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Sheffield Cathedral to host elite 12 Bells Contest

Sheffield Cathedral bell ringers

The national competition is coming to Sheffield in June and will see different bell ringing teams competing against each other.

An elite competition is being hosted at Sheffield Cathedral in June, bringing together the best bell ringing teams from across the UK.

Taking place on Saturday 24 June, the contest for the Taylor Trophy will see 10 teams taking part. Members of the public can attend on the forecourt, with food and deckchairs available.

Tower Secretary at Sheffield Cathedral, Simon Reading, was the Ringing Master there for 28 years and first moved to Sheffield in 1978. He says the 12 Bells Contest is the biggest event in the calendar for the team:

‘It’s the FA Cup of bell ringing and to ring accurately on 12 bells is very demanding. Most village churches have between six and eight bells, but there are around 100 towers in the country that have 12.

‘There’s an elite number of towers where they have very high standards of 12 bell ringing and they will be the teams featuring in Sheffield. It was due to be hosted here in 2020 and we had the final once before in 1996. Since then the contest has grown considerably and the standard of ringing has improved enormously.

‘For us it’s also a great opportunity to practise and improve our own standard of ringing, as well as experiencing the excitement of competing against the best bell ringing teams in the country.’

The contest for the Taylor Trophy has been ongoing since 1975 and has happened every year except for the two years because of Covid. The nine other teams taking part entered through an eliminator process which took place in March.

Simon says this will be a great advert for Sheffield, especially with the quality of the cathedral’s acoustics on display:

‘Even though many places have 12 bells a lot of them aren’t really suitable for a contest like this. You need to have bells which you can hear very clearly. We’re fortunate that we have very good acoustics and you can hear every bell in the ringing chamber. Not many places have hosted contests twice, plus we’ve also had four eliminator contests in the city. It’s a big challenge and we’re looking forward to it.

‘We often get very favourable comments from people visiting the cathedral when we ring, especially for special occasions. It has a big impact and in a way is almost unique to this country. There are a few other countries in the world where they practise change ringing, but they’re places having connections with the UK. There about 5,000 churches in the UK which have bells; not all of them are rung frequently, but most of them are rung at least once a month, with a lot rung every week. Particularly in villages, people value the sound of bells being rung.

‘Over a thousand people came along when the final was at Exeter Cathedral a few years ago; it’s pretty much the biggest event in the ringing calendar.’

The Very Reverend Abi Thompson, Dean of Sheffield said:

‘We are delighted to be hosting this year’s 12 Bell Competition and look forward to welcoming teams from across the country. We are proud of our bells here in Sheffield that provide a welcome to the city, an uplifting announcement of our worship, a joyful noise to accompany our celebrations and sometimes, the most solemn of muffled tolling for national periods of mourning.

‘People are drawn to the sound of bells ringing and our city soundscape is greatly enhanced by the work of our wonderful bellringing team. It’s a great opportunity for Sheffielders to come along and see their Cathedral at its very best. There will be food vendors on the forecourt and our 1554 Coffee and Gift Shop will be open throughout the day. You are warmly invited to come along, to experience a unique and traditional skill and to enjoy the very special sound of church bells.’