National 12-Bell Striking Contest for the Taylor Trophy: preparations for 2017 and beyond

The text and images of this article were printed in the Ringing World
on Friday 24th February 2017 — issue no. 5522, p. 172–173.
The content is reproduced here with permission from their editorial team.

Preparations are well underway for the 2017 National 12-Bell Contest. We thought it would be good to give people an update about what we are planning for the 2017 contest and what our ideas are for the future. So whether you’re a seasoned competitor or enthusiastic first-time spectator, read on!

The Taylor Trophy, awarded to the winning team. [Photo: Michael Wilby]

We are following the usual contest format adopted in recent years: three eliminators in March and the final in June. We are indebted to Birmingham Cathedral, St Margaret’s Leicester and Sheffield Cathedral for hosting our eliminators, not to mention Southwark for hosting the final in the same year as their major rehanging project — no mean feat.

The top three teams from each eliminator will qualify for a place in the final at Southwark Cathedral (48–3–1) on Saturday 24th June. Along with the host team, this gives us a total of ten teams in the final. Whether you attend and eliminator or the final (or both) you’re sure to hear some excellent ringing on twelve bells and have a good time, so don’t be shy — just come along and enjoy a great day out!

Southwark Cathedral, the venue of the 2017 Contest Final [Photo: Michael Wilby]

Our host towers are busy making their arrangements to welcome teams and spectators. Microphones are being installed in the belfries at venues to provide the best possible quality sound feed to the judges. At Southwark, this will also allow the live broadcast of the final over the web by Matthew Tosh for the fifth consecutive year. Pre-contest practices at eliminator towers have already begun. Preparation of the Strikeometer for each tower is underway, made possible by the generous work and indispensable skills of Ian McCallion and Dave Richards.

In the meantime, our chief judge, Tom Hinks, has been busy recruiting the rest of his team. Mindful of the contest’s need to sustain a healthy pool of judges, he has selected a carefully balanced blend of veterans and first-timers, all with proven twelve-bell experience. Hannah Taylor and Tom Hinks will judge the eliminator at Sheffield, Stephanie Pattenden and Katie Town at Leicester, and Ben Carey and David Dearnley at Birmingham. The chief judges from each eliminator — Tom, Katie and David — will join forces to judge the final at Southwark on Saturday 24th June.

The 2017 judging team; L-R: Hannah Taylor, David Dearnley, Stephanie Pattenden, Tom Hinks, Ben Carey, Katie Town.

The complete team of judges met recently in Birmingham to review feedback from previous contests and discuss and agree their approach for judging this year. Following a thorough discussion of marking techniques and the Strikeometer technology available, contest conditions were simulated in the marking of several test pieces from recent contests. This included a careful consideration of one of the most critical aspects: separating third and fourth place in the eliminators (this being the difference between a team qualifying for the final and not.)

Judging is no easy task, and the commitment that Tom and his team have shown in preparing themselves for the contest is highly valued by the committee and a credit to the Exercise. Tom and his co-judges are keen to engage competitors and spectators as much as possible with their approach, though we will leave it to them to arrange communication on that in due course — keep an eye out in the Ringing World and on the contest website for further developments. Meanwhile, our thanks go to the ringers and staff at St Philip’s Cathedral, particularly Gill Postill and Steve Horton, for allowing us the use of their facilities and coordinating the necessary arrangements.

The judges scrutinise the Strikeometer data alongside their own marking at their meeting at St Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham

On the same day as the judges met in Birmingham, our chairman, Tim Peverett, attended the inaugural North-West striking contest at Chester Cathedral. Congratulations to Paul Hunter and his team on organising a super event (see RW p.121 for a full report of the day). As well are being a great day out, this was a valuable opportunity for us to gather feedback from bands not yet represented on the committee of the national contest, and those who have yet to enter for the first time, on how they would like to see our contest develop in the future.

Looking to the future

Times for the National 12-Bell Contest are challenging and fascinating in equal measure. We continue to receive considerable feedback on various aspects of the contest, and one thing is clear — ringers at all levels prize the contest highly and believe passionately in maintaining its relevance and quality. We firmly believe this level of interest in the contest reflects a healthy situation and it is a privilege to be involved with the organisation of an event that so many people enjoy and care about.

As an example, our decision to set Cambridge Maximus as the test piece for the Southwark final has not been popular in all quarters, departing from the usual pattern of ringing Cinques on heavier bells. We thought that setting the challenge of ringing Maximus on heavy twelve would make for a more interesting final, though we understand the reservations that have been expressed about this decision, particularly since our aim is to encourage as many bands as possible to enter and progress. We recognise the need to understand and respond to the views raised here so we can deliver a contest that all current and potential teams will value entering for years to come.

Going forward, we are looking at instigating a new national twelve-bell contest to run alongside our current event, geared towards providing a stepping stone for newer teams to get comfortable with competing on twelve bells, for training new judges, and (whatever else?) to get another great day of ringing and socialising on our calendar. Watch this space!

Much of the feedback we receive centres on judging and the use of the Strikeometer, but also touches on public relations, communication and inclusivity. There are many, often contrasting, viewpoints. We are listening, though it does take time to discuss matters as a committee, digest the points made and work out how best to address them, mindful of the long-term direction of the contest.

See you there!

For now, we would simply like to invite anyone who enjoys twelve-bell ringing and good company to attend part of this year’s contest. More information about the eliminators and final will appear on our website (12bell.org.uk) and Facebook page soon. If you have any thoughts about the contest please do get in touch — we’d be delighted to hear from you.

The National 12-Bell Striking Contest Committee

Chairman: Tim Peverett (chairman@12bell.org.uk)

Secretary: Michael O’Hagan (secretary@12bell.org.uk)

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