Meet the teams

Ten teams will be competing in Cambridge on Final day. They'll be introducing themselves to you one by one with short profiles. These will be on the Facebook event page first - join us there to stay up to date!

 

The Ancient Society of College Youths

The CYs have an international membership, though the band taking part in the competition all ring at our Tuesday night practices in London. Unlike many ringing groups which are centred on a home tower, the CYs practice at different towers each week: St Mary-le-Bow, St Michael's Cornhill, St Magnus the Martyr, St Giles Cripplegate, St Sepulchre, Southwark and St Paul's Cathedrals. The Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, also headquartered in London, ring at some of these towers, and we have a strong friendly rivalry. We're also up against the St Paul's Cathedral band, though sadly Southwark Cathedral didn't make it through the eliminators. The CYs won the competition three years ago, but we don't underestimate how hard it will be to beat Cambridge on their own bells.

 

Guildford

Having missed out on the final for several years – sometimes very narrowly – Guildford are now looking forward to their second final in three years. Although Guildford as a team might not make a regular appearance in finals, the team members themselves have a lot of experience at this level, with a combined total of 92 appearances in finals between them.
The team are proud of the fact that they are a Sunday service band, and try and use their contest experience to benefit the overall ringing quality for all ringers at Guildford. They also enjoy a really good team spirit and camaraderie – practising hard and working together as a team are probably the main factors in us getting to the final.
We all thoroughly enjoyed the excellent hosting we witnessed at Southwell, but we must admit we are quite relieved that Cambridge are not anticlockwise.

 

Exeter

A team representing Exeter Cathedral first entered the 12 bell competition in 1992 and (with one exception) has taken part every year since.
The bells at Exeter Cathedral are heavy which makes them unlike anywhere else. So when it comes to practising for the competition we have to travel to other towers such as Taunton and South Petherton on a regular basis which is quite a large extra time commitment for the 12 participants. At our practices we ring the stipulated method a few times discussing how to improve at the end of each one. In recent years we have made extensive use of the computer program “Hawkear” to analyse the accuracy of our ringing.
Our best ever result in a final was fourth place in 2015 but having now won an eliminator we have every confidence we can improve on this.
We take the competition and ringing seriously – we have to given the distances involved in traveling to practices – but also enjoy the camaraderie that has developed within the team.

 

Leeds

Leeds are delighted to have qualified for the National 12 Bell final again after a two-year hiatus. Although much less experienced than the majority of the teams competing, Leeds has always worked hard to help develop talented ringers keen to ring on 12, often during their time at university, several of whom now compete for other teams after graduating and relocation. We endeavour to build a strong team spirit whilst enjoying our ringing and relish challenging ourselves, including contributing to the 12-Bell Contest by hosting three eliminators and a final in the last 16 years. The team has an age range of more than 30 years, two of whom are especially pleased to be returning to their past home tower, as they were proud members of the winning Cambridge Youths team the last time the final was held at Great St Mary's in 1987.

 

The Society of Royal Cumberland Youths

Established in 1747, the SRCY has members from the UK and overseas and has its headquarters at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London. The band taking part in the competition all ring at its Wednesday night practices in London and have a vibrant mix of youth and experience, with an age range of some 45 years! Fresh from victory against some of their rivals in the London 12 Bell Competition, the team hope to use this as a springboard to a strong performance on the national stage. Having placed in the top half for the past six years, can they finally break a 21-year duck and chalk up a fourth victory in the competition? The team are certainly under no illusion as to how difficult this will be! Whatever the eventual outcome, the 'sausages' are sure to be well supported and look forward to an excellent day out in Cambridge.

 

Melbourne

Melbourne’s passage through to the final was looking unlikely in the 5 minutes before the start of their test piece at Southwell’s eliminator. Some extremely lacklustre ringing needed well-chosen motivational words from someone inspirational. Fortunately this came from the tenor ringer, and chairman of the 12-bell committee, who bellowed that we were rubbish and had to do better. This was just the fillip the band needed, and an amazing improvement in their test piece saw Melbourne through to its tenth consecutive final – a record only matched by one other band. Melbourne will be hoping for a better performance in the final than last year, where they were deservedly placed ninth on bells they weren’t physically able to master, and will enjoy ringing at a tower with bells that are less challenging and less anticlockwise.

 

Bristol

Bristol has a long and proud tradition in the 12 Bell Contest. The original contest was held at St Mary Redcliffe in 1975 and was organised by ringers from the city. We have entered every year since. The Bristol band has a good balance of youth and experience and has been pleased to have come in the top three places four times out the last five years.

This year we have been able to make use of a large squad of ringers, and hopefully this has had a positive impact on 12 bell ringing across the city. We had a clear game plan at Southwell, which allowed us to get the best out of a challenging ring of bells. We are looking forward to ringing at Cambridge and hope that we can reproduce the form we have shown over the last few years on a ring of bells which match our ringing well.

