The first Ringing World National Youth Contest
– the full report by Adrian Udal
One of the highlights of The Ringing World’s Centenary Year was the first Ringing World National Youth Contest which took place at St Saviour’s Church, Pimlico on 26th March. Twelve teams of bellringers aged under 19 rang around 160 rows of either Call Changes or Triples. Nine teams rang Call Changes, two teams rang Plain Bob Triples and one team rang Grandsire Triples. The average ages of each team’s ringers were 13½, 13⅝, 14⅛, 14⅛, 14¼, 14⅜, 14⅜, 15⅝, 15⅝, 16¼, 16¼ and 16⅝, with the two youngest ringers taking part being aged just ten. Most teams had a young conductor with just two choosing to have an adult call from outside the circle.
Our thanks to tower captain Stephanie Pattenden, the church wardens and Michaela Neligan of St Saviour Pimlico for the use of the church and bells and to Jo Dorling who led a Society of Royal Cumberlands Youths team, which both provided superb catering and the stewarding.
Peter Harrison told us “During Centenary Day I was at St Saviour’s for the RW National Youth Contest. As Master of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths I was there to help out The Ringing World by acting as photographer for them, taking the team photos before they went up to ring and, when I had a free moment, to go and check on the judges to make sure they were all okay. The added advantage is that I also got to meet the teams and have a brief chat with them. It was great to see so many young ringers taking part, and I think a few smiles were shown even before they were taken up the tower by one of the three stewards. The other highlights were how all the parents and friends were there to cheer the teams as they left the tower, and how many other ringers without any direct association to the competition came along to listen. It shows how much we all care about the future of our art, and if the ringing that was on display is any indication, it shows that we have keen young ringers who care too.”
The Contest was judged by Simon Linford, Tessa Beadman, Imogen Brooke and James Marchbank, who later in the day presented the results of their deliberations at the reception in Central Hall Westminster. Simon opened and said “First of all I’d like to say what an honour it is to have been asked to be chief judge for what I hope will be a regular feature of the ringing calendar. We all know where the future lies: it lies in the hands of bands like these, and it is looking bright. I’m a huge personal fan of striking competitions and think they have an important place in ringing. The pursuit of excellence is a worthy pursuit – a pursuit that improves our ability as ringers, increases our enjoyment as we ring better as a team and ultimately, and most importantly, a pursuit that improves our very public performance of service ringing. We have been entertained to some great ringing today. Those at Pimlico can only have been impressed by the standard that these young bands achieved.”
Next Imogen said that throughout the day they had listened from a position inside the church where they were able to hear the bells very clearly. “While we were marking the test pieces we were facing away from each other; in this way we could fully focus our attention on the marking. Many of the bands had problems in the same areas. The trebles were quite often rung a little bit too fast. The seventh also proved to be a bit of a problem sometimes being rung a little bit too quickly over the small bells. For some of the bands this was a bit of a problem getting into Whittingtons. Some of the handstrokes were also strung out a little bit meaning the tenor had to slow down to accommodate causing the following backstrokes to be a little bit clipped. The pull-offs were also an area to work on as it is important to set a good impression. Overall the ringing was of a very high standard and was very enjoyable to listen to.”
James then described how the actual judging was done. “Tessa, Imogen and I sat and marked the faults for each row whilst Simon listened to each piece to get a general view. We then normalised each team’s scores to 160 faults, as this allowed us to mark every row without penalising the teams that had rung more than the required number of rows. We then did some more maths to normalise the score that each judge produced – to stop the effect of a particularly harsh or lenient judge skewing the overall scores. All of this is explained in further detail in Chapter 7 of Simon’s new book ‘Judging Striking Competitions’! We then inverted and converted the scores into a percentage so that they’d be more similar to the exam results that you all know and love. We grouped these percentages into grade bands: from E up to A and, who knows, maybe also a couple of A*s.”
