Fort William to Aberdeen; and a relatively new outpost on the Isle of Arran which has progressed to touches of Plain Bob Minor, including (I believe) a couple of people who are not tower-bell ringers.

All in all, it's a healthy situation. Let's see what we can get up to in 2023.