 

St Paul's Cathedral Guild

The St Paul’s Cathedral Guild is the band of bell ringers at St Paul’s Cathedral, London. We ring for Sunday Services and on other special occasions (for example in 2016 the Thanksgiving Service for HM The Queen’s 90th Birthday).

St Paul’s Cathedral is of course a huge tourist attraction, but it also has a very important ministry, both in the Diocesan of London and in the wider community. As you would expect in such an important place of worship, we aim for an extremely high standard, and we regularly produce excellent “touches” (a touch being a piece of ringing lasting anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes). We have about 40 regular ringers, ranging in age from early 20s to mid 80s. If you are a bell ringer yourself you might think that is a lot of people – and what a luxury it must be to be able to call on so many people. In fact we have a rota system and on any one occasion we only have about 15 people there. This is because many of us also ring regularly at other towers in London and in our own area, and some of us travel considerable distances to get to St Paul’s.

In terms of the 12-bell Contest, the Guild has entered a team every year since 1978. We have had mixed fortunes over the years, but have won four times – on both occasions when the Final has been at St Paul’s (1984 and 2009) and at Sheffield (1996) and Worcester (2006). I think we also have the rare distinction of having been placed everywhere from first to tenth over the years, and several times have failed to reach the Final. Our team at Cambridge is the same as the one which was placed third last year at Southwark (and also third in last year’s London 12-bell Competition) and we hope this stability will help us gain a good place.

The bells at St Paul’s were cast in 1878 – nearly 200 years after the building of St Christopher Wren’s masterpiece began. This year we are in the middle of a major restoration project. The bells will be taken to Loughborough to be cleaned and fitted with new metal headstocks. Meanwhile some remedial strengthening work will be carried out on the bell-frame and the ringing room redecorated, including conserving existing peal records and writing new ones. We are hoping the restored bells will be ringing again on All Saints’ Day, the 140th anniversary of their dedication.

 

Cambridge

As the host team, the Cambridge band, including many volunteers and helpers, are really looking forward to showing off our fine bells and hospitality on June 23rd. It has been 31 years since the contest was last held at GSM, and in that time, the ring of twelve has been completely replaced. That first contest in Cambridge was won by the local band, and this was the start of a purple patch which saw them win four times in a nine year period. Five members of that band are part of the team this year, and how glorious it would be for history to repeat itself. The competition this time is certainly tougher, and on this easy going ring, there will be some extremely strong performances. It should be a great day for anyone wanting to come along and hear some top quality 12-bell ringing; possibly less great for the judges who will need to separate the teams. 

With the contest being on home bells, the approach to practising has been different from other years. Not having to qualify was a relief in one sense but it did mean that there was not the same focus as usual during February and March. The touch for the final this year is different from the eliminators, so this is what has been practised since the back end of last year. Some peal attempts have provided extended practice sessions. These are undoubtedly useful in providing flying hours, and it's interesting to note that the bands that do well in the contest generally ring more peals between them than the bands lower down. Use of Hawkear and the strikeometer has also featured heavily in the build-up. An iterative process of review and adjustment has resulted in an overall improvement. Will this be enough to claim the ultimate prize?! 

 

Birmingham

The Birmingham team has the strongest track record in the Contest. Its team members have collectively racked up 231 final appearances and 123 wins. The band averages a victory just over every other year since the Contest started in 1975.  We are a stable team; members ring regularly in the city centre at St Philip’s Cathedral, St Martin’s-in-the-Bullring, overlooking the iconic Selfridges building, the recently installed ring at St Paul’s, Jewellery Quarter, as well as the Roman Catholic Cathedral, St Chad’s. We are proud of Birmingham’s strong tradition of bringing new members into the team and nurturing and developing talent. Birmingham, as a centre, has a tradition built over centuries of innovation in bellringing and focusing on and striving for excellence. Our performance in the Contest is just one manifestation of this ethos.

For all these reasons, we are normally regarded as “the team to beat” but the Cambridge band contains a lot of talented and experienced ringers, including a former Birmingham team leader who knows exactly what it takes to win, and Cambridge will be hoping to make the most of their home advantage. Home advantage (due to familiarity) is very significant in all bellringing competitions because bells vary tremendously, as instruments, in terms of their weight, how challenging they are to ring physically and how easy it is (or isn’t) to hear and adjust performance, based on the acoustics which are unique to the specific venue. We have proved over the years that we can master these challenges, but all team members know that history counts for nothing if the team does not deliver 13 minutes of top class ringing when it needs to.

The big question is will Cambridge be able to re-start their previous “purple patch” of victories in the 80s and 90s? Coincidentally, a peal attempt in Birmingham containing a method called “Purple Patch” was lost earlier this week. We’re hoping there is no bad omen there!