Notes for Host Towers
The following notes are designed to help local organisers of towers who are hosting an eliminator or final of the National 12-bell Striking Contest. Anything in blue is a link to further details or a sample document from a previous contest. More samples are available from the secretary if needed. We’re not trying to teach you how to suck eggs! If you have hosted a contest before, you won’t need most of what follows but might find it helpful as a check list.
Working with the Contest Committee
The contest is run by a Committee of team representatives. Your main contact will be with the contest secretary though, on the day, a committee representative will be on hand to help ensure that the ringing contest itself goes smoothly. Of course it’s not always possible, but if you are able to be involved right from the start to the finish, that is incredibly helpful!
Eliminators usually take place on the 4th Saturday in March (though not in 2016 when, because of Easter, it will take place on the 3rd Saturday instead) and finals on the 4th Saturday in June. Here is a more detailed list of Timescales.
Though the committee representative is responsible for correct procedure during the contest, you will find it helpful to look at the Rules. Clause 6 is particularly important in that it deals with pre-contest practices and the need to limit additional ringing (please ask the Secretary if you are in any doubt about this); clauses 8, 9 and 10 are particularly critical on the day of the contest.
Many churches have found that running an eliminator or final really helps cement relations with their clergy and congregation. Splitting any profits from the catering, for instance, will be really appreciated and, if you tell the contestants that you’re doing this, many will be happy to make small donations too. Congregations are often an excellent source of experience in what does and doesn’t work in your church and involving them will help relations in the future. Profits can be worth it. (Shoreditch made just over £250 for an eliminator in 2010; Leeds made just over £2,000 for a final in 2011.)
Teams like to have the opportunity to have a 90-minute practice on the bells during the two months prior to the contest so your help in co-ordinating these in your church’s diary will be much appreciated. The details are set out in the Pre-Contest-Practices document.
Information for bands
For the Ringing World advert and 12 bell website, the Secretary needs to know:
– time and place of the draw
– recommended parking
– directions to the tower
– available catering on the day
– recommended pub(s)
– anything else that you think people will need to know in advance.
Host towers usually provide a Leaflet on the day, copies of which are left at the back of the church, giving information and space for people to record the judges’ marks and comments.
Schedule on the day
The usual schedule is 1100 draw with the first team ringing at 1130 though If a train arrives so that 11.15 or 11.30 would be more convenient or there is another event in Church, the draw can be moved slightly. The judges usually ask for 5 minutes’ ringing approximately 15 minutes before the draw takes place so that they can listen to the bells from inside the tower. (It would help if you could round up 12 random ringers on the day, preferably ones not taking part in the contest!, to help with this.) Each team has a 30 minute slot. Eliminators usually have 7 or 8 teams; Finals can have as many as 10. The results usually take place approximately 60-90 minutes after the last team finishes though we do not rush the judges into a decision so it could over run. There should be no ringing between the competition and results so that the judges can concentrate. See a sample schedule for the usual format.
The committee appoints a chief judge at its meeting in September, then the chairman and chief judge work together to allocate the rest of the judging teams. They may visit each host tower to confirm a judging position or may leave this to the technical team. These days, most judges elect to listen to a sound feed taken from a microphone hung above the bells rather than rely on what they can hear through an open window. See the Judges’ Requirements document for the details.
The sound feed referred to above provides 3 outputs: to a set of speakers (for the judges to listen as each team rings), to a recording device (for the judges to playback any piece if they need to re-mark at the end) and to the Strikeometer (for the judges to check their deliberations). The committee will provide the necessary equipment and technicians to provide the sound feed but if you have someone in your tower that can be our main point of contact regarding the hanging of the microphone immediately above the bells, that would be very helpful. If there is someone local who has experience of recording your bells, or who is interested to get involved in the process that’s even better! They may find the following documents helpful: Recording-Strikeometer Advice to Host Towers and Teams, Recording Bells for Striking Analysis.doc, Instructions for Installation and Operation of Microtrack II.
The contest secretary will deal will adverts in the Ringing World and will organise someone to write a report following the final. That apart, you may find the local press or even local TV will be interested to know what is going on. A sample press release may give you some ideas, though please do let the contest secretary (and your church authorities) know if there will be interviews or filming on the day. They can be disruptive! Providing them with a sound recording beforehand can sometimes help.
The committee has both Facebook and Twitter pages which you are welcome to use. They’ve become very popular and may help to attract/retain your younger recruits too. It’s a good place to post informal photographs of the day.
Draw and Results
Nearly all members of the bands plus a large number of camp followers will be very keen to hear both the draw and the results. A large enough room is therefore required equipped with a microphone and loudspeaker system for use by perennially soft-spoken judges. The nave of the church is often the most convenient as there may be 150+ at the eliminators and 700+ at the final. It would help if you could provide a flip-chart and marker pens to display the draw and results (please follow the Draw-Results Pro-Formas layouts) and a ‘hat’ for the draw. A committee representative will be appointed to take charge of the official proceedings though some towers like to ask their local vicar or other dignitary to say a few words of welcome too. You can see the usual schedule in the Draw-Results Crib Sheet.
