[r-t] A New Hope

Richard Smith richard at ex-parrot.com
Wed May 28 22:06:16 UTC 2014

The CC has moved that "it is time to subject the Decisions 
on methods to a fundamental rethink".  Unsurprisingly I 
agree.  We have been told that the Admin Committee meet in 
October when they are to be presented with an interrim 
report on the matter.  I agree with with Philip Earis's 
assessment that the likely reaction from the Methods 
Committee that a major overhaul would involve much work for 
too little gain.  We need to pre-empt that with a 
counter-proposal outlining what we want of the Decisions and 
how such a reform should be implemented.  Ideally it should 
be printed in the Comic before October.

Much of the problem seems to be that we've lost track of the 
purpose of the Decisions, and that is the first thing we 
need to address.  Why do we need a definition of what 
constitutes a peal if the Central Council no longer 
recognises peals?  Why is it in the interest of the Exercise 
to have pages of verbiage explaining when a method isn't a 
method?  Where a Decision cannot be justified as furthering 
some legitimate interest of the Council, it should be 

While the Central Council had the notion of recognising 
peals, this clearly provided a justification for defining a 
peal.  But since 2002, when the notion of an unrecognised 
peal was removed, what purpose has the definition served? 
Either the Council should be open about the fact that it 
still recognises peals, or it should accept that it no 
longer has any valid justification for defining peals.

Off the top of my head, I can think of three facilities that 
the Decisions provide or allow the Council to provide.  One 
is a vocabulary with which to discuss technical matters. 
The peals analysis is another.  And the last one is the 
methods collections, which isn't even mentioned in the 
Decisions.  We may disagree with the specifics of how they 
are provided, but that their provision is of benefit is 
uncontroversial.  These are the justifications that should 
be in the Decisions, and by which they should be judged.

Once we know what we the Decisions are for, we should 
consider how they should be produced.  I am firmly of the 
view that if there is a need for technical material, which 
there probably is, the current process for maintaining it is 
inadequate.  A small and unrepresentative quango producing 
proposals for ratification by an unwieldy council who 
largely lack the experience to approve it.  And why 
should they?  Such issues affect very few ringers.  The vast 
majority of the technical content should be removed from the 
Decisions and placed in a separate document of Technical 
Definitions which is maintained through a different process. 
I don't know what that process should be, but it needs to 
involve direct input from those parties who are actually 
affected by Decisions.

At the same time, the Decisions need to language to quash 
the popular view that the Central Council generally, and the 
Methods Committee specifically, are opposed to any form of 
progress.  Let's have a new, general section in Decisions 
with some broad statements such as the following:

   1.  The Council recognises that change ringing is
   continually evolving.  Forms of ringing practiced by one
   generation have often been considered undesirable to
   earlier generations and can become neglected or deprecated
   by future generations.

   2.  The Council promotes innovation in change ringing and
   encourages performaces that expand its boundaries.  It
   recognises that the not all innovations will ultimately
   become popular and undertakes not to dismiss any genuine
   attempts at innovation.

   3.  The Council seeks to promote informed debate amongst
   the ringing community on precisely what types of
   performance should fall within the accepted boundaries of
   change ringing, and that such debate is best facilitated
   by a providing a set of simple, broad, consistent and,
   above all, stable Technical Definitions covering the basic
   concepts used in change ringing.

   4.  The Council believes that the purpose of these
   Technical Definitions is not to proscribe what may be
   rung, but rather to aid in the description, classification
   and discussion of former, current and future practice.

   5.  The Council recognises that any attempt to accommodate
   future innovation will inevitably lead to definitions that
   also accommodate seemingly worthless performances.  The
   Council does not believe it is practical to outlaw all
   such performances and believes that any attempt to do so
   risks stiffling innovation.


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