[r-t] Fwd: Position for open meeting

Philip Earis 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

Dear Peter,

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.

Best wishes,


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 
broken nature.

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 
Records Committee.

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 

Philip Earis
Mumbai, India

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