Exclusive: Church bell-ringers reject Olympic ap-peal (updated)

Exclusive: Church bell-ringers reject Olympic ap-peal (updated)


norman lebrecht

November 04, 2011

I have been informed that the Central Council of Church-Bell Ringers have told the organisers of the 2012 Olympics that they cannot participate in the national ring-in on the first morning of the Games. Here’s their website and, below, their objections.

The organisers went ahead with the ringing intiative, regardless. Which means the morning might be quieter than intended.

Why did Olympics 2012 not listen to the bell-ringers before they went ahead with their announcement? Any suggestions?

Here’s the CCCBR text:

The Martin Creed Project

This is another Olympic-related ringing project that I have referred to briefly before, where there is a move to have all the bells in the country ringing as loudly and fast as possible for three minutes at 8 am on Friday 27 July 2012 to mark the opening day of the Olympics. We have been involved in some very detailed discussions with the organisers, during which we tried to persuade them to have the ringing at a different time rather than 8 am, or to leave ringers free to choose the best time for them and for their local area on that day. These discussions were not successful as too much had already been irrevocably decided before we were invited to become involved, although it was agreed that ringing for longer than three minutes would be acceptable. I am aware that they are now contacting associations directly. It may help you to know that the Council’s position is as follows:

  • We are very aware of this project and have been involved in extensive but ultimately unsuccessful discussions with the organisers to try to enable their objectives to be more aligned with ringers’ views and practices.
  • Our view on ringing for any aspects of the Olympics is that all ringing should be encouraged and bands should look for reasons to link ringing to the Olympic events. Especially the Torch Relay, as this covers the whole of the UK. Friday 27 July is clearly likely to be a popular day to ring for the opening.
  • We are not able to work closely with this project as we believe it is misconceived and we were invited to become involved in its design too late to be able to help make it more workable for ringers.
  • We think 8 am is not the right time for ringing in very many towers and for very many ringers, although it is an improvement on the 4 am time they originally suggested, to mark the flame arriving in the UK.
  • We do not believe ringing for three minutes nor ringing as fast as possible is really suitable for church bell ringers.
  • We have been very involved with the New Music 20X12 project for some time now and this is the main focus of our Olympic work, although we are also encouraging ringing along the route of the Torch Relay.
And here’s a further demurral from the Essex branch:

The Martin Creed Project, also known as Work No. 1197,

or All The Bells, and SGA Productions.


You may have heard or read about the above project, and EACR has replied to the invitation as follows:-


Thank you for contacting the Essex Association of Change Ringers (EACR) in relation to bell ringing for the London 2012 Olympic Games. We have read your proposals with interest and discussed them at a recent meeting of our Management Committee. At this junction we would like to make the following comments:-


  • Ringing at 8.00am on a weekday morning is going to be very inconvenient for very many of our ringers as they will either already be at work, commuting or on the school run.
  • ‘Ringing bells as loudly and fast as possible for three minutes’ is not in keeping with traditional full circle change ringing, as we prefer to ring for longer periods and in specific styles as is our long standing tradition.
  • In this day and age, we do have to be mindful of our neighbours, who may not welcome church bells ringing so early in the morning for anything other than a church service.
  • We are promoting taking part in celebratory ringing throughout the Games and are taking part in as many local celebrations as possible in the 6 weeks or so prior to the Games and for events such as the Torch Relay, Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
  • EACR has been advising its members to join in with the spirit of the London 2012 Olympic Games in the towns and villages where they all worship and ring at dates and times which are convenient to individual circumstances.
  • There are also issues of child protection to consider because last minute requests from the media to take photographs in towers with ringers under 18 years of age will not be entertained as we would not have been able to seek written parental consent to the photography.
  • Some employers are already placing restrictions on staff applying for annual leave next July, so we do feel the time of day is extremely difficult.


All of these issues we have with the timing, notice and planning have been borne out of experiences with other nation wide celebrations. You may wish to contact the Chelmsford Diocesan Office in order to ascertain whether they would be prepared to undertake a Diocesan mailing to the churches with 1-4 bells suitable for chiming, with whom we do not tend to have as much day-to-day communication. Their postal address is 53 New Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1AT. Tel: 01245-294400.  EACR would like to wish you well with your concept, but I am afraid I am unable to actively promote it within the full-circle change ringing community in Essex as our Management Committee expressed all of the above concerns.


–          Ends –

UPDATE: An oraginising source has message me as follows:

The organizers have had meetings with CCCBR about this project from February, before the appointment of the current President, and again in July and in August, when some but not all of the details of the project were knows (date, time etc).


They recognise concerns over the piece title – this is a piece for all kinds of bells, each to be rung in the way that most suits. Change bell ringers are being encouraged to ring their bells in the correct way for 3 minutes and carry on for longer if they wish, fully understanding that these types of bells ring at one volume and can only be rung at a certain speed. There are many bell ringers across the country who are very excited about taking part. This includes many bell ringers in places of worship.  The project team has embraced all the concerns and appreciates that change bell ringers have to ring in a certain way as do many other types of bell.Here’s some information from the FAQ’s on the project website (www.allthebells.com). It’s intended as a celebration.



  • Bella Bellini says:

    Who is Martin Creed? and how dumb is this project? It obviously wasn’t inspired by anyone who knows anything at all about bell ringing!
    While it’s an advance for church bell ringing to be acknowledged, ringing for 3 minutes – and as fast as possible – would barely be long enough to get a peal of 6 bells upright . Anyone who’s attempted to master this art – however briefly – will realise there’s much more to it than meets the ear or eye. CCBR very wisely want nothing to do with it; EACR are very polite in their response!

  • David F says:

    As a church bellringer of over 50 years I found the whole idea ill-conceived and ludicrous.

  • Jeremy Pound says:

    Fascinated to see that some bell ringers will be on the school run on 27 July. Driving to empty schools, presumably…

  • Bella Bellini says:

    It’s not even his original idea…just a rehash of one that didn’t work then, either.. See: http://bit.ly/vOlhpj