Ringing the bell

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Hazelbury Bryan primary school’s call to ‘make a noise’ against bullying was answered by a cathedral bellringer’s visit

Tim Joiner (left) setting the bells with Robert Newton and Jane Pridmore

Tim Joiner is a previous Lord Mayor of Westminster and a bell ringer at Brecon Cathedral. When Hazelbury Bryan primary school settled on ‘make a noise’ as the theme for the school’s anti-bullying week, parent-governor Romana Phillips knew just who to call – she couldn’t think of anything more appropriate for ‘making a noise’ than bellringing.
Tim was happy to travel from Brecon, and he also contacted the Dorset County Association of Church Bellringers to see if they might put on something special just for the school.
St Mary and St James church doesn’t have its own band (the collective noun for group of bellringers), so a group of Dorset bellringers from different churches volunteered to join Tim to perform a quarter peal.
‘That’s ringing 1,250 times around the bells,’ explains Tim. ‘It takes 45 minutes to ring a quarter peal – every time we go round, it has to be a different permutation or combination, a different order of the bells. And you have to memorise it.’

Robert Newton (far left) and Tim Joiner give some of the pupils a quick lesson in bell ringing
All images: Laura Hitchcock


Tim holds up a small book with pages filled with rows of numbers – looking remarkably similar to the old logarithm books readers of a certain age will remember from school.
‘Methods for various numbers of bells are laid out across the columns of numbers. That’s bell ringing music. But you’re not allowed to use it, you have to learn it – you’re not allowed to use it during the ringing at all.
‘You end up with something called rope-sight, where you can see where all the bells are. And you instinctively know “I need to be second place …. third place … fourth …” and you don’t even worry about what the other bells are doing. You just need to know which one you’re going to follow. And you do that by listening, and by looking … and to an extent by how quickly your arms are going up and down!’

The quarter peal under way in St Mary and St James church

The band’s all here
Tim was joined in Hazelbury by Robert Newton from Hilton, John Close from Winterborne Whitchurch, Angie Jasper from Hampreston, and Jane and Nigel Pridmore. Nigel rings at Puddletown and Jane is the Dorset County Association Training Officer: ‘So I ring everywhere!’
All of the ringers gave up their afternoon to ring the quarter peal – John and Robert came direct from a morning spent ringing near Bridport.

The children were excited to pull the Sally (the colourful padded rope end) and ring a bell

‘On the first day, I talked to the children on school about size and pitch of bells, and showed them how chord changes work, so they got a basic idea,’ explains Tim. ‘It’s actually quite difficult, but they did it! Then on the second day, we played some simple tunes with the handbells. It was a lot of fun, and they did so well.’
Lucy Odhams, Kestrels class teacher, was in charge of the anti-bullying work in school. ‘Making a noise doesn’t mean a physical noise,’ she explains. ‘The children know it means they shouldn’t ignore bullying, and we’ve represented that through the bell ringing. All the children have been ringing bells themselves, and then we were really lucky to have the opportunity to make a really BIG noise in the bell tower.
‘It’s been a great activity, and really kept them focused on making that noise, being able to tell someone if they ever saw bullying happen.’

Tim Joiner with some of the Hazelbury Bryan Primary School pupils in the bell tower

‘We talked a lot about how people might not always be poorly on the outside,‘ continues headteacher Mrs Waring. ‘We’ve got to consider people’s hearts and minds on the inside, too.
‘It’s also been lovely to see that some of our challenging children, those with special educational needs, have absolutely shone this week,. They’ve thoroughly enjoyed the bellringing. It’s been wonderful.’

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