A light hearted look at the Central Council Weekend in Maidstone

logoDay 1

It was with some trepidation that I set off to Headcorn Village Hall for the welcome meeting for new Council members, wondering what I had let myself in for as the SCACR Central Council representative elected by the Southern Division. Relying solely on an aged SatNav which took me down all sorts of narrow, winding lanes in the Kent countryside, I arrived with five minutes to spare for the 12.30pm start.

The small hall was packed with people (45 new members and at least as many existing members) but I just managed to spot my fellow newcomer, Stephen Beckingham and slipped into a seat in a corner. Expecting each Committee to give a short presentation of their work, we were very disappointed! It was up to us to work our way around the tables and find out for ourselves. An impossible task in the crowded hall! Equally impossible was getting to the buffet lunch!

I did however, manage to squeeze my way to the Education Committee and the Ringing Trends Committee, both of which held interest for me. No-one seemed very keen to describe their work or to want new members on their committees so I retreated outside and sat on a wall in the sunshine for three quarters of an hour chatting to various ringers from all parts of the country and admiring the Orient Express which was in the station next door.

At 2.30pm I attended the Ringing Foundation AGM, which thankfully was in a much more spacious hall. There were some who were expecting an exciting meeting following the recent resignation of Tim Davis as a director and his even more sudden resignation as Company Secretary. There were questions to be asked but the RF Board clearly did not wish to discuss the reasons for Tim’s sudden departure. People were also expecting some answers to the questions raised by Steve Coleman’s article in The Ringing World of 16th May but a cleverly written response was on our seats before the meeting began (The Ringing World, 30th May). The Ringing Foundation is clearly facing serious issues, both with finance and purpose. They are also looking for a Director if you fancy that job!

Day 2

An early start and once again along another set of country lanes (I must get a SatNav that likes main roads) arriving at the Marriott Tudor Park Hotel. First problem: where to park? Every space was filled and I thought I was early! Eventually I was directed to park in the groundsman’s area and a long walk back to the hotel in the rain. Oh well, time for a cup of tea … no such luck, nothing provided. Signed in and seated well before the start of the meeting, Stephen and I were lucky to get a seat together as there were several with handwritten ‘reserved’ signs. Who would be on the chair next to us? We wondered whether royalty were coming? The great and good of the ringing fraternity were certainly present and we were delighted to find a previous CC President slip into her seat just as the meeting started. It was great to have the company and expert opinions of Jane Wilkinson!

The meeting started promptly and Kate Flavell steered us through the first few items on the agenda in an efficient and speedy manner – so much so we thought we might be off home by lunchtime. However then we got to the fun bits of the meeting:

  • Alan Frost was made a life member having served on the Administrative Committee for 48 years,
  • Frank Blagrove was congratulated on reaching 55 years’ membership of the Council,
  • 6 additional members were elected, including Alan Baldock, most of whom have served in a previous capacity,
  • The last sentence in Rule 14 was changed,
  • The wording of Rule 16iii was changed,
  • The post of Public relations Officer was created but has yet to be filled … fancy that one?

Then we got to Motion D – something to do with definitions and requirements of non-method blocks – suddenly things livened up!

  • Brian Meads assured us we must be tiring of his voice
  • The tellers couldn’t organise counting the votes
  • Discussion about Top Little Hybrid, Meson Differential Little Hybrid, particle peals, decoupling methods, innovation in peal ringing was all very enthralling
  • A vote – I’m sorry I haven’t a clue
  • Advice from Stephen duly taken, hands up, hands down, hands, up again …

91 in favour with 68 against but don’t ask me what! Ask Stephen.

Change Ringing for the Future came next. Five seminars hosted by the Central Council found:

  • that towers want more local support
  • crossing boundaries is to be encouraged
  • promoting ringing in local areas is the way forward
  • there is a gap in finding inspired, energised leaders
  • the Council is not stuffy and outdated I was sure I had heard that all before somewhere … now where was it?

By now it was clear that we would not be going home at lunchtime as there was The Ringing World Ltd AGM and 20 committee reports and elections to get through. I had ordered the buffet lunch and following a speedy exit from the conference hall managed to be near the front of the lunch queue. Good job too, as the hotel had seriously under estimated the amount of food that bellringers can eat. Sorry Jane, the pizza was excellent!

For the next part of the meeting you needed to be an origami expert as the voting papers were all colour coded and in strips of four that needed careful deconstruction to enable you to cast the right vote for the right person at the right time. Luckily 121 people managed to do this to enable Stephen Beckingham to be elected to the Compositions Committee – a good choice I understand as there are no meetings, only email correspondence. David Kirckaldy was elected to the Administrative Committee as well as the Towers and Belfries Committee – good luck David only 47 more years to go to beat the record.

By now the seat was harder, the air stuffier and interest was waning. Six and a half hours is a long time for a meeting. As I walked in the door at 7pm I was greeted by the words “I guess you need a large glass of wine?” – music to my ears!

SCACR Education Officer / CC Rep

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers