By Katie Town, Chief Judge for the 2018 Contest


The 12-bell final judges are Katie Town, Ben Carey and Jennie Earis. Our home towers illustrate the national reach of the competition, as we currently ring in Wakefield, Portsmouth and Bristol respectively. All three of us learnt to ring when we were young. When studying at university (at different places and times) each of us then found a new focus for ringing and opportunities to progress our 12-bell ringing. We have since continued to enjoy the good ringing, excellent socialising and strong friendships that our hobby brings us.

There were 19 teams from all across the country who entered the 2018 Contest. Three eliminators in March whittled down these entries to the ten best teams, who will now compete for the trophy at Cambridge on 23rd June. The judges each judged an eliminator, so we already know that the qualifying teams can achieve a very high standard of ringing.

During the final what we’ll be listening for, and what the teams will be trying to achieve, is cleanly executed ringing. This will be ringing which sounds even, without inconsistent gaps, the bells ringing on top of each other or clipping each other. To help inform our judgements about the ringing, we’ll have specialist technology providing us with data about each piece of ringing, thanks to some very clever and dedicated people running the software. This technology is referred to as the Strikeometer and can be thought of as HawkEye for bell-ringers. Like tennis umpires, we will use and consider the data it provides. But, unlike Wimbledon, in the 12-bell Contest the human judge is the ultimate decision maker – although in practice we (and previous judging teams) have found that on the vast majority of occasions there’s alignment between the data and the opinion of the judges.

Much like the blind audition stages in The Voice, the judges won’t see the bands or know anything about the competitors; we’ll just be marking them on the quality of their performance. We won’t be sitting on swivel chairs (more is the pity); instead we’ll be seated in a room away from all the competitors listening to a clear sound feed of the ringing. We’ll be judging on what we hear and will only know who the winning band was after we’ve announced our results. This means that at the results there’s a strong element of suspense for both the competing teams and the judges.

The bells at Great St Mary’s are absolutely excellent, which should make all the contest ringing a pleasure to listen to. We wish all the of the competing bands the best of luck and hope that everyone, whether ringing in the competition or not, thoroughly enjoys the day.