Recently there was circulated to each member of the Standing Committee the following report prepared by the Festival Sub-Committee. This report has not yet been approved by the Standing Committee, but in view of the widespread interest in the Festival, we publish the comprehensive survey of the subject and congratulate the sub-committee on a fine piece of work:-

  1. The Festival of Britain Sub-Committee was formed at the 1950 Council meeting held at Eastbourne, and instructed to study the part which the Ringing Exercise should play in the Festival of Britain, 1951, and report with recommendations to the Standing Committee who were empowered to approve and to act on the recommendations placed before them. The Festival Sub-Committee was composed of Dr. E. S. J. Hatcher and Mr. G. H. Spice.

  2. Their Majesties the King and Queen will open the Festival on May 4th, 1951, when they visit the South Bank Exhibition, which will then continue until September 30th, during which period the whole of Britain will be on show. So from an idea born in 1947 to celebrate the centenary year of the Great Exhibition of 1851 has grown and taken form the fine conception of demonstrating to ourselves and to the world something of the traditions and character of British culture and civilisation. The Christian Churches have given their full support from the outset, and in sharing in this expression of national faith we, as ringers, must ensure that our own form of Christian praise and worship, the sounding of bells according to our unique English art of change-ringing, shall witness to the achievement of this Ringing Isle in a Festival destined to lasting memory in the annals of its history.


  3. After a preliminary study, the aims of the Sub-Committee were expressed in a letter of invitation to ringers to contribute ideas ("Ringing World," August 10th, 1950), from which we quote:-

  4. "The work of our committee falls into two broad divisions, corresponding to the official Festival organisation on the one hand, and to the country wide local celebrations on the other.

  5. "Regarding the first, liaison has been established with the Festival authorities, and two facts of some importance have been ascertained through this channel. They are, that there is absolutely no possibility of erecting a synthetic tower on the South Bank Exhibition site, but that the Church of St. John, Waterloo Road, adjoining the site, is being rebuilt as the Festival Church and that, just as the Royal School of Church Music is arranging for visiting choirs to sing at services in the Festival Church, so should we arrange for visiting hands to ring the bells.

  6. "It is the second division of our work, however, which is likely to offer most to the individual guild or tower, not only by the suggestions we offer, but also in our capacity as a clearing house for ideas."

  7. Corresponding to these broad divisions, our work will now be described, leading on to a short discussion on the implementation of our suggestions, and to a final summary of the recommendations made.


    (a) The South Bank Exhibition and the Festival Church

  8. Link with the Festival authorities was made through the Liaison Officer for Voluntary Associations, and later through the Secretary of the Festival Advisory Committee of Christian Churches. In this way we found our general bearings, and were able to examine the possibility of erecting bells for ringing actually at the South Bank Exhibition, an idea developed in some detail by Mr. A. York-Bramble ("Ringing World," May 19th, 1950), who suggested transparent walls to the temporary tower to enable the bells and the ringers to be seen in action. Such a project would have involved considerable technical skill and the collaboration of the bell-founding firms who wore invited to offer comment. Any possibility of their cooperation was, however, eliminated by a firm "no" from the Festival authorities, whose plans for the South Bank were rigidly fixed; and though the idea was not finally shelved even then, the announcement that St. John's was being rebuilt as the Festival Church meant that an alternative scheme was open to be developed.

  9. When St. John's was damaged the tower was not seriously affected, and the eight bells came to little harm. The tenor weighs 18 cwt. and the bells were refitted in new bearings by Messrs. Mears and Stainbank as recently as 1935, so that they should prove most suitable for their honoured role in the Festival. It was, therefore, great encouragement to find that the Rev. L. W. Harland, Secretary of the Advisory Committee for Christian Churches, agreed that our bellringing art should be suitably represented. To this end the correspondence on the matter has been passed to the Committee responsible for the Festival Church, with whom further negotiations will take place.

  10. There will be regular services at the Festival Church, and we feel that it should be possible during the Festival period for many ringers to visit St. John's, and by proper organisation, for every Guild and Association to send representative bands. A special bellringing festival in early summer has been suggested as especially appropriate. We are glad to know, too, that the local band at St. John's will be playing its part, and this will be a great help in developing the visiting scheme outlined. One of our principal recommendations is that every effort should be made to ensure that the bells of St. John's sound forth their message throughout the Festival.

  11. The question of peal attempts at the Festival Church has been raised. With effective shutter arrangements the sound of the bells over long periods might be controlled so that it is no more than a pleasant background to visitors to the Exhibition, but every care should be taken to avoid any reasonable criticism, and some limit on peal attempts should be fixed. On the other hand, quarter peals might be a wiser plan, as this would give a worthwhile ring under good conditions without being too persistent.

