When you think of Students, what is the first thing that comes into your
head? Few people think of study, some think of lasting friendships, most
people think of eccentricity, love, scroungers and alcohol. Joining a ringing
society provides the option for all of these things, under a cunning guise of
bell ringing. Who would suspect that the eager young graduate who has
been a member of a ringing society for three years has had more pints of
beer and more relationships than the ex-President of MedSoc?
As President of Leeds University Union SCR, I am going to focus on Leeds,
and how fabulous LUSCR is. From my brief encounters with other university
ringing societies, most of LUSCR's exploits are typical of ringers across the
Where ever you ring, ringing is an excellent hobby to put down on job
application forms. It is the ultimate activity to combine teamwork and
communication skills, and is such an obscure hobby, you couldn't possibly
have made it up!
At Leeds we have a very mixed band. Our newest ringer, Renee from
America, has been taught how to ring from scratch, and is just about ringing
rounds- we're really pleased with her progress. With declining attendance
over the holiday, Renee has already proved her worth as a reliable member
of the band. We do have bell handling practice if necessary, but we like to
integrate everyone into the general practice as watching the more
experienced ringers gives the less experienced something to aspire too. The
more experienced ringers often progress quicker, as suddenly they realise
that one of the 'beginners' is chasing at their heals!
We have tried many methods to encourage progress in ringing. Mentor
groups and personal challenges didn't work very well (full details on our
website)- we're now trying to encourage quarter peal ringing. The vast
majority of our ringers are inexperienced, so we are aiming to be ready to
ring a full University band peal by our 50th dinner- in 2008.
Like many cities, Leeds offers a huge ringing experience. Ringing at Burley
with the University is fun, and generally quite laid back. For more serious,
but still enjoyable ringing, Leeds Parish Church are very welcoming and
support everyone through their 12bell ringing journey. For the less
adventurous, the local bands at Armley and Hunslet are often glad of a
competent rounds ringer. So there's something for everyone.
Unlike Surrey University who have 15 handbells, Leeds doesn't have a full
set of handbells. We would be more than happy to practice handbells if we
have enough interested people. If we work hard enough, maybe we'd reach
the high standards of York, who have a performing hand bell society with
concerts at churches, residential homes etc.
As Presidents/Masters/Steeple-keepers/(Bell Repair Fund secretaries if
you're in Nottingham) are elected annually, being a member of a University
band gives you some very good opportunities to get involved in. I have only
been ringing for four years, and have run practices, mended stays, painted
a bell frame, swept a clock tower, fixed wheels, replaced bell ropes and
(unfortunately) dealt with noise complaints. I may not be an expert, but my
knowledge of ringing goes beyond the actual physical ringing. It's a lot easier
to agree to be Steeple-Keeper, knowing that it will only be for a year.
Non Ringing Reasons
Relationships are taken very seriously in all ringing societies. Whilst few
societies go to the lengths of Aberysthwyth in electing a Romance Officer
and Bristol in appointing a Cupid, the web of ringer-ringer relationships is
complicated in any society. (Cupid is a position that is appointed by the
outgoing Cupid, rather than being elected. Someone is eligible to be Cupid
if they aren't in a relationship and have a reputation for being a bit of a
singleton. The moment you enter into a relationship or romance (no matter
how fleeting it might be) you stop being Cupid and have to choose the next
one.) Whilst many people have found a life long partner at university, not all
relationships formed are romantic. When you are with a group of ringers,
you belong, whether you are short or tall, talkative or quiet. I have never
met a group of people who are more accepting of deviations from the norm.
I think I can honestly say, I would not have stayed at University if I had not
joined LUSCR. LUSCR gave me a chance to be myself, share a home cooked
meal (something you miss when you're in halls) and a chance to be a part
of something different, and worthwhile.
Drinking is an optional activity of most (if not all) ringing societies. Whilst
none have gone to the lengths of LUSCR in having a pint of beer as an
integral part of their logo, most societies prefer their members to drink
beer...and copious amounts of it. This is a preferable quality and is by no
means compulsory. The Northern Unviersities Association weekend always
includes a boat race (beer downing), which is a chance to show off your
(potentially new found) skills.
The NUA is just one example of a cheap holiday. By sleeping on church hall
floors (lets face it, just as comfortable as a camp bed anyway) costs are
limited to alcohol and food! Most weekends go without a hitch, although
Sheffield managed to get the police called out to investigate them during
their Summer tour to Rugby.
Every society has their eccentricities. Aberyswyth's president is a three foot
high stuffed red Dragon called Idris, and their first lady is a similarly sized
green dragon called Cader. Cardiff have a beer drinking sheep mascot called
Rhys, combining their love of beer and eccentricities. Oxford have gone a
step further than most by developing their own language. If you're
frightened of spiders, London is the place to ring- their home tower has a
bicycle wheel to hang the bell ropes on, instead of a spider!
If you were ever unsure what to put on your Christmas wish list, ringing
again has the answer! How about some ringing top trumps cards from
Southampton or a mug with the Cambridge logo on? Durham University
ringers can boast a page of ringers in a naked calender.
Most societies have an annual dinner dance which is a chance for University
Alumni and current students to meet. Exeter have daffodils on their menu,
most other Universities are slightly more carnivorous. Despite Leeds having
a ceilidh (crazy Scottish dancing), we haven't yet needed to do a risk
assessment for our dinner, unlike Birmingham.
I hope you've decided that ringing at University is well worth the experience.
Most ringing societies will be represented at their Fresher's Fayre. Why not
investigate your chosen University's ringing society on the web- be careful
if you look at Warwick's website though, their discussion board will suck you
(That's Leeds LUSCR, not Liverpool. Liverpool has members who pride
themselves on their journalistic talents. Leeds has a co-erced Charlotte)