[r-t] Fwd: Position for open meeting
pje24 at cantab.net
Mon Oct 5 09:41:20 UTC 2015
Don: “As most you you undoubtedly know, there is an open meeting on Sunday,
11 October, in Southwark, to discuss what sorts of rules and decisions the
ringing community desires. My understanding is that the committee would like
statements of participants' positions ahead of time. Seems the sort of thing
that we could all benefit by sharing with one another, so here's mine”
I've copied my recent email below!
From: Philip Earis
Sent: Sunday, October 4, 2015 12:18 PM
To: peter.niblett at btinternet.com
Subject: CC Methods Committee - Decisions - Notice of Meeting
I am writing to let you know that I would like to participate by Skype in
the meeting next Sunday to discuss “future requirements and nature of any
rules and recommendations relating to peal ringing, methods, compositions
and records”. Please do let me know how to join this discussion.
In your notice on BellBoard, you state “It would be useful if any specific
views or submissions, whether from attendees or others, could be provided in
advance to assist in making efficient use of time”. I have therefore
documented my views (copied below) for the meeting’s consideration – these
were published in the Ringing World earlier this year (page 255), and
nothing significant has changed subsequently.
I stress strongly that using the existing Decisions as a basis for slight
modifications (as Tony Smith proposed in his short-lived “consultation”, and
indeed as the Methods Committee seemed to proposed in the March 2015
“consultation” document) is absolutely not satisfactory. The whole ethos
needs fundamentally rethinking. The efforts coordinated by Tim Barnes in
recent months are much better, and I endorse his diligent work.
I feel the meeting also needs to discuss formalising the role and
responsibilities of the Methods Committee (something the draft Tim has
coordinated does well), including with relation to the hosting and curation
of online method collections. The bizarre episode earlier this year – where
the collections were taken offline seemingly in a fit of pique and attempt
to influence the CC meeting – needs discussion, to understand the causes and
to prevent a possible reoccurrence. I note with dismay that despite
questions being publically directed to the Methods Committee on this subject
(eg Don Morrison’s letter in the RW), no response has yet been forthcoming.
Many ringers are concerned and do not feel this is acceptable.
I read with interest that the Central Council Methods Committee has finally
launched a ‘consultation process’ about Decisions on Methods, Calls and
However, the completely farcical lack of due process surrounding the
consultation gives very little confidence that much needed, meaningful
change is genuinely being considered. As a result, the reputation of the
Central Council is yet further diminished.
Many ringers will rightly be wondering what any fuss is about, and why there
is a problem. Ringing has many pressing current challenges – such as in
teaching, recruitment and retention – and this is where the focus of the
Central Council (CC) should be. It is a mad situation, and completely
avoidable, that year after year after year so much of the CC’s time and
attention is expended on needless, rancorous, arcane debates about
‘Decisions’ and method minutiae that most ringers neither understand nor
So what is the problem? The CC’s Decisions on Methods, Calls, Peals and
Extension are an outdated framework, overly complex, repeatedly patched up,
and not fit for purpose. The fundamental problem is that these Decisions are
based on a proscriptive mindset – they inappropriately set out in minute
detail the properties of the methods we are allowed to ring. The very word
‘Decisions’ aptly conveys this, and is inappropriate.
Consequently, when a band completes some new change ringing which is true,
looks like change ringing, sounds like change ringing and is change
ringing – be it a 120 of a Doubles method, a peal of cyclic Maximus or
whatever – it often finds what they rang being declared by the Methods
Committee to be ‘nonmethods’, or a ‘non-compliant performance’ or other such
dystopian, Orwellian words.
The Methods Committee thus chooses not to keep consistent, searchable
records of the new methods they don’t like, and sometimes implores bands to
describe what they rang in different, contrived and inaccurate ways just so
it better fits their broken Decisions.
Now, the main issue is clearly not that people are physically prevented from
ringing things – it’s hardly the case that there are ‘method police’ at the
tower door stopping bands ringing what they want to. But the Decisions do
choke innovation, do leave some ringers very hacked off, and do render most
of the ringing community puzzled. The reputation of the CC certainly suffers
as a result. What is gained by being so proscriptive? Would ringing
degenerate if there was liberalisation?
The tragedy is that the problem is completely avoidable. The CC simply needs
to take the approach that there should be a
descriptive framework to change ringing, describing (as clearly, concisely
and futureproof as possible) what bands choose to ring rather than endless
proscribing of what they view as acceptable.
