From 9th August, most of the restrictions on what you can and cannot do have been lifted by the Scottish Government, and all places and businesses can open. There are no limits on the numbers who can attend weddings, funerals and places of worship.
Scottish Government guidance specifically for places of worship has been removed.
With the removal of social distancing requirements, most, if not all, towers should be able to begin a process of returning to regular practices.
Some SACR towers have already begun practices, and are preparing for face-to-face teaching.
The SACR is bringing forward plans for ringing together in small groups.
What is on this page:
- Face masks
- Exploring ventilation solutions
- Guidance, advice and help
- What can I do to get ringing going in my tower?
- Examples of practice where some ringing has resumed in Scotland
The wearing of face coverings is still a requirement in indoor public spaces, and recommended in crowded outdoor spaces.
How to classify a ringing room (public or private space) has been fluid throughout, so wearing face coverings should be discussed with your band and with the bell owners.
The following thoughts may help you to decide:
- Masks give some protection to the wearer but it's mostly for the protection for others – you should discuss and agree this as a band, rather than as an individual choice.
- Masks reduce the amount of aerosols emitted, so the better the ventilation the less need for masks and vice versa.
- Wearing masks for hands-on teaching is CCCBR guidance, and makes good sense.
- There’s a strong argument for wearing a mask while standing behind someone.
- If the same group goes to a pub after practice and sit together unmasked, does using masks still confer benefit? This is a decision you should make as a band.
- Entrances to the ringing room may have less ventilation than the ringing room itself, and masks may be advisable in that case.
- Does mask-wearing materially interfere with your ringers’ ability to hear spoken commands during ringing?
The lack of ventilation in many towers may still be a blocker to a band’s confidence atin returning to ringing. Although not a requirement, the Scottish Government recommends maximising ventilation in all environments.
- A good talk about the importance of fresh air in controlling transmission – focusing on bring fresh air in. Check it out here: https://tdgr.org.uk/ventilation-biosafety-in-our-towers.
- The CCCBR also has an article about virus transmission in bell towers: https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus/vaccination-and-virus-transmission-in-towers
- Dr David Pouncey is collating information about CO2 monitoring in bell towers: https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus/carbon-dioxide-monitoring-whilst-ringing
Good practice on hygiene remains important in controlling spread of the virus, and should continue to be practised in ringing environments.
Many hand sanitisers contain glycerine and, in time this can make ropes sticky and gradually turn the tail ends black. One cCovid suitable hand sanitiser that doesn’t contain glycerine or other sticky compounds is Deb InstantFOAM made by Deb Stoko. This comes in a variety of containers including wall mount dispensers, but a 400ml pump top bottle is probably the best bet. For one supplier of it, click here.
Vaccination is an issue that should be decided at a local level by your band. It may be one more layer of mitigation which will help bring confidence to bands when considering a return to ringing, especially where space or ventilation is lacking.
Please note that most published guidance from churches in Scotland is now out of date, and Scottish Government Places of Worship guidance has been removed from the Scottish Government site.
At this point, guidance from the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, although developed in England, is aligned with Scottish requirements, and offers the most constructive pathways forward: https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus.
The Association of Ringing Teachers also has many good resources for returning to ringing: https://ringingteachers.org/survival-and-recovery-toolbox.
Making a plan
Now is a good time to make a concrete plan for returning to regular ringing, in a way that is comfortable and safe for your band.
A phased return to regular ringing could include:
- Practice by invitation with limited numbers at first.
- Splitting practice night into two shorter sessions of smaller groups, with time between.
- Limiting the number of different bells each person rings in a session.
It is key that you take decisions as a band, and also include the bell owners in your plans.
Inspecting your bells
Doing a risk assessment
The SACR have provided a template risk assessment, and this has been distributed to towers. The template has been used by several towers to successfully make a case for safely resuming ringing to various stakeholders.
If you know you cannot start ringing yet, it is still good to do a risk assessment and share it with your stakeholders, as it will help to structure your return and initiate a conversation.
