Learning the Ropes Masterclass Birmingham 2019

When my Dad forwarded an email to me letting me know that me and my brother, Alfie, had been invited to an ART Masterclass in Birmingham because we had completed our Learning the Ropes Level 5 the previous year in 2018 I didn’t know what to think! I’d heard that Birmingham is a city filled with amazing bell ringers who take the hobby so seriously that there’s even a School of Bell Ringing incorporating multiple towers in the teaching process. Frankly I wasn’t expecting it to be particularly special and thought it would be just like any other tower outing, simply with better ringers.

I was delighted to discover otherwise. All the students who had passed their LtR Level 5 in 2018 started the day by meeting up in an office building which was near the cathedral and our hotel where we had stayed the night before. Once signed in, we were provided with a packed lunch, told to look for the seats with our names on, and then issued with an ART organised folder setting out a schedule and plenty of information for the day ahead. We were placed next to our assigned tutors who would be working closely with us for the day trying to help us in any way that they could to progress our ringing, to make sure we got the best out of the weekend’s activities. Right from the off, it was obvious that the organisers had spent a huge amount of time getting everything in place so that we would have a productive day.

The meeting started off with the Masterclass organiser, Stephanie Warboys, introducing herself to the group and setting out the plan for the weekend. Stephanie then introduced our three group leaders for the day, being herself, Arthur Reeves and Simon Linford, and the ringers from all over the country who would be assisting.Steph then walked us through a striking workshop where we saw 7 short clips of 6-bell ringing recorded at St Martin’s in the Bull Ring. In each short burst there would be one or multiple ringers making persistent striking errors, each progressively harder to distinguish than the last. We students filled in some sheets where we had to determine which ringer(s) was making the error and what the error was, and our tutors would help us to gain a deeper understanding after we’d made our own judgements. I found that this was a great way to start because it set the bar at a certain level, and we were then in a critical mind-set of our own striking for the whole day.

I was in the group led by, Arthur Reeves, and was paired with Ewan Hull as my tutor, and Alfie was paired with Alistair Cherry. Arthur organised all the ringing for our group – and we rang on the 16 at St Martin’s in the Bullring, the 12 of St Philip’s Cathedral and the 10 at St Paul’s.

At these towers we rang on different combinations of bells, with Arthur regularly asking the students what they’d like to work on and encouraging us to talk to our tutors and ask for help/guidance. When we weren’t ringing Arthur advised us to stand with our tutors, and discuss/analyse methods, striking and progress. This close 1:1 style of tuition worked really well for me and my brother, Alfie Pike. It was great that we were able to ring both plain courses and touches of different methods that we wouldn’t normally be able to ring or achieve with our home band. Being able to ring with such experienced ringers who can ring faultlessly and strike perfectly made it so much easier to try things I hadn’t been able to do before. For the first time ever, I got to ring in touches of Stedman Triples, Grandsire Caters and Kent Treble Bob – which for me was great and was the highlight of the weekend. It was really good to be able to make these steps forward on the day, and hopefully this can be something I can carry on with and build on.We also got to focus on our 12-bell striking in Plain Hunt, and ringing as a group on 16.

Additionally, ringing with such excellent ringers has given me more confidence, and has made me think about what other things I can possibly do and achieve. Saying I got a lot out of the experience would be an understatement.

The day finished with all three groups ringing on the 16 at St Martin’s, receiving certificates and listening to closing remarks and inspiring words from Steph and Arthur. We then all met up for dinner to chat over the day.

The next day, Alfie and I rang in the Sunday morning ringing at St Philip’s Cathedral where we were made welcome. All of us students had been invited to join the Sunday morning ringing at the various Birmingham towers (and participate in some handbell ringing as well) and a number of quarter peals had been organised for those who could stay for the whole day.

I would like to say thank you to all the helpers from Birmingham and elsewhere who all had impeccable striking giving us the students the best possible experience in progressing our ringing and a massive thank you to Steph who made this all possible through her fantastic organisation skills and patience. But most of all, I would love to say thank you to Alistair Cherry (Alfie’s tutor) and Ewan Hull (my tutor) because without them, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I was able to achieve in just one day.