HEDON’S HISTORIC set of 37 hand bells have been the subject of a successful Heritage Lottery bid for funding resulting in £9,800 being granted to the Hedon Hand Bells Group. The grant means that the bells and the town tradition of hand bell ringing can be preserved and a new generation taught about this unique performance art.
The bells are believed to have been originally cast in 1847 but Keith Everingham from the Hedon Hand Bells Group explained that its been over 150 years since the bells were last repaired: “Some of the bells had cracked and the leather handles had deteriorated. The lottery money means that we have been able to send them away to London for repair, to be re-tuned and cleaned. We expect them back in December, and upon their return the group aims to be able to get new members of all ages involved in learning how to play the bells and hold performances.”
Hand bells are designed to sound a particular note when struck, and a team of skilled ringers can create a wide range of melodies and harmonies. Musical Director of the Hand Bells Group Joan Richardson said that playing the bells requires good listening, timing and coordination: “Up to 12 people would be able to play the set of 37 bells at any one time, each player takes a responsibility for a number of bells. Therefore it’s a good team activity and perfect to take into local schools and local youth groups.”
Working with all generations, regardless of ability, to develop the art and skills of hand bell ringing is one of the main priorities of the Lottery funded project. Tina Green from the group explained that many of the current group members were also involved as church bell ringers at St Augustine’s Church. “Not everyone can be a church bell-ringer; you’ve got to climb the bell tower for a start and it’s a physically demanding task. But hand bell ringing is much more accessible to all. We meet in the Methodist Church for rehearsals which is an accessible building and most people can learn to play hand bells. Those taking part in this enjoyable and stimulating activity will also gain a deeper insight into this historical art, as well as gaining valuable new skills.”
Whilst the bells are away for repair the Hedon Hand Bells group have borrowed a set of 37 bells from the respected Beverley Town Hand Bell Ringers, who have performed twice this year in St Augustine’s Church to large audiences and won new supporters to the art.
John Atkinson from the Beverley group set down a challenge to his Hedon counterparts: “The 37 hand bells loaned to Hedon are identical to the set that have been sent away for repair. So there is no excuse for rehearsals not to take place. The next time the Beverley Town Hand Bell Ringers perform in Hedon, we expect to see a performance – even if just for one piece – by the Hedon Hand Bell group!”
Fiona Spiers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber said: “Sharing Heritage is a wonderful opportunity for communities to delve into their local heritage and we are delighted to be able to offer this grant so that the people of Hedon can embark on a real journey of discovery about an interesting part of their local heritage. Heritage means such different things to different people, and HLF’s funding offers a wealth of opportunities for groups to explore and celebrate what’s important to them in their area.”
Keith Everingham said: “We are all delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has chosen to support our project. We believe that this is a skill which should not die out and look forward to getting started.”
In addition to the Lottery Grant the Hand Bells Group have also raised monies themselves and are grateful to those who have contributed at fundraising events, but in particular the group offers its thanks to Jim and Sue Lindop (Mayor’s Fund 2013), Councillor Ann Suggit, Cliff and Sue Everingham, Hedon Co-op Store, The Haven Commissioners and Mr and Mrs Shields from Australia for their generous donations.
The additional funds raised will contribute towards items such as the performance tables and bell cushions, carrying cases, covers, music stands and other essentials.