Last weekend three of our group attended the National Handbell Rally in Sheffield.

The organisation of the rally is allocated on a rotational basis to each region of HRGB (Handbell Ringers of Great Britain) and in 2020 it was the turn of the North East Region of which we are part. 2 of our team, myself and Jane our Chair, are now on the regional committee and were involved in the planning which began back in 2018 with the search for a venue which met all the necessary requirements including a large concert venue, breakout rooms for workshops, reasonably priced en suite rooms and an easily reachable location.

After much deliberation the Royal Victoria Hotel in Sheffield (close to the M1 and railway station) was chosen and the work began. The hotel was an original Railway Hotel and we therefore chose a railway theme with platforms, enquiry offices and tickets!

However, as we could never have anticipated, Covid struck after all the arrangements had been made and items with the “Sheffield 2020” logo had been purchased. The event was cancelled and by some amazing piece of foresight it was postponed not to the next year but to 2022.

The bonus from our point of view was that Clair, our musical director, who had been unwell in 2020 was able to take part. She was chosen to conduct 2 workshops entitled Ringing from Scratch where she took a mixed ability band from sight reading to perfection on one piece in 75 minutes! She might have been billed as a New Leader but she was given participants who included very experienced ringers who themselves were leading workshops later in the day! Didn’t she do well?!

Jane and I spent 2 days stewarding (effectively guiding) delegates and we adhered to the Regional Chair’s instructions to “smile all weekend as if you have a coat hanger in your mouth” although I am not sure that all of them appreciated it when she took the Railway theme to the extent of telling them that they were too late for dinner as the Buffet Car had left the platform!

Not only did we all take part in interesting and varied workshops , but we also had the opportunity of attending 2 concerts – one by the Northern Bell Orchestra and one by a number of very different groups and we also met so many ringers with different skills from so many different parts of the UK.

As we drove back to Bingley late on Saturday night we reflected on the first National Rally we had attended and where we might go in the future. The general consensus was that although we might not make it over the border to Stirling in 2023 we were keen to visit Kettering in 2024.

Solna Burnham

07884 233382