This is the text of the report made to the Ringing World on 3 July 2009 of our first official meeting in Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
FOUNDATION OF THE CENTRAL EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF CHANGE RINGERS
The inaugural meeting of the Central Association of Change Ringers took place in Dordrecht in the Netherlands from 22-24 March, 2009.
There has been active change ringing on the continent of Europe for many years. About 35 years ago, I worked for a while in Amsterdam, where we had an active handbell band, consisting of three Dutch people and one foreigner (me). We also had occasional contact with the bellringers at Dordrecht in the south of the country. In the Groote Kerk in Dordrecht (the Great Church), they had a carillon, consisting of 49 bells. Jaap van der Ende, the carilloneur, initiated the idea of clocking changes on eight of these bells. This continued regularly for decades, with a band consisting of up to 15 people and methods up to Plain Bob Maximus
One of the ringers there was Paul de Kok, who started as a teenager and who has regularly visited the UK for ringing. Paul thought that it would be an exciting idea to install a proper ring of church bells at Dordrecht and selected the appropriately named Old Bellhouse (‘t Klockhuys) as his future tower. This is a modest building near the main gate to the Groote Kerk and funnily enough belongs to the city rather than the church (something to do with Napoleon I believe). In 2006, Paul purchased a light ring of 8 (tenor 2 cwt) and spent the following two years working hard to install them. The bells were finally ready in June 2008. A peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung on September 28, 2008, and Paul has begun to train a local band of change ringers. He also receives support from the society of change ringers in Geldrop, where they also clock the bells. Further details of these events were published in the Ringing World of October 31 2008.
Fast switch to the South of Germany! I was sitting harmlessly in my office near Ulm one evening in 2004, when I got a phone call from Andreas Klier (who was then a total stranger to me). Andreas knew of me from contacts in the northeast of England, where he had attended Durham University and learnt to ring. He now wanted someone (i.e. me) to give a lecture on change ringing at the Lutheran Church in Konstanz, where he attended the university. I suggested that we rope in Tony Parry, who had just moved to northern Switzerland. In due course we held the lecture with some success. Tony thought it would be a pity to leave it at that and persuaded Andreas and me to meet every few weeks in Konstanz for handbell ringing. We also involved Andreas’s flatmate Matthias Scharinger and a Swiss couple, Lorenz and Steffi Halbeisen from Winterthur, who had learnt to ring in Belfast.
After a couple of years, Andreas and Matthias left Konstanz and we acquired some new (and very far flung) members, including Brian Diserens (near Darmstadt), Eric Trumpler (Ludwigshafen), Alban Forster (near Kassel), Peter and Jo Brown (Wallis) and Graham Scott (near Geneva). We tend to meet about every 6 weeks for handbell ringing, particularly at Brian’s, where Tony’s miniring has been installed. Our repertoire extends to Cambridge and Yorkshire Major, Kent Royal and Stedman Triples in hand and a variety of Surprise Minor methods on the miniring.
We have been in occasional contact with Paul and somehow or other came on the idea that it might be fun to organise a Central European Association for Change ringing, involving our group and Paul’s (and of course anyone else who was interested). We were rather influenced by Eric Trumpler’s experiences as a founder member of the North American Association (if they could do it, why not us sort of feeling).
The Inaugural Meeting
This was held in Dordrecht from 22-24 May 2009. Apart from our contingent from Germany and Switzerland, there were about 15 people from the Netherlands or Belgium. These were in three groups – Paul de Kok, his family and people he is teaching; British expatriates (David Ockwell, Clive Smith and Ian Wells; and other interested Dutch people. These included carilloneurs and members of the Geldrop change ringing society. As well as general ringing, with special methods Bristol and Rutland, we rang a quarter of Bob Triples. We were also allowed to inspect the carillon and to ring the big swinging bells with the 10 ton tenor.
On Friday evening we had a buffet dinner in the Klockhuys provided by Dordrecht City Council, followed by a short meeting. There were discussions about conditions for membership and for ringing peals. The following officers were elected: Paul de Kok, President, at firstname.lastname@example.org; Brian Diserens, Master, at Brian.Diserens@eumetsat.int; Rodney Yeates, Secretary, email@example.com; Peter Brown, Treasurer. Ian Wells agreed to be responsible for the planned website. The domain name is to be (appropriately) change-ringers.eu.
It seems likely that Paul’s band in Dordrecht will flourish – both because of the level of local enthusiasm and the close connections with the UK. It is totally possible that another ring will be installed in the Netherlands within the next few years. The situation in Germany and Switzerland is more difficult, both because of the limited number of people and the distances involved. What we need is to identify more expatriate ringers, particularly in South or Central Germany. We would also be delighted to welcome any short term visitors or holidaymakers. If you live in the area or know anyone who might be interested, please drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. This should help us to establish proper local handbell groups – as has already been achieved in Winterthur in Switzerland. A large sum of money for a proper tower bell ring would also be received with thanks. Perhaps there is a discarded ring somewhere in the UK which we could take over!