New bell-ringing team installed at York Minster – nearly a year on from start of controversy

The bells are coming back… York Minster. Photograph: Pixabay
22 Aug 2017 @ 5.19 pm
| News

Just as Big Ben controversially falls silent in London, York’s own famous bells should soon emerge from their own period of silence.

A new group of bell-ringers has been recruited for York Minster nearly a year after the controversial disbanding of the in-house team.

The bells stopped ringing in October last year when the Minster’s Chapter disbanded its 30-strong ringing group due to safeguarding concerns.

The new band will take over the ringing in September.

25 ringers at first session

More than 40 applications were received from bell ringers from York and the wider region. More than half were from the old band.

Three of the newcomers are young ringers under the age of 18.

A total of 25 ringers will be coming to the first induction session in September.

“We will almost certainly have to run another induction session for those who’ve indicated they can’t come to the first session and for those whose interviews are scheduled for September,” a Minster spokeswoman said.

Following the induction, the new band will then work with the new Head of Bell Tower Angela Mitchell and the Minster team to arrange their practice schedule and ringing days for the rest of the year.

The band breaks up

Great Peter, the largest bell in the Minster bell tower. Photographs: WTHR / YouTube

The Minster’s 12 bells were silent on Christmas Day for the first time in more than 600 years after the break-up of the bell-ringing team.

One group of campanologists from Leeds reportedly refused to help out, in solidarity with their sacked York colleagues.

The Chapter said it disbanded the team after the ringers refused to accept its decision not to reinstate one of its members, who had been suspended following a police investigation into allegations of sex offending against children, which did not lead to a prosecution.

This member has not been named by the Chapter but is understood to be David Potter, a leading light of the campanology world, who was given an MBE for his services to bell-ringing and has never been convicted of any offences.

Mr Potter was the subject of a police investigation in 1999 which was reviewed again in 2014 but he was never charged.

The Chapter of York Minster ordered a detailed risk assessment of Mr Potter’s activities and decided he “presented an ongoing risk and that the potential severity of the risk meant they could not be reinstated”.

It said the bell ringers refused to accept this decision and so had to be disbanded.

Safety first

The former York Minster bell ringing team in action. Photograph: WTHR / YouTube

York Minster plans to have a year-round recruitment process that will give experienced bell ringers moving to York and the region, the opportunity to apply to join the team at any time.

Information about ringing at the Minster will also be available for talented bell ringers arriving at York’s universities and colleges this autumn.

Recruitment and induction of all Minster staff and volunteers, including the new volunteer bell ringing team, is now carried out in line with the Church of England’s Safer Recruitment processes.

This focuses on safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults, security, health and safety.