Further absurdities at York Minster ring a few bells…

BACK in October, much attention was given in York to what became known in these quarters as the Mystery of the Silent Bell Tower.

You will recall that the volunteer bell ringers of York Minster were asked never again to darken the Bell Tower, and that the peels fell mute.

Since then we half-learned the truth and fully learned nothing much. We half-learned along the way that a ‘more professional’ system would be introduced next year, and the Dean of York, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, went on BBC Look North a couple of times and looked Very Rev’ly uncomfortable as she failed to shed much light on what had happened or why. Health and safety was mumbled about; and it was further mumbled that “this sort of thing” couldn’t be allowed to happen, without further elucidation as to what sort of thing it might be.

We also learned from Canon Precentor Peter Moger that the Minster had a “volunteer agreement and social media policy” and that this had been contravened.

This muffled mystery has resurfaced again as someone at the Minster appears to have noticed that Christmas is around the corner and a few bells might be a nice idea.

So, have they reached out to the excluded bell ringers and suggested a spot of Christian-minded rapprochement? Er, no. A report by Mike Laycock on my old newspaper reveals that the Minister authorities have instead tried to poach the bell ringers of Leeds Minster.

Mike’s report says: “Andrew Aspland, who is understood to be tower captain at Leeds as well as president of the Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers, has written to members, saying he has received a formal request from the Dean and Chapter of York Minster for the Leeds ringers to ring at various Christmas services. ‘Sam Corley, our Rector, has given us the go-ahead to help out at York,’ he said in the letter, which has been posted on Facebook…”

A Minster spokeswoman said: “Oh, shit – you’re not going to ask me about those bloody bells again are you?” Or rather she said that the Chapter of York was “progressing plans for future bell ringing arrangements at York Minster”. She added that “one of the things that we have learned in recent weeks is that Yorkshire has many wonderfully talented bell ringers”.

Including, at a guess, the 30 you just got rid of.

Not for the first time, I am reminded why my mark-two plan to work in public relations was doomed from the start: the job involves saying such rubbish, and saying it with a smile and sprinkle of corporate sugar on top. And while York Minster might not be a corporation, it seems to have behaved like one throughout this affair.

Asking bell ringers to travel from Leeds when you already have bell ringers who know the job here sounds like the sort of idea the newspaper industry is always coming up with.

Why have sub-editors working here in York when someone could do the job 220 miles away in Newport in Wales? Incidentally, the jobs that went to Newport are now beginning to disappear from that place; and two or three jobs came back to York, although I hear that one has since disappeared.

Now I drive to Howden two days a week to help edit an Irish Sunday newspaper, which is enjoyable but further evidence of the mixed-up ways of the world.

While the newspaper industry has the benefit of being able to use the internet to convey editorial information, York Minster needs someone there in person to ring those bells.

To complete this parallel of absurdities, perhaps some of our bell ringers could travel to Leeds to help cover for theirs who are coming over here.

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