Many ringers have been calling for this change in mindset – to a descriptive
approach – for a long time. It’s not an impossible problem, it’s not a
question of lack of brain power, or of laziness. As with many things, here
the challenges comes down to people problems and organisational
The Methods Committee has for years consistently rebuffed any meaningful
change, whether from within the committee or from the constructive input of
a wider body of ringing theory experts.
This new ‘consultation’ only came about because the Methods Committee was
mandated, at the May 2014 full CC meeting, to consider a possible
fundamentally new approach, with high priority. The motion came from the
floor and was carried by a large majority. The minutes of the meeting record
one person speaking vehemently against it, saying, as reported by The
Ringing World, ‘this motion will cause … very little change … I think this
motion is a serious mistake’. The person saying this was Tony Smith, a
prominent Methods Committee member / Chair / Central Council President /
Admin Committee Member for over 30 consecutive years.
How the Methods Committee responded to the motion being adopted is
instructive. Firstly, it seemed to bury its head in the ground and do
nothing, missing the suggested deadline of successive CC Admin Committee
meetings to present meaningful updates. Then, it apparently appointed one
Tony Smith to lead the consultation exercise. The obvious conflict of
interest of appointing someone with a long-standing close association with
robustly defending the status quo, who had openly stated that a review was a
mistake, and also that no change would result from it seems to have been
quietly brushed aside.
In January 2015 there was finally something visible resulting from the
motion: a new page appeared on Tony Smith’s personal website to seemingly
initiate a consultation. The page contained ‘possible changes’ to Decisions.
Unfortunately the page doesn’t seem to have been publicly announced
anywhere, and the ‘possible changes’ were 99.3% identical to the existing
Decisions. Hardly a fundamental rethink. The page disappeared in murky
circumstances a few days later.
We now fast forward to Peter Niblett’s letter in the RW of 6th March
(p.230). On the positive side, Peter has actually informed the ringing
community about a consultation, states that it will be fundamental, and that
responses will be listened to, writing, ‘We will incorporate a summary of
the comments received in a report to the upcoming CC Administrative
Committee Meeting’. This appears welcome progress.
However, readers may not be aware that the deadline for reports to the
forthcoming CC Administrative Committee Meeting also just happens to be 6th
March … so we have the amazing, farcical situation where a technical
consultation is made public on the very same day the report resulting from
it has to be received! It is hard not to view this ‘consultation’ as a sham.
It gets worse: the 17-page Consultation document Peter refers to is a very
defensive attempt at justifying the broken status quo, in stark contrast to
the agreed motion. The whole spectrum of options should be considered in the
mandated fundamental review – from no change to a complete fresh start.
Very sadly, the consultation document does not adhere to this, but very much
tries to twist the debate to be based around the current Decisions. Most of
the document is a list of the current decisions, along with defensive
comments about why the author(s) feel they are supported. Bizarrely, the
Committee admit that they do not know why some of the current regulations
are in place, with their repeated justifications beginning “This is
presumably …” or “We assume that …”. If the rationale of rules is
questionable even to their defending custodians, it well illustrates their
Of course, to lead to progress there has to be a meaningful new alternative
on the table, and it is appropriate to take care to get things right. In
response to the Method Committee’s repeated failure to address the problem,
Tim Barnes has been leading a detailed, collaborative, calm, open-to-all
exercise to produce a descriptive framework for methods, calls and peals. By
starting from first principles, engaging with experts and looking for broad
consensus on fundamental principles some good progress has been made. The
ongoing working document produced provides a better basis to refine and for
ringers to join behind.
The one, genuinely useful thing the Methods Committee does is to keep
updated, accessible libraries of methods. Ironically, this isn’t in the
Committee’s terms of reference. Having a Committee with not much to do but
ponder regulations inevitably will lead to more, and more complex
regulations. A positive, and needed, reform to the CC would therefore be to
abolish the whole Methods Committee, with its valuable work in keeping
method libraries (which can be mostly automated) to be transferred to the
I ask the Methods Committee to consider this my response to their
‘Consultation’, and I look forward to learning the results of the Admin
Committee’s deliberations. I feel this is the last chance they have to show
that the Central Council is capable of any reform, and of representing
ringers rather than being an ineffectual puffed-up and self-regarding
talking shop. Kicking the can yet further down the road is not appropriate.
If this opportunity for reform is not grasped, formal schism will surely
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