Final Contest

York Minster

Saturday 25 June 1999

Test Piece: 247 Erin Cinques

Judges: David C Brown (Chief), George H Campling, Peter J Townsend


First for York

York Minster: it was the fairy-tale finish to an idyllic day at Saturday's 12-bell final, which added a new name to the 12-bell league table for the first time in many years. The band ringing for York Minster topped their upwardly mobile trend in this year's contest, taking a well-deserved first place from some tough competition.

The home team narrowly pipped the well- established Cumberland "dream team" to the Taylor Trophy. As judge George Campling dramatically drew out the final results, there was a brief stunned pause after the announcement for second place before York erupted into cheers, hugs and stunned tears.

The top two teams produced widely contrasting performances: while York rang at their usual measured pace (not, however, the slowest ringing of the day by far), the Cumberlands, who rang last, spun the bells round at a dizzy peal speed of 3h47. This caused the judges to replay the two teams performances in order to confirm their decision, in what was possibly a contest first.

"Potter's Players" were not the only team to leave the Cathedral city with huge grins. Guildford Cathedral celebrated their highest placing ever in the contest with third place, putting two Sunday Service bands into the top three positions. The team drew a rare accolade from the judges, who commented that Guildford's final course was possibly the best ringing of the day. Also jubilant was the fledgling team from St Martin-in-the-Fields, who pulled seventh place from a disappointed St Paul's Cathedral Guild.

An unprecedented eighths-place finish for the St Paul's Cathedral Guild must have left them wondering what happened. The form books would certainly have placed this team as a favourite for the trophy this year. Equally disappointed, however, were the sixth-placed Birmingham team (St Martin's Guild) who have dominated this contest for so long.

No one envied the judges' job, with even the beer-tent pundits hesitating to make a call on the result. Chief Judge David Brown along with Peter Townsend and George Campling commented that the weight of York's bells proved a challenging factor for all the teams, resulting in generally good, but not excellent, performances. Indeed the comments on individual teams were considered by some to be severe; and so they should be - this is meant to be a top-tier competition.

The test piece of Erin Cinques, rumoured to be written by "some whiz kid", offered plenty of exposure. With roll-ups occurring at the beginning of sixes, and plenty of front and back-bell interchanges, it was hard to hide striking errors. The judges paid a compliment to each of the conductors for successfully steering through the touch, in what were extremely stressful conditions.

Experience on the bells certainly helped: each of the top three teams featured back-enders who have spent a significant number of hours ringing at York. But a lot of practice clearly paid off. As wells as travelling to York for a practice, Guildford also went to St Paul's to gain experience on a heavy ring. High Wycombe, who turned in a "positive" performance at fifth place, travelled to Worcester Cathedral. "That's really taking things seriously", said one visitor. Quite right too.

All the conditions for a Grand Day Out were to be had. The ringers in the competition were nearly outnumbered by visitors and supporters, all of whom took advantage of the sunny weather and plentiful catering. The food and drink were located within listening distance of the bells - in fact, they were next door. In a further demonstration of successful teamwork, all of the catering was supplied by the Minster ringers themselves, with Eleanor Carr, Angela Nix and numerous volunteers organising hundreds of lunches, scones, cakes and lashings of tea. With this level of hospitality, along with the swish computerised display system (results at the press of a button), and high-quality programme with helpful form book, future hosts of this contest have a high standard to follow.

Judges comments:

[RW Pg 621 July 2 1999]