My involvement with Handbells began in 1978 when I lived in Chester. A friend belonged to a local team and she said ringing Handbells was good fun and she felt sure I would love it. I did and was welcomed into the ‘Westminster Chimes’, so called because the lady who owned the 2 octave set of Whitechapel bells lived on the Duke of Westminster’s estate. Unfortunately, after 6 years, work commitments meant that we no longer had access to her bells.
Eight keen ringers and no Bells! A small grant from the NW Arts Council, fundraising and piggy banks raided enabled us to purchase 2 octaves of Malmark bells in 1985. The ’Cestrian Ringers’ were born. We attended numerous rallies (Regional & National) and enjoyed our many jaunts up to Dunblane as Scotland was then part of the North West Region. A memorable highlight was being invited to play at the National Rally in Tonbridge, Kent in 1988.
On moving to Northamptonshire in 1989 I had difficulty finding a team to join. However, in 2002, I read in a local paper that the ‘Stanwick Handbell Ringers’ were looking for new members as a grant from the National Lottery had enabled them to purchase a 2 octave set of Whitechapel bells. Since then 2 further grants from other organisations have enabled a third octave of bells to be purchased. We recently purchased a 4 octave set of Suzuki Tone Chimes and are keen to start using them. So, more challenges for our Team learning to play them and more variety for our audiences during performances.
Three of us meet weekly to try to master the art of ringing ‘four-in-hand’ We find this rather akin to patting your head whilst rubbing your tummy!
I now have another handbell practice session to look forward to each month as I have joined the East Midlands Regional Team. Thank you to John Atkinson and Jane Heald for challenging me to learn new techniques and encouraging me as I strive to improve.
Forty years later and Handbell Ringing is still good fun!