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                       My name is Michael Johnson (Mike) and I was 
re-elected as the Chair for the East Midlands                         region in March 2024. I have been a member of the Stanwick Handbell Ringers since 1996 –                         almost since it was started by one of our current members using the 12 bells from the local                           Church. Since then I have been chair of that group for a number of years, and am now Vice                           chair and Musical Director, a role for which I am not particularly qualified, but in the absence                         of other takers I took it on. I have been a member of HRGB for a number of years and was one of the first members of our group to join. Our team now owns 3 octaves of Whitechapel bells supplemented by a 4th octave of Malmark hand chimes. We give regular performances at a wide variety of venues in and around Northamptonshire, including weddings at Churches and other licensed locations.

I live in Raunds in Northamptonshire, right on the edge of the East Midlands region and actually closer to many of the events held in the East Anglia region than those in our region. As a result of that, I have attended rallies, performances and other meetings held in the East Anglia region. I have, of course attended rallies organised by teams in East Midlands and along with other members of the Stanwick team have organised regional rallies at Raunds.

As a member of the regional committee I was involved with the organisation of the 2010 National Rally at Leicester- moving furniture and directing traffic etc. It was good to see so many teams there and it was a really enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, the East Midlands Region is not in a position to take it's turn to host a HRGB National Rally currently.





                          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!


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