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Central Council (CC) Meeting, held in Kent. May Bank Holiday weekend, 2014.
A personal view, by Chris Turner.

This was my first meeting as a Central Council Representative. These are, therefore, my first impressions of the central council!

(I had better make clear at this point that the views expressed here are my personal views and are not necessarily the views of other LDG CC reps or of the LDG itself.)

For me, the week end began on Saturday morning, with a leisurely tower grab starting at Dartford and working south. I broke off from tower grabbing soon after lunch, as I had to go to Canterbury. Earlier in the year Barrie Dove had kindly asked me to ring in a CC peal at Canterbury Cathedral, quite an honour. Unfortunately after a little over an hours ringing (Yorkshire Maximus) the conductor stopped the peal on the basis that the ringing was not good enough. I have to say this decision came as a shock to 11 of the 12 ringers! Never mind, we were able to spend more time drinking in Canterbury.

I was up early on Sunday morning to go ringing at Rochester Cathedral. This enabled me to complete the task of ringing at all the UK cathedrals - Rochester was the last one on my list - and we managed to ring all 10 bells too, good.

Sunday afternoon I made my way to Headcorn for 1) a special informal meeting for new Council members to learn about all the various CC committees, 2) attend the Ringing Foundation AGM and 3) attend a special CC songs of praise service.

I found the informal meeting for new reps a bit odd really. For a start the room we were allocated was far too small, especially as all the committees had a desk. I did manage, just, to get round to meet all the committee members present. I wanted to attend this meeting because I wanted to join a committee - if asked of course - but I did not know what committee to join. I soon discovered that given my limited knowledge on engineering, IT systems, compositions, education methods, publications, PR, there werenít that many left to chose from! In the end I opted for the Peal Records committee, so I had 12 hours to find a suitable CC member to propose me.

I learnt a lot about the Ringing Foundation at its AGM. I am sure I was not alone in not really knowing what the Ringing Foundation was all about. I now know! It does good work. It has essentially set up the ITTS (Integrated Teacher Training Scheme), run by ART (Association of Ringing Teachers) using the Learning the Ropes methodology, so it is now starting the process of moving onto other areas. As Robin Heppenstall (a Ringing Foundation director, as well as fellow LDG CC rep) told me, in a very simple but meaningful phrase, having set up a good training structure, we now need to find some recruits for these trained trainers to train! Brian Meads has chaired the Ringing Foundation since its inception, but he gave the meeting notice that, after 7 years, it was time for him to stand down and for someone new to come it to inject enthusiasm for the next phase of the Ringing Foundationís work. I have to say there were a number of murmurings among the audience who genuinely questioned why the Ringing Foundation still existed. It had done what it initially set out to do, improve training, so why not just disband and leave it all the ART. Hopefully what I have said earlier in this paragraph will explain why the Ringing Foundation will continue - it is time to move onto other phases of its work program - devise ways of increasing the supply of recruits.

Considerable debate took place regarding a negative letter in the RW from Steve Coleman. A formal reply was given to the meeting, which would appear in the RW soon (probably in the next issue). It was a robust defence from the Ringing Foundation!

Discussion ranged about how funds should/could be raised in order to promote recruitment. The exercise has spent years raising money for bell restorations etc, in order to keep ringing going in the future, it now needs to spend much more money on recruitment issues.

Monday morning arrived and it was down to the CC meeting itself. I met my fellow LDG CC reps (Messrs Sharp, Heppenstall and Green) and we positioned ourselves in the middle of the room, next to Sue Buckingham - an ex LDG ringer, of course, and wife of the much missed Keith, RIP. There were a lot of people present, about 200. Surely that is far too many people for one meeting, I thought.

The Scottish Association has a potential answer to this. They are seriously considering just sending one rep to future meetings and the money saved by not sending a second rep will be put towards training ringers in Scotland.

The chairman (Kate Flavell - yes she was a chairman, rather than a chair, or a chairlady) ran the meeting well. As the day progressed I began to mull over who Kate sounded like, then it hit me, the comedian Jo Brand! (Some of Kateís jokes were up to Joís standard too.)

