RWNYC 2014 – Worcester

by James Coleman, Young@Herts

The Ringing World National Youth Contest (RWNYC) 2014 was hosted by the historic city of Worcester where 16 bands of young ringers came to compete against each other in either one of two categories; methods or called changes. There was far much more to the day though than just ringing for the contest with every tower in Worcester open at some point during the day for the aspiring young ringers to grab as well as several workshops ranging from a 12-bell ‘master class’ to hand bells. Our team comprised of 10 young ringers with 8 contestants and two reserves from all over Hertfordshire. We had only met 6 months before in February and had only practised with each other on 6 occasions and most of us come from heavy towers which are the complete opposite of Old St Martins, the competition tower.

The Young@Herts team all met in the awe-inspiring cathedral at 9am to meet and arrange our surprise gift to our team manager for the hard work she had put into the team. A mission which was doomed from the start when the manager of the team was on the same bus as the two team members organising the gift! The bus-driver came to the rescue and after explaining the crisis agreed to conceal the flowers in the front of the bus where they could not be seen. At the cathedral, we could not move for young ringers, the atmosphere there and in Worcester for the whole day was like nothing we have ever experienced: to see so many young people who, like us have taken up bell ringing as a hobby. After meeting up and thanking the team manager, we registered and got stuck in with the day’s activities.

The first activity of the day was a 20 minute session in the Cathedral’s amazing teaching centre where ringers can ring anything they want on a dumb-bell with the sound made using Abel© software. An activity which was both fun and great preparation for the striking competition which was yet to come. The teaching centre was a ‘first’ for most of the team members and great fun for everyone with one or two young non-team members also having a chance to have a go at ringing a dumb-bell. While a few people then went off to look round Worcester and try to grab towers, most of us made time to sit down for a cup of tea and a slice of cake in either the cathedral’s café or one of the numerous cafés and tearooms around Worcester.

Our team were due at Old St Martin's – the competition tower – at 12.10 for a 12.20 start but we were all there in plenty of time so we could eye up the competition which we all agreed was very tight. Nonetheless it was soon time for us to have our team photograph taken and make our way up into the ringing chamber to begin the practice piece and then the test piece. The sallies were all different colours which amused the whole team but we soon got to business, ringing 160 rows exactly of called changes: the best that we’ve ever done. Afterwards, we made our way downstairs where all the supporters were cheering us on whilst queuing up to grab the tower during the judges’ lunchtime. Luckily for us, we rang before the open ringing during the judges’ lunchtime during which the stay on the sixth was broken – making the very light bells even more of a challenge for the remaining eight teams.

After ringing the test piece, it was then time for the young ringers participating in the 12-bell master class at All Saints to make our way over to the church. Once everyone participating in the session was up in the ringing chamber, the practice began only to be brought to a sudden halt when a young ringer from Hertfordshire, who had never rung on twelve before, pulled off their bell at handstroke for the stay to mysteriously disappear at backstroke. Having been pulled a little too hard, the bell swung full circle, pulling the rope through the ceiling along with the ringer who was still holding onto the tailend! The ringer was pulled almost 10ft into the air before finally letting go and plunging to the floor with an almighty thud. Everyone stood their bells at once and watched as the young ringer got up off the floor and reassured all present that they were fine and had not injured themselves. Once everything had settled down, the practice continued but this time as an 11-bell master class. It was enjoyed by all and was a useful workshop which helped to teach us and the other young ringers how to ring rounds and called changes on 11 well. Even the young ringer who had just been flung around the ringing chamber managed to soldier on and ring on 11, something which a lot of people would have been unable to do after experiencing a potentially traumatic event only moments before.

The remainder of the day was spent looking around Worcester or, in the case of the keener bell ringers in the team, grabbing as many of the towers as possible. Unfortunately, due to the timings of the day it wasn’t possible for us to grab St John, Bedwardine. Nevertheless, the remaining five towers in Worcester were grabbed by many and the little journey on the minibus to Barbourne was enjoyed by many and the bells even more so. It was nice to ring something other than called changes and allowed contestants to ring something a little more complex. Most of the towers had long queues of ringers waiting to get in for a grab but thanks to the orange bands that all contestants were given, all of us managed to skip the queues and avoid the long waits. The afternoon soon went by and it was time to assemble in the college hall for the results! The teams were called in one at a time to sit at the front of the hall. The suspense was almost too much to bear. We hoped to come somewhere in the middle. The judges who had to shout due to technical difficulties with the sound system started with the method category which was won by the very much deserving Yorkshire Tykes. It was then time for the bigger category, our category – the called change bands. We sat their listening and watching in suspense, counting down the places, 10th, 9th, 8th … until we got to the top three teams, to our surprise we were still in.

We won third place but were awarded joint second as we had the same grade (B+) as Essex. We all walked up onto the stage to collect our medals in disbelief that we were ranked so highly. The Whitechapel Trophy was awarded to our exceptional neighbours, Bedfordshire, for the second year running and they were graded with an A*.

Everyone then exited the hall to have a hog roast and socialise. The Young@Herts supporters who were as amazed as we were congratulated us all in turn and we spent the rest of the evening trying to come to terms with our success. Next year we will be returning to the competition in Oxford to try to beat our neighbours and reclaim The Whitechapel Trophy which our county won in 2011. Worcester did a great job of running the event and we are all looking forward to competing in Oxford next year and are starting to prepare already. See you there!

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