In March when the lockdown began two handbell groups – one from Oxford and one from Stanford in the Vale, Oxon joined forces.There had previously been some overlap between the groups and David Thomas took on the role of co-ordinating the two for practices, quarter peals, peals and also began co-hosting an online practice for other handbell ringers who didn’t have a band to ring with, many of whom were starting from scratch in lockdown.Our group comprises about 15 ringers – some forming a core group who attend most practices, others who come and go or join occasionally.
David runs two dedicated practices a week for our group and another for a group who have gathered from various locations on ringing room.Most of the ringers in this group are from the UK, but we do have someone from the USA as well. He also runs a practice for the members of the group who have moved on to Surprise royal since lockdown started and a monthly 12 bell practice.
The group has contacts with handbell ringers all over the UK and some in the USA. Locally we have supported some young ringers who are very keen to develop their handbell ringing, with one completing her first handbell quarter peal in the summer
David thinks very carefully about each individual in the band and what they need to focus on to progress.In my own case I was just starting to ring Kent Treble Bob Major before March 2020. Since then I have progressed to several peals including one of royal and one of 23 spliced plain minor, quarter peals of surprise minor and of Little Bob Maximus.Others have rung their first surprise major and royal, whilst others have had the opportunity to ring a first peal or first quarter peal. He has also made sure to include keen younger ringers, with a local 16 year old succeeding in her first quarter peal of Plain Bob Minor. He actively encourages others to practice their conducting skills or pursue particular ringing goals.
David has managed, at the age of 23 to pull together a very diverse group of people, and provide really inspiring leadership.He is very thoughtful – he makes sure that people are able to both consolidate and be pushed to new things at each practice. Before the March 2020 lockdown we were two groups who enjoyed handbells but prioritised tower bell ringing so although we were making progress, it was fairly slow. We have all achieved numerous firsts which we had not expected before lockdown began.I am particularly impressed by how he is able to pull together people of such a diverse age range and make such a cohesive group who work together to progress as a group and help each other out wherever possible.At such a young age having the maturity to gain respect from ringers of all ages and form a cohesive and supportive group from such a variety of people with differing handbell skill levels has been truly remarkable.
We plan to continue to develop our handbell skills under David’s guidance. Some people are working towards different pairs to simpler methods, others are expanding their surprise royal methods. David plans to continue to build on the bands achievements by continuing to lead practices, plan quarter peals and generally support the group.
David has been very good at also offering help to people outside our immediate group.I co-run a virtual practice with him and one other on Friday afternoons online.This was set up to allow ringers who had not got their own group to practice their skills. The group includes ringers from UK and USA; from those starting Plain Bob Minor through to others developing their Kent Treble Bob Major.In the Christmas holidays there was a room set up to assist some young handbell ringers who wanted extra practice. The plan is to continue to help a wide variety of handbell ringers at all levels.
To date, since March 2020 our group has achieved 227 quarter peals including more firsts than I can count, and 10 peals.Some are virtual and some in person when restrictions have allowed.Details can be found at https://bb.ringingworld.co.uk/event.php?id=13373