Simon took back the microphone and gave the following details of how each team had rung:
Team 1 (Sussex Young Ringers) Call Changes (Grade A)
This was a very nice start to our day and if this was a taste of things to come then we were going to enjoy it. Quite a brisk and positive start, the first change was well executed. Going into 13254768 was curiously not so good – that change wasn’t your sweet spot – although other changes clearly were. Queens was excellent, a real crowd pleaser. We thought this band may have put their best ringer on the treble as that was rung very well – no leading faults to speak of. Bells ringing together tended to be a little quick, maybe there was comfort in getting back together again! But overall this was a good piece.
Team 2 (Bedfordshire) Call Changes (Grade C)
Again we set off at quite a brisk pace. James immediately thought this team should get a bonus for starting off towards Whittingtons in the most musical way – we did like 7568s. However if you are going to bring the bigger bells through the small bells you have to make sure you don’t hit them! There was quite a bit of inconsistency here we felt, although one of your feature rows, the Whittingtons, was rung well and you lingered on it as long as possible. An innovative way of getting back to rounds from Queens included a little bit of a scrunch up (a technical term), but you recovered and finished well.
Team 3 (Oxford D.G.) Grandsire Triples (Grade A)
A confident touch of Grandsire Triples certainly pleased the crowds, which we could hear by the way! The tenor was keeping a steady beat making sure the touch didn’t run away. One area where you did pick up a few faults was when you strung out the handstroke row a bit, trying to avoid clips maybe, but then the tenor was getting hit by the beginning of the next backstroke row. The 5678s were a little disappointing given you had rung so well, but this was made up for by the back rounds in the last lead which was perfect. Well done.
Team 4 (Hertfordshire) Call Changes (Grade A*)
This was a bit more stately and was very enjoyable to listen to. A lot of thought had gone into this set of changes, moving between your feature rows in the best possible ways. We liked 17532468 on the way to the Whittingtons, and the 12765438 on the way to the end. When 1 and 2 were together on the front, which they were a lot, they were rung particularly well. We struggle to say anything critical at all about this – sure it picked up a few off blows here and there but overall this was very good indeed. In contention.
Team 5 (Essex S.E. District) Call Changes (Grade B)
Although this was a nice piece, it was a bit frustrating because it was almost, but not quite, very good. Lots of rows were almost there, but it never quite shone. A bit more polish and it would have. There were stretches of very good ringing, picking up an accumulation of small errors rather than full faults. I don’t think even the harshest conductor would have said much other than general encouragement to the band, and maybe saying to guard against the little bells being quick at the start of the row. A pretty good piece.
Team 6 (Derby D.A.) Call Changes (Grade C)
First of all I started thinking this felt a bit ponderous, but then decided it was just well controlled! You started well – 7568s to keep James happy – then there was a clash, which you recovered from. But we felt you never quite lived up to your potential, which was definitely there. Some of the changes of change lacked confidence, particularly the entry into Queens, which took a little getting used to. Based on the ringing at the beginning though, a bit more confidence and you will go far.
Team 7 (Market Deep-Grantham) Call Changes (Grade C)
The last team before lunch gave the impression of being quite hungry. You were economical with your practice, rang a little breathlessly, and only actually rang 142 changes! Just before you started we had a debate about whether quick or slow ringing attracts more faults, because clips are more noticeable and tend to get judged more harshly than gaps. Which was the case here. You knew what you wanted to do but didn’t quite execute. On the plus side though, you got to Whittingtons quickly and stayed there for a long time, which was good. Queens: pretty good as well, although the handstrokes dragged out a bit. We did have to penalise your short rows but it didn’t make too much difference.
Team 8 (Lincolnshire Poachers) Plain Bob Triples (Grade A)
Very nice start, thought this sounded professional and well-rehearsed, with the back bells establishing a good rhythm. There was the odd clip and gap – a couple of differences of opinion in the 1st lead of the 2nd course and again a little later on. Interestingly the 2nd course was not as good as the first – maybe the unfamiliarity of having 3 and 4 swapped was a factor, but it was not a huge issue. You did tend to string changes out a bit, but this was fault avoidance and very skilfully done. Overall a very nice touch, and in contention at this stage.