Many ringers travel a long way so welcome a hot drink and snack when they arrive. Host towers have done a roaring trade in bacon sandwiches in the past! You may feel able to put this on yourself or suggest and warn a local coffee bar to make provision. As ringers are advised to arrive early the venue should be available at least an hour before the Draw. There is generally a good steady demand for such refreshments throughout the day until the last band has rung. Some towers have been able to organise beer tents and lunchtime catering rather than relying on local pubs though clearly not all towers can undertake this. As the contest goes through lunchtime, most people will want to eat. Some towers have the facilities to cook meals, but others provide lists of local pubs. You may want to serve tea and cakes after the end of the ringing but please do bear in mind that many people will stay in the pub.
You might find the information gleaned from previous contests helpful, in which case, have a look at Sample Catering Prices, Quantities, Rotas. Otherwise, here are a few miscellaneous tips from previous host towers on catering:
– Keep prices rounded up/down for speed.
– Don’t stint on cash floats as you’ll need them in the first few hours, in denominations that match the prices that you’re charging for tea/coffee etc.
– Someone with a handily convenient car to dash out to Tescos for more bacon-butty-making-materials is really helpful, just in case.
– A vegetarian alternative to bacon sandwiches is always welcome, but you won’t need many.
– If you’re going to provide a fish and chip van, hog roast company or similar it’s really worth checking around for recommendations that you trust. People are generally prepared to pay for quality. The Ripon final in 2013 used 2 carcasses of hog and sold the bap at £4.
Contestants in the 12-bell contest are notoriously thirsty. Even pubs that have been forewarned tend to run out of beer, so it is very important to make arrangements with one or several pubs to expect a large number of thirsty and hungry ringers throughout the day and into the evening. Landlords are often reluctant to get in too much extra beer because if we don’t drink it they’ll be left with the excess. They’re sometimes worried about upsetting their regulars with a large influx of strangers, but it’s a good earning opportunity nonetheless. Precise quantities are impossible to provide as consumption depends on location but 1500 pints is not unheard of. Good attributes in choosing the headquarters pub include: plenty of room, well-priced real ale and food, child-friendly policy, close enough to hear the ringing. It is rare to find one perfect location, but often possible to nominate two or more that will keep everyone happy.
If you’re brave enough to supply your own beer tent, you’ll almost certainly need a Temporary Event Notice. The Secretary can advise on this or contact your local council who will explain what is needed. A new innovation at Leeds in 2011 was the rigging up of an outside drinking water tap. It was extremely well used, but if you try to supply cups, you’ll spend a fortune. Just let everyone find their own receptacles. On a hot day you’ll find this is appreciated almost more than anything else. Leeds sold 1800 pints of beer (but it was very hot) and introduced a Wine & Champagne bar in 2011 which went down well – but only after lunch! They sold 38 bottles of champagne if you can believe it! If you’re providing a beer tent, don’t forget the beer will need to settle, so you may need to engage the services of a couple of overnight guards to make sure no one snaffles the barrels. If you’re nervous about quantities, providing polypins or barrels on sale or return for the end of the day will help. Another way to get rid of excess beer is to buy in some 2-pint cartons and persuade teams to buy them for the journey home! Cider is also popular, particularly if it is locally produced.
Something which makes you stand out from other contests may well be something particular to your area: Devon cream teas, local beer or cider, local pork pies. If there’s a particularly interesting feature in your church, information about it, or maybe even a guided tour of it, could go down well.
You will need quite a large pool of helpers on the day but the numbers will vary and depend on how many facilities you are able to offer. Generally the minimum is likely to be 12, though a complicated final could easily need 40+. At Ripon in 2013, the final was used to get the whole District together, with 100+ involved so that people only worked shifts of a few hours each. Specifically, we ask you to provide:
– Teams’ Stewards to meet each band and guide the way to the ringing room. S/he will need to wait just outside until the test piece has started and then return downstairs to ensure that no-one gets in while the test piece is being rung. They are not responsible for any timing but they must be given a copy of the Rules (see Rules section) – specifically clauses 8, 9 and 10. The minimum number would be two but is often more if it is a long walk.
– A Judges’ Steward (see Judges section)
– A Scribe (see Draw/Results section)
It is impossible to insure against all mechanical failure on the day, but anything that can be done to minimise the chance of a mechanical failure (especially with ropes) will be very much appreciated.
There’s no real time to adjust ropes, so having a variety of boxes available and allowing temporary knots in ropes will be really helpful. If you know that strong sun affects visibility from time to time, a blind would be useful too.
Because the timing of when teams start is critical, you will receive two radio-controlled clocks before the day. (The secretary will let you know how and when they will arrive.) One clock needs to be placed in the Ringing Room and the other in the judges’ room. If you already have your own clock in either space, could you cover it up to avoid any confusion? The conductor for each team needs to be able to see the clock in the Ringing Room face-on and as we don’t know which bell s/he will ring, it should be free-standing rather than hung on a wall if possible. A box or table in the middle of the circle is ideal.
