The Salisbury Guild retains the Tewkesbury Shield.
In 2016 a band representing the Salisbury Guild had won the Tewkesbury Shield – a national ten-bell striking competition – for the first time ever in the Guild’s history. It had been an exciting achievement, if somewhat unexpected, as the team had been regarded as something of an underdog against more experienced bands from Bristol, London University and the massive Oxford Diocesan Guild. Despite a somewhat obtrusive method mistake in the very first lead, the performance had been successful for what the judges regarded as the positive sense of style in the ringing as a whole – clearly those judges appreciated the SDGR way of ringing!
This year, we arrived at Tewkesbury on the morning of Saturday 6th May not as unfancied underdogs, but as the trophy holders – the team to beat. As every Leicester City fan knows, the pressure was on to prove that last year’s win wasn’t simply a fluke. Last year’s method, a plain course of Lincolnshire Royal, presented a challenge of its own in addition to the demands of ringing unfamiliar bells with only a five-minute practice. For 2017 the test piece was a four-course touch of Grandsire Caters. On the face of it, much easier to keep right, but nonetheless the inherent sense of rhythm within the method was likely to result in a much higher standard of striking from each of the teams. We had one big advantage – winning the previous year’s competition had given us the opportunity to ring a peal on the Abbey bells in the following autumn, allowing most of the band 3hrs 25mins of ringing experience in the Tewkesbury tower!
Practice for the competition had begun the previous November with a squad of fifteen volunteer ringers from around the Guild assembled, and duly organised, by Tom Garrett for a series of sessions of ten-bell ringing at the towers of Kingston and Wimborne Minster, both rings of a similar weight to Tewkesbury Abbey. Ringing is a team effort, and it was necessary to establish the best configuration of ringers from the larger squad – back-end bells working together to create the right rhythm, front-end bells striking accurately when amongst the big bells as well as together, and the middle bells holding the structure together. Once the test touch had been published, the band practised it relentlessly over several months, trying different speeds and coming to terms with the music of the different courses. Much thanks is due to the effort and support of the members of the wider squad who did not take part in the final performance – Rosemary Duke, Harry Blamire and Robert Child.
On the day, we arrived in good time for the draw at 11.15am and were called to ring 7th (out of nine teams), starting at 2.30pm. This gave us plenty of time to listen to the first six teams’ performances, analysing their choices of speed, accuracy of striking, consistency of tenor beat, approach to the short practice time – and opportunity to hear some excellent standards of ringing. When our time came we were determined to take the bells at our pace, and focused in our concentration on the method.
Mark Davies, the chief judge who had also composed the four-course touch, outlined the strategy the two judges had taken in making their decisions. Primarily, this was a matter of confidence in setting a good pace and making the bells ring to a decisive rhythm and, secondly, coping effectively with the ‘bear-trap’ of the ‘roller-coaster’ third course end (1236549870). When the results were announced we were delighted (even stunned) to have taken first place, beating the mighty bands from Birmingham, Derby and elsewhere.
1st Salisbury Diocesan Guild 89%
2nd St Paul’s Society Birmingham 86%
3rd Derby Diocesan Association 82%
4th St Martin’s Guild 81%
5th Oxford Diocesan Guild 75%
6th Llandaff & Monmouth Diocesan Association 72%
7th Leicester Diocesan Association 70%
8th Sussex County Association 65%
9th Worcester & Districts Association 48%