St Machar's, Aberdeen (Church of Scotland): August 2021: Building works have essentially been completed, though we need to go up to the bells for a check every time we ring at present because workmen seem to be accessing the tower occasionally. Ringing has resumed on Sunday morning, on all bells (or on as many as we have ringers available). Practice night on Monday has also resumed. Windows and door are kept open on opposite sides of the tower to get good ventilation. Visitors are welcome but it would be a good idea to email in advance in case we have had to make changes at short notice.
Cathedral Church of St Blane and St Laurence, Dunblane (Church of Scotland): Easter Sunday 2021: We did not ring full-circle in Dunblane but Judith and Chris chimed the Ellacombe between two services (with numbers restricted to 50, there needed to be two services to cater for everyone). We rang both hymn tunes and changes. The bells have not been heard since Christmas Day so as members of the congregation walked up to the Cathedral their eyes inevitably looked up to the tower! Our efforts were certainly appreciated by many who passed on comments via those on duty. We plan to chime the Ellacombe each Sunday going forward, until such times as we can safely ring again. 10 April 2021: The tenor was tolled 99 times in memoriam HRH Prince Philip. 26 June 2021: Ellacombe chimes rung for bicentenary of invention of the chimes.
St Paul’s Cathedral, Dundee (Scottish Episcopal Church): August 2021: We plan to start practice nights at St Paul’s from the beginning of September. We will limit practice night to one hour initially and masks will be compulsory. We are still waiting to hear from Dundee city council on access to The Old Steeple but are confident that we will receive confirmation in the next few weeks.
Ruined Cathedral Church of St Columba, Dunkeld (Historic Scotland): May 2021: Dunkeld has successfully adapted Glasgow's Risk Assessment and Historic Scotland are permitting a return to ringing.
St Andrew's and St George's West, Edinburgh (Church of Scotland): August 2021: We have submitted a risk assessment to the church to start practices on Monday 6 September. Resumption of service ringing is delayed due to the location of the ringing platform, but we hope to resolve this within the coming month.
St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh (Church of Scotland): August 2021: Sunday service ringing has resumed (but Tuesday practices have not yet restarted).
St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh (Scottish Episcopal Church): Easter Sunday 2021: 120 Plain Bob Doubles was rung on 1-2-4-6-7-8. Sunday service ringing has resumed with 2m distancing in place between households.
Balnaferry Campanile, Forres (private ring): September 2021: Monthly practices started up again. At the September practice, a CO2 monitor was used to check that the air remained within safe limits.
St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow (Scottish Episcopal Church): August 2021: Practices have resumed with ringers in smaller groups invited in advance. Masks are compulsory. Permission has been granted to ring all 10 bells. Eight bells were rung for a wedding.
St Mary's, Haddington (Church of Scotland): June 2021: Sunday Service ringing restarted on 13 June 2021. To comply with current guidance we can only ring 4 bells, have ringers from 3 households and ring for 15 minutes. It was great to be ringing again and the Church and congregation are delighted to have the bells ringing again.
St Andrew's Cathedral, Inverness (Scottish Episcopal Church): Easter Sunday 2021: Heather rang Easter hymns on the carillon for the first service back face to face in the Cathedral. Cynthia, Heather's mother, rang the the Sanctus bell since they are bubbled! This will be continuing until proper ringing can happen again. 10 April 2021: The tenor was tolled for 5 minutes in memoriam HRH Prince Philip. 16 April: Tolling to commemorate the 275th Anniversary of the Battle of Culloden and remember the lives lost. 17 April: Tolling for HRH The Duke of Edinburgh's funeral. 26 June 2021: Ellacombe chimes rung for bicentenary of invention of the chimes. August 2021: Planning permission has been submitted to replace the windows that have non-original glazing with openable windows, to increase ventilation in the tower.
St Salvator’s Chapel, St Andrews (University chapel; Church of Scotland): September 2021: The Chaplain has agreed that we can ring without social distancing now and all 6 rang out in style for the first service of the new academic year (5th Sept). Practices resumed from 7th Sept. We are maintaining good ventilation, hand sanitising, face masks and a track and trace register.