As the meeting started I pondered on the words of an experienced CC rep, who told me, rather ominously, "The worst thing about being a CC rep is having to attend the meeting on the Monday. All the work is done during the year by the committees". Despite this warning, I have to say I quite enjoyed the first hour or so of the meeting. The Guild of St Agatha became affiliated members. We remembered past CC reps, heard minutes, accepted accounts etc, elected a new President (Chris Mew), in other words all the usual stuff of AGMs. We then elected two life members, a real honour for the deserving recipients, Alan Frost for all his CC related work over the last 50 odd years and David Kelly, the leading light and instigator of the Keltek Trust (which rescues redundant bells, many of which now ring out within Lincolnshire).

I was a little surprised by the time we wasted formally voting (by a proper, secret, paper ballot) for 6 additional members, when all 6 could, and so would, be accepted anyway! What was the point? (The answer is that the rules say at least X% of members present must support the nomination, and a show of hands does not really allow people to object, well not without potentially making themselves unpopular.)

Then we came to the motions put before the meeting, ie proposed rule changes etc, always a controversial topic. I shanít bore you all with details (anyone wanting these details, please contact me directly), but all the motions were passed. Many of you will know something about the "non-method block" debate. This did arouse quite a lot of discussion, with some old hands refusing to accept anything should change, whilst others - mainly, but not solely, the younger members - arguing robustly that things had to change. All four of your LDG reps supported the non-method block proposal and an accompanying motion (voted on under AOB) that all the decisions relating to peals and methods etc need to be rigorously reviewed, with a view to making them simpler, more user friendly and descriptive rather than prescriptive. These new rules will be put to the CC next year, - I canít wait! (I did feel somewhat sorry for the Methods committee, particularly its chairman Peter Niblett, during this debate. Heads you lose, tails you donít win.)

Next, came a debate on Change Ringing for the Future. This was probably the most important discussion of the day, focussing on the future of ringing. (I must give a public health warning here, what I am about to say is not pleasant, but it is the truth.) As was said at the Ringing Foundation AGM, we as ringers have to address the time bomb that is awaiting us. As things currently stand, most ringers will be dead within twenty years, which means there is a real chance (particularly in outposts like Lincolnshire) that ringing as we know it today will not survive into 2030/2040 and beyond. Something has to be done to address this demographic time bomb. I was impressed by Elva Ainsworth, who lead this discussion. She is motivated and is determined to find a way of resolving this, (she is also young!).

(Around this point, we broke for lunch followed by the Ringing World AGM (see later). So three AGMs in two days, canít get enough of them!!)

Next came all the reports from the various committees. As reported earlier, it is the committees that do all the work throughout the year, and once a year at the AGM, ordinary members have the opportunity to question what these committees do, as well as elect their members. Nothing of significant note emerged during this rather long and, yes tedious at times, process. All I will say is that I was surprised, amazed even, that with around 200 members in the room, four of the sixteen committees could not find enough volunteers to fill all the vacancies. Using simple back of a fag packet mathematics, I reckon there must have been around 50 members who appear not to do anything on the CC other than turn up for the AGM. If I am wrong, I apologise, but I think CC members should do more than just turn up to an annual meeting. (I would excuse new members from this criticism, given that even I can see that it takes one meeting to get to know how things work.) Oh....., and did I get elected onto the Peal Records committee? Yes.

We reached the end of the meeting at 5.30pm, quite a marathon. The final business included arrangements for next yearís meeting in Hull (thatís rather more convenient than Kent for LDG reps) followed by a genuine and sincere vote of thanks to Kate Flavell, for her three years as CC President. From my brief experience of CC business, I think Kate has done a very good job.

And just before I sign off, what happened at the RW AGM? Not a lot of significance really, most of it was routine AGM business. There was general amusement at the accounts showing a loss of £5040 (not because of the loss, but the number!) Sadly, the RW directors are having to manage a terminal decline. It is a fact that RW subscriptions are on a steady downward decline, as old ringers die and new ringers do not take the RW. (See Change Ringing for the Future above, it is the same problem.)

Chris Turner

Chris Turner has stated that he is happy to go into more detail on any of the above. If you wish to contact Chris you may do so by