    (b) Exhibitions on Ringing in London

  12. The Sub-Committee was very glad to receive a letter from Mr. William Shepherd, of Addlestone, Surrey, who recalled the Festival of Empire in 1911, the Coronation Year of King George V., at the Crystal Palace. The Ringers' Day in London, organised by the new journal. "The Ringing World," may also be recalled. Messrs. Warner had a stand there, but only after the innovation of handbell ringing were the crowds drawn. As a result, handbell concerts were given on three evenings a week, which were highly popular. Mr. Shepherd would like a "ringers'" corner somewhere in the 1951 Festival, where demonstrations, models, handbell ringing, even talks, could entertain the crowds. Mr. York-Bramble likewise envisaged his tower to be the scene of similar activities, and Mr. C. Cullen, in a letter discussed the desirability of a suitable exhibition.

  13. It is doubtful if such projects could be arranged at South Bank, but there might be an exhibition at the Festival Church, and the Imperial Institute is another possibility. The Royal Festival Hall has also been suggested, and exploration of the position should be made if the idea is acceptable.

    (c) Visitors to London

  14. We like the suggestion put forward by Mr. T. J. Lock, of the Middlesex Association, of a hospitality scheme by London area ringers, in conjunction with a special effort to provide ringing at all London churches during the Festival. We recommend that Mr. Lock be invited to co-ordinate such a scheme, but think it should be on a proper financial footing, for visiting ringers will only be too thankful to have accommodation found, and would not wish their hosts to be out of pocket.

  15. Regarding overseas visitors, those who ring will be glad of all opportunities offered to take part in ringing events associated with the Festival. But any visitor from across the waters should have the opportunity of seeing English ringing at its best, and Mr. A. A. Hughes has suggested that with the Dean and Chapter's permission, invitations could be extended to St. Paul's Cathedral on Sundays. The Ancient Society would, we feel sure, willingly operate such a scheme.

    (d) A Commemorative Ring of Bells in London

  16. Lansbury, a newly-named district of the blitzed East End, is being redeveloped as a model "neighbourhood," some thirty acres of which will be completely rebuilt for the Festival, including shops, schools and two churches. Mr. T. J. Lock makes an unexpressed suggestion ("Ringing World," June 30th) that one of these churches might be equipped with bells. Unfortunately, one of the churches is Roman Catholic, the other Congregational, but the Sub-Committee would welcome the Standing Committee's views on the possibility of a Festival installation, which would remain a permanent ringing feature of the Festival of Britain.


    (a) The Individual and His Own Tower

  17. The aim of the Festival organisers is that everyone should play his or her part in the celebrations of 1951, and that every phase of British life, every art and craft, every creative instinct, should find its full expression. To this end, all ringers should be encouraged to take full responsibility for seeing that in their village or town the local Festival committee is not only aware that the bells are an essential feature of the English "make-up" but that every opportunity is taken of introducing ordinary folk, residents and visitors, to the belfry. As was urged by the Rev. A. G. G. Thurlow in a letter recently ("Ringing World," September 15th), individuals must use their own initiative now and not later on, for it is useless to wait for invitations and wonder why they are not forthcoming.

    (b) The Guild or Association

  18. Corporate ringing life finds expression in the work of our guilds and associations whose rapid development in the last half century have assured the future of our Exercise. It is the guild which should seek to further cooperation with the more central Festival enterprises in their own county or diocese. These include the Festivals of Art at such historic cities as Canterbury, Norwich and York, in addition to the special Festival programmes in the large towns and cities. The sponsoring of ringing exhibitions by diocesan and county authorities should be an important aim, and this offers scope for considerable enterprise and originality. The invitation of the general public to ringing meetings could form a special feature of next summer, and the holding of a special Festival ringing meeting would be a worthy departure from normal. In many cases the formation of a special committee to study local possibilities would encourage action.

    (c) The Central Council

  19. As the representative body of the Exercise, the Council must be responsible for undertaking a number of projects designed to further the widest possible participation in the Festival.


  20. As ringers, our own expression of festival will be the ringing of peals, and the Sub-Committee recommends that the Central Council appoint the opening day of the Festival, Friday, May 4th, and the day following, Saturday, May 5th, as special days for ringing commemorative peals.

    A Festival Method

  21. The Sub-Committee further recommends that a method should be selected and named after the Festival as its permanent expression in the ringer's art. It does so in the belief that the events of 1951 will be unique in our country's history, and worthy of commemoration. The great arts of painting, music, literature, drama and the ballet, are all following such a course, and it should be emphasised that what is being honoured is not the name of one person, or victory on the field of battle, but the expression of our nation's spirit and culture.

  22. While the Sub-Committee is not, at this stage, in a position to suggest a method for such distinction, it would like to acknowledge one suggestion from Mr. York-Bramble, and some valuable technical comments from Mr. Denis N. Layton, who points out the scope offered by both Treble Bob and plain unnamed Major methods. If this recommendation is accepted, the Exercise should be given a voice in the selection of the Festival method, with the final recommendation resting with the Festival Sub-Committee.


