Birmingham is facing a shortage of experienced bell ringers. Reporter Paul Suart visits a church in the Jewellery Quarter to learn more about the art.
Having rung bells for more than 40 years, Richard Grimmett is the perfect person to show me the ropes.
We climb 65 steps up a narrow and winding staircase of St Paul’s Church in the Jewellery Quarter, before reaching the ringing chamber where he explains how a crush on a young female bell ringer led to his involvement in campanology as a youngster.
But after watching others and giving it a try himself, it was the actual bell ringing itself which became his new passion.
“As soon as I saw it happening I was hooked,” he said.
Mr Grimmett, who learned how to ring at a church in Handsworth, immediately dismisses the notion that bell ringing must require a musical background.
“Most churches in Birmingham have eight bells or more so it’s about mathematics and sequencing as well as rhythm and coordination.
“You need to be able to concentrate on ringing your own bell but also how it fits in with the others.”
The shortage of experienced bell ringers has led to the launch of an appeal to find 100 new recruits to fill vacancies in church towers across Birmingham.
Mr Grimmett, a member of the St Martin’s Guild of Church Bell Ringers, said there has been a shortage for many many years.
Having never regularly attended church himself, the 54-year-old from Sutton Coldfield is quick to rubbish the suggestion it’s a pastime reserved for elderly church goers.
Conversely, he reveals how some newcomers to his bell ringing classes are university students – many having chosen to study in Birmingham for its diverse array of churches – and how younger people pick up the basics with far greater ease.
With a brief piece of tuition out of the way, he lets me loose on one of the 10 bells at St Paul’s ranging in weight from a tenth to two-thirds of a tonne.
What becomes immediately apparent is just how difficult bell ringing is to a complete novice but also how enjoyable.
Mr Grimmett hosts classes for ringers from a purpose-built training room at the church every Thursday.
Some students go on to join the Guild entitling them to ring at most churches in Birmingham but also earn spare cash by ringing at religious and civic functions in the city.
Mine was, admittedly, only a brief foray into bell ringing, but one I would certainly recommend.
* For more details email Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org.