‘Guitar Hero for bell-ringers’ silences clangers

02 March 2018

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PEOPLE living near a church bell-tower in Cumbria are being spared the sound of clangers dropped by trainee ringers, thanks to technology that allows the bells to be “rung” silently.

The eight-bell peal at St James the Great, in Barrow-in-Furness, is rung as normal, but, instead of the clappers striking, magnetic sensors on each bell detect the pull and connect to software on a laptop to reproduce the sound through headphones or speakers.

The digital simulator, which is being adopted by different bands across the country, has been described as “Guitar Hero for bell-ringers”. The work at St James’s has been funded from a £175,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the Victorian church’s belfry, which had been damaged by rain. The work also involved repairing the bells, and creating a 70-page photobook chronicling the project.

The tower captain, Andrew Pollock, said that the work would help with the recruitment of new ringers, and “preserve bell-ringing as part of our living heritage for years and generations to come”. Bell-ringing offered a “moderate workout for both body and mind”, he said, and was suitable for anyone from secondary-school age upwards.

“We look forward to welcoming members of the public to see and learn about these fantastic bells in Barrow, and offer better facilities for people across the Furness area to learn and preserve this amazing skill for generations to come.”

Open days will take place later this year, as part of a government-backed campaign to recruit 1400 more ringers nationwide in time to ring for the centenary of the Armistice on 11 November.

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