Team Building Day – Having a right old Ding Dong in Exeter!

At the beginning of the year we discussed during a Team Planning Meeting that we should get together and take part in a Team Building day. Various activities were suggested and I commented (in an unexpected moment of quiet in the room) that I would love to take everyone for a go at my favourite pastime, church bell ringing. I was very surprised at the level of enthusiasm from the team! So I duly organised a day in March for us to all gather at Pinhoe church in Exeter. Unfortunately this coincided with the arrival of the Beast from the East and we had to postpone due to the snow. But we persevered and rescheduled for a date at the end of June, right at the start of the heatwave! It proved to be a glorious day in Exeter and there were some spectacular views from Pinhoe churchyard across the city.

Why did we go bell ringing? Bell ringing is a team activity that requires skill and communication between ringers. It is also one of those things that most non-ringers have wanted to have a go at! I had enlisted the help of some very experienced ringers to help with handling a bell and talking about how the church bells work. Ian Campbell, from Exeter Cathedral, had kindly brought a model bell with all the fittings which he put up in the church so everyone could see what happens when you pull the ropes. Church bells are the largest musical instruments in the world and it is the only instrument you play without being able to see it! Ian also brought some handbells so that people could try ringing sequences while they were waiting to ring the big bells. Due to the heat, Ian magically produced a lot of bottled water to keep everyone hydrated.

We were able to demonstrate ringing the big church bells in sequence as a team, then the Agency delegates split into two groups and some had a go at ringing the church bells while the others got to grips with the handbells. After a while Ian brought us all together to demonstrate some sequences being rung on the church bells, then the groups swapped over. Towards the end of the morning people started gravitating towards the activity they liked the best – there is a lot of bell-talent around the agency! Several musical members of the team started ringing tunes on the handbells, moving away from the sequences that Ian had been teaching and the theme tunes of Star Wars and Eastenders could be heard ringing through the church. Rob Franklin, the Tower Captain, opened the tower door and people climbed all the way to the top, both to see the eight church bells hanging in the belfry (which are larger than you think, the largest is half a ton!) and to look at the amazing view from the top of the church tower.

We thanked the bell ringers in the usual fashion (applause and a bottle of something tasty to take home) then everyone moved down to the Pinhoe Hoard for a team lunch.

Thank you to everyone at the Agency for joining me and for being so keen to have a go! Thank you especially to the ringers for supporting this crazy endeavour: Ian Campbell (Exeter Cathedral), Robert Franklin (Tower Captain, Pinhoe), Graham Sharland (Training Officer, Devon Association of Ringers), Gareth Gill (Guild of Devonshire Ringers) and Robin Canniford (a friend of ours who was visiting from Australia and is promoting bell ringing in Melbourne.)

If you would like to know more about bell ringing please have a look at www.bellringing.org which has load of information and links to local organisations.

Victoria Tucker