FANCY being shown the ropes?
A rare chance to try ringing Durham Cathedral’s 10 bells is being offered tomorrow as its team looks to pull in new members.
Visitors can step up to the challenge – and the 260 stairs up the historic church’s tower – to learn the basics of campanology and discover the history behind the instruments.
On the ground at the open day, families can also try their hand on a mini ring of eight bells, which will be set up outside as it makes a guest appearance.
It is hoped the event will see more people join in and keep the skill alive for generations to come, with existing members aged from 12 up to 84.
Christopher Crabtree, bell major with Durham Cathedral Guild of Bellringers, said: “People can come up and experience a bit of bell ringing and then we will also demonstrate some ringing after that and get close up to the bells.
“They are the most loud instrument, hung 160ft up, and you can hear them for a couple of miles around and even further on a clear day. “People from all sorts of backgrounds come along.
“Like any hobby, it’s somewhere a whole load of people come together. We go around other churches playing and other places, cathedrals and churches.
“Some people get it after a few goes, to some people pick it up automatically.
“You need hand-eye co-ordination and a sense of rhythm, and as well as being musical, it’s mathematical too.”
The group has around 15 members and also perform at churches across the city and is keen to dispel any myth that the work is carried out by machines, when it is all down to people pulling the ropes.
However, the ringers are able to practise their skills without disturbing any events in the cathedral or city centre by tying up the bells and hooking their kit up to a computer, which plays the sound they would be making if in full flow.
The heaviest bell weighs in at 1.4tonnes, is named after St Cuthbert and dates back to 1693, while the two newest were added in 1980.
“People associate bells with churches, but they were also used in the Olympic opening ceremony in London and during the Diamond Jubilee they had a barge floating down the Thames with bells ringing,” added Christopher, who is an engineering lecturer at Durham University.
“They ring for services, weddings, funerals and sometimes just for the sake of it.
“Here, they are as important as the church choir, and we want to encourage more people.
“All over the country we need more to take part, and people want to hear them as well.”
The open day will run from 11am to 4pm and the usual tower admission of £5 applies to those wishing to visit the chamber.
For more details, visit www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/whatson.