Team 9 (Cheshire Cats) Plain Bob Triples (Grade B)
Another band setting off at a brisk pace, with a good beat. We didn’t think you were quite confident enough in your strategy all the time, and there were some slow starts to rows, where you would have benefitted from being a bit more positive. But there was definitely a spark here – you weren’t put off by the halfway call, and if you had gone on to ring a quarter I bet you would have generated some very good ringing. There was a slight suspicion that 3 and 4 swapped back over in the 2nd course for a bit ... but my ears might have deceived me.
Team 10 (Devon Young Ringers) Call Changes (Grade C)
This was quite a breathless piece. A bit of a difference of opinion on speed, in that the front bells had one opinion and the back bells another. But when the 7th got down to 3rds place and made its presence felt, you sorted them out! This piece would have benefitted just from holding the front bells up a bit, because there was a good basic structure and just bells falling over each other a little bit. When we got into Queens the handstrokes were very good – backstrokes not so good – so remember those handstrokes. Then you moved quickly from Queens to the end and finished rather well.
I often apply a “wedding test” to striking competition ringing. I ask myself whether if this was paid ringing for a wedding, would the happy couple be happy. Well in this case, as with all the ringing today, they would.
Team 11 (Leicester Rising Ringers) Call Changes (Grade C)
Like team 10, I was willing you to slow the front bells down a bit, and thankfully you did. The tenor set you a nice pace to follow and the structure was there. You didn’t seem to be very confident on all the changes of change, but that will come with more practice. Whoever rang the 2nd should be congratulated on your Queens – very well struck over the 7th, which is such an important note. But you did pick up regular faults by not being quite accurate enough. Again if you applied the wedding test then would the bridge and groom who had paid for this ringing be happy. Yes they would, especially as you gave them 20 bonus changes!
Team 12 (Kids.Ring.Out) Call Changes (Grade A*)
Gave us a very pleasing end to the day, led by a controlled performance from the front bells. The 7th rang well over the smaller bells, which has caused some difficulties in other teams. The few faults came from slowness towards the middle of the row, and I would also dare to criticise you for not staying in Queens long enough, because it was very nice. Whittingtons was not as good as your Queens, but there were other rows like the 7568s at the end which were really special, and you stayed in your other good changes for a decent amount of time which was a clever move. So a good finish and definitely in contention.
Next Tessa announced the grades to the audience. “Because we were all so impressed with the ringing today no teams scored Ds or Es. So announced in the order that they rang the following teams scored creditable Cs: Team 2 – Bedfordshire, Team 6 – Derby D.A., Team 7 – Market Deep-Grantham, Team 10 – Devon Young Ringers and Team 11 – Leicester Rising Ringers.”
Teams were called up onto the stage to receive their medals from Clive Allport, the Master of the Worshipful Company of Founders.
Tessa continued “Again in the order that they rang, the following teams scored Bs: Team 5 – Essex S. E. District and Team 9 – Cheshire Cats. The following teams rang an excellent touch that we consider to be a Grade A: Team 1 – Sussex Young Ringers, Team 8 – Lincolnshire Poachers. And winning Gold medals for the Method category with an excellent touch of Grandsire Triples Team 3 – Oxford D.G.”
Finally two teams scored an A*, Team 4 (Hertfordshire) and Team 12 (Kids.Ring.Out), and were invited onto the stage. The runner up in the Call Changes category, getting Silver medals, was Team 12 – Kids.Ring.Out.
So the winners of both the Call Changes category getting Gold medals, and also the overall winners of the Ringing World National Youth Contest, was Team 4 – Hertfordshire. Alan Hughes then presented the Whitechapel Trophy to Ed Mack, the conductor and team leader of the Hertfordshire band, to the team’s clear delight!
In conclusion I would like to thank the Contest sponsors The Founders’ Company for all the medals, Alan and Kathryn Hughes of Whitechapel Bell Foundry for designing and supplying the trophy, and The Ringing Foundation for sponsoring a reception ticket for each team’s responsible adult. Also thanks go to Tim Joiner for the original idea of running a young persons’ striking competition on Centenary Day and to our judging team who were excellent. But most of all my thanks go to all the young ringers who took part and whose ringing was fantastic.
Next year the second Ringing World National Youth Contest will be held on Saturday, 30th June 2012 in BIRMINGHAM. Entry details will follow early in the New Year.