  23. In addition to making every effort to get ringing mentioned in as many Festival printed programmes as possible, the Sub-Committee strongly supports a suggestion emanating from several sources that a pamphlet should be carefully prepared and produced in large numbers for distribution to the public at every suitable opportunity. The cost of this should be shared by every guild undertaking to purchase copies. One estimate puts the probable cost at about 10s. per 100, and at this price many guilds could afford to purchase at least 2,000, though, in turn, individual towers could purchase from their own guilds. An edition of 50 to 100 thousand would not be beyond the bounds of practicability. Great care would have to be taken to see that an interesting account was given of our ringing art, so that from it a layman would enjoy and appreciate the bells of England, and be let into some of their secrets.

    A Ringing Film

  24. The Sub-Committee recommends that an attempt be made to encourage the production of a first-class feature film on bells and ringing for general exhibition at cinemas

    Other Activities of the Central Council

  25. It is recommended that every opportunity shall be taken by the Council to foster, officially, all projects to further the aims of ringing. In certain respects it is to be regretted that the tradition of holding the first meeting of a new Council in London is to be broken in 1951, but perhaps the visit to Chester, only a week after the opening of the Festival of Britain, will be made the occasion of a special tribute.

    The Festival of Britain Church
    St. John's, Waterloo Road


  26. In the preparation of this report, the Sub-Committee has not exercised its power to co-opt, though it has been only too glad to receive ideas and suggestions from ringers. In the implementation of its recommendations, however, there will be considerable opportunity for inviting the assistance of others, and it will be essential to do so if the work is not to prove too arduous. Thus the organisation of ringing at the Festival Church, the arranging of a ringing exhibition in London, the hospitality scheme for London, the preparation of a ringing pamphlet, and the study of the feature film project, are all excellent examples of where one or more persons can be made responsible.

  27. In submitting this report, the Sub-Committee, bearing in mind the relatively long period which has inevitably elapsed during its preparation, hopes that it will be possible to obtain the views and the approval of the Standing Committee quite quickly. It ventures to think that most of the recommendations will be accepted unreservedly, but would like comment again on four of them.

    (v.). The idea of a Festival installation of bells must clearly be investigated further before any decision can be contemplated.

    (viii.). The appointment of the two opening days of the Festival for commemorative peals would be one of the most effective means of signifying the historic nature of the events and would be appreciated by ringers and non-ringers.

    (ix.). The naming of a method after the Festival is a recommendation on which much thought has been given because of possible diversion of opinion. As a result, it is our strong wish that such a method be named, as in this way only can our change-ringing art itself be an expression of the Festival.

    (xi.). Like (v.) the idea of a feature film on ringing most be explored before the final outcome is known. This must, in the last resort, depend on practicability rather than desirability. In this sense, provisional approval could be given by the Standing Committee.


  28. The Festival of Britain Sub-Committee has much pleasure to making the following recommendations to the Standing Committee of the Central Council. The numbers in brackets after each refer to the numbered paragraphs in the body of the report.

    (i.). That every effort should be made to organise representative ringing at the Festival Church including full consideration of a possible Ringing Festival Day, and the question of peal attempts (9, 10, 11).

    (ii.). That at least one central exhibition of ringing should be organised in London, to include photographs, literature, models, talks and handbell ringing (12, 13)

    (iii.). That a hospitality scheme should be operated in London, in which it is hoped that all associations and societies in London and the Home Counties will join (14).

    (iv.). That overseas visitors should be given the opportunity of seeing ringing at its best, and welcome the suggestion of invitations to Sunday ringing at St. Paul's Cathedral (15).

    (v.). That the possibility be explored of a national bell installation scheme in London as a permanent ringing memorial of the Festival of Britain (16).

    (vi.). That through "The Ringing World" all ringers should be invited to take individual responsibility for ensuring that the bells play their full part in local Festival activities (17).

    (vii.). That a letter be sent to all guilds, associations and societies, inviting them to make every effort to sponsor schemes for participation of bells and ringers in the main Festival events of their own areas (18).

    (viii.). That the opening days of the Festival, Friday and Saturday, May 4th and 5th, 1951, be appointed as special days for the ringing of commemorative peals (20).

    (ix.). That a method should be selected and named after the Festival (21, 22).

    (x.). That a ringing pamphlet be prepared for distribution to the public on the widest scale, to be sponsored lay the Central Council and supported by all guilds and associations (23).

    (xi.). That an attempt should be made to encourage the production of a first-class feature film on ringing (24).

    (xii.). That every opportunity should be taken by the Central Council to foster, officially, all projects in Festival Year designed to further the cause of ringing (25).

Central Council Festival of Britain Sub-Committee.

The Ringing World, December 29, 1950, pages 825 to 827

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