A new battery will be sellotaped to the back of each clock. Insert them at least a day early as sometimes it takes a while to find the right satellite depending on the strength of the signal. The time should register correctly within 7 minutes but, if not, go outside, point it towards Cumbria and try again! Please give the clocks to the committee representative before they leave.
With so much food, drink and nerves floating around it won’t surprise you to know that a reasonable supply of toilets – and toilet rolls – is pretty crucial! If you’re fortunate enough to have plenty to choose from and can dedicate one toilet to the judges, that’s really helpful so that they don’t rub shoulders with contestants whilst the contest is under way.
For your own peace of mind, it is worth checking that the event will be covered under your church’s public liability insurance. The contest does not have its own separate insurance policy.
Health & Safety
Again, for your own peace of mind, you may want to get someone to do a risk assessment once your plans are clearer. This might include things like: making sure everyone knows what to do if there’s a fire; having lots of gaffer tape on hand to tape down trailing wires; making sure there are warning signs up if there are loose floorboards or wonky steps.
The remaining comments usually apply just to finals…
For finals only, it is usual for the host tower to arrange for a photographer to take band photographs immediately after the draw has taken place on the day. These are usually used in the report for the Ringing World. Someone with a reasonable quality digital camera will be fine for this and, to avoid them having to hang around all day, it’s a good idea to ask all teams to assemble at a given spot immediately after the draw has taken place. A good ‘whipper-in’ to get the process over as quickly as possible may help too.
For finals only, the host tower is asked to provide certificates for all teams. The easiest way to produce these is to design an electronic template and ask the Chief Judge to provide scanned signatures of those on the judging panel. After the final is over the Secretary can send you scans of the team lists to produce a PDF which can then be distributed to each team.
Streaming over the Internet
In recent years, some towers have been able to arrange to have the ringing streamed, live, over the internet. If you have someone in your band who, for instance, works in IT, you might like to consider this and see if you can provide
– a wireless connection to the internet
– a feed taken from the sound feed on the day, and the necessary connectors
– a feed taken from the pa system used to announce the draw and results
– some ‘continuity’ announcements so that people listening know who is ringing
– publicity – it would be good to have the necessary information by the end of April so that the details can be advertised by the contest secretary in the Ringing World.
In recent years it has become common to add a ‘form guide’ in to the Leaflet. This is at your discretion but if you do decide to do this, please contact each team leader for their script and, if in doubt, check it with the Secretary prior to publication. This is usually a lighthearted and fun element, but ‘nice to have’ rather than essential.
Check whether you need a licence with your church, but this is a good way to raise funds. Raffling a peal attempt at a rare tower will be popular!
Cash Flow & Financial Planning
Particularly for Finals, there is often quite an amount of up-front funding required. Hosts will sometimes be fortunate enough to be able to deal with this themselves or by using tower funds until the day, but careful budgeting really is essential.
Having a wet-weather backup plan is really important, as many ‘hangers-on’ may decide not to come at the last minute if the weather is bad and no shelter is provided.
You may strike it lucky with local businesses, but don’t be too optimistic with your budgeting in this respect. Aim to cover your costs from income on the day.
Particularly if you’re in the middle of town, you might find it helpful to talk to your local police force to warn them what’s being planned. Some town centres have drink-related problems to contend with so they should be able to give good advice to help things go smoothly.
The humungous rubbish collection points instituted at Crediton and copied at Leeds worked really well. You can see a picture of Emily Bloom modelling the Leeds one here.
St. John’s Ambulance
A crew were hired (at a cost of £150) at Leeds in 2011, though this was subsequently felt to be unnecessary. Having a basic first-aid kit available, however, and making sure your volunteers know where it is is a good idea.
Leeds ordered 400 engraved pint glasses in 2011. They cost £1.20 and 300 were sold @ £2.50. Keep the wording of the engraving flexible though so that the excess can be sold later at other ringing functions. It’s a good way of avoiding washing up too. (Oxford sold 350 in 2014 but felt they could have sold 50-100 more.) Providing small sticky labels for personal initials helps people keep a track of their property during the day.
If your tower is well-served by public transport you will probably find that most people do a day-trip. Even so, some like to make a weekend of it and will enjoy using the excuse to explore. If you have the time to research local accommodation, with rough guide prices, that would be great and the information can go up on the 12-bell website. If there’s a particularly nice local pub which could be named as THE place to head for on the Friday night, for instance, that will go down well too. But ringers are good at sniffing out beer…
Some towers have put on entertainment immediately following the contest. For towers where there is likely to be a high percentage of people staying over (i.e. where public transport is difficult) this is much appreciated, but it really is over and above what is expected. It’s a long and tiring day, don’t forget. As long as there’s the opportunity to carry on socialising with friends for those that want it up to approx 7pm that’s usually all that’s needed.