10,000 bellringers short of a full millennium peal

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The Independent Online
The Government's plan to have church bells across the country ring in the millennium, announced yesterday, has a yawning gap in it - bellringers.

More than 10,000 people with strong arms and a sense of rhythm must be recruited if belfries throughout the land are to peal out in unison on 1 January 2000, says the Central Council of Church Bellringers.

The 40,000 existing ringers would not be enough, said the CCCB's spokesman, John Anderson, especially as there were 1,200 churches where the bells were not currently rung. Furthermore, he said, thousands of instructors would also be needed.

"The celebrations present us bellringers with a problem," Mr Anderson said. "We will have to recruit for churches where there are not bellringers at the present moment. That gives us a target of about 10,000 new bellringers - and we will need the same number of trainers as well."

Training would be carried out more quickly on an individual basis, he explained. "We need almost as many trainers as trainees."

Counties such as Norfolk and Northamptonshire, Mr Anderson said, presented the greatest headache because they were dotted with small churches without bellringers. "The big cities and counties such as Surrey are well-served because they have regular church services," he said. "But in Norfolk and Northamptonshire there are a lot of small villages which have churches. It's difficult to get the bells rung here. We will have

to get teachers to these areas."

The plan to ring in 2000 is likely to cost pounds 6m, with an initial pounds 3m for the repair and restoration of bells at 100 churches being channelled though the CCCB. Some of the bells are in such bad condition they have been silent for more than a hundred years.

"Church bells ringing out across the country are part of our national heritage and this award is wonderful and timely news as we approach the celebration of the new millennium," said the Heritage Secretary, Virginia Bottomley, yesterday.

Mr Anderson urged people to take part. Bellringers, he said, did not have to be musical and could be aged from 11 to 90. "It does help if they are well co-ordinated," he added.

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