Mike Johnson

Chairman

My name is Michael Johnson (Mike) and I was elected as the new Chairman for the East Midlands region in July 2017.

I have been a member of the Stanwick Handbell Ringers since 1996 – almost since it was started by one of our current members using the 12 bells from the local church. Since then I have been chairman of that group for a number of years, and am now Vice chairman and Musical Director, a role for which I am not particularly qualified, but in the absence of other takers I took it on. I have been a member of HRGB for a number of years and was one of the first members of our group to join. Our team now owns 3 octaves of Whitechapel bells and we have recently purchased 4 octaves of Suzuki Handchimes. We give regular performances at a wide variety of venues in and around Northamptonshire, including weddings at Churches and other licensed locations.

I live in Raunds in Northamptonshire, right on the edge of the East Midlands region and actually closer to many of the events held in the East Anglia region than those in our region. As a result of that, I have attended rallies, performances and other meetings held in the East Anglia region. I have, of course attended rallies organised by teams in East Midlands and along with other members of the Stanwick team have organised regional rallies at Raunds.

As a member of the regional committee I was involved, mostly, it has to be said, behind the scenes, with the organisation of the 2010 National Rally at Leicester- moving furniture and directing traffic etc. It was good to see so many teams there and it was a really enjoyable experience.

I am a member of the recently formed region handbell team, meeting and practicing on a monthly basis in Grantham. I am also treasurer for the team.

In June 2016 I was fortunate to attend an amazing concert given by the American Raleigh Ringers Handbell team and a few years ago visited the Arsis Handbell team in Tallin, Estonia.

I enjoy many genres of music, including “mechanical music” I have a large collection of 78rpm Gramophone records and have recently finished constructing a small 20 note hand powered mechanical organ.

Contact: mike78rpm(at)btinternet.com (at) should be replaced with @

Jane Heald

Secretary

I was first introduced to handbell ringing 35 years ago through a friend and it has been my passion ever since. I had a background of learning the piano, pipe organ and musical theory. I started ringing with the Harlaxton Chimes under the direction of Richard Manton. On moving to Grantham 5 years later, I joined Saint Wulfram’s Handbell Ringers under the direction of Vaughan Evans. With Saint Wulfram’s I toured Germany on two occasions and also Jersey. I have appeared with the team, and been interviewed, on BBC One, Radio 2 and East Midlands Today programmes. I have also joined in the recording of two CD’s. Following the death of Vaughan Evans in 2007, I became Co-Musical Director of Saint Wulfram’s Handbell Ringers, along with my husband John. John and I also founded a handbell group in the village of Caythorpe, where we live, using 12 Taylor’s bells which belong to the village church. I was a member of the Northern Bell Orchestra for 11 years under the direction of Tim Willetts, Catherine O’Rourke and Kate Sawallisch. Following this I was instrumental in forming the East Midlands Regional Team and became its Assistant Musical Director, together with John Atkinson. I continue to enjoy this privilege, rehearsing the team once a month, together with Saint Wulfram’s once a week.

For a number of years I have gained great experience from attending workshops at National Rallies, the International Symposium in Liverpool in 2012, the National Residential Ringing Week, the Ring in Praise Seminar in Dunblane and the Handbell Gathering in Hardraw.

I became a member of the East Midlands Committee in 2006 but serious illness in 2010 necessitated a break. I re-joined the committee and in 2013 was elected Regional Secretary and one of the two Regional Representatives on the National Executive Committee. After 5 years on the NEC, I decided to stand down this year.

I continue to be as enthusiastic about handbell ringing as when I started in 1983 and besides ringing I enjoy directing, conducting, arranging music and administration work for HRGB.

Contact: janeheald(at)hotmail.co.uk (at) should be replaced with @



Marie Allen

Treasurer

My involvement with Handbells began in 1978 when I lived in Chester. A friend belonged to a local team and she said ringing Handbells was good fun and she felt sure I would love it. I did and was welcomed into the ‘Westminster Chimes’, so called because the lady who owned the 2 octave set of Whitechapel bells lived on the Duke of Westminster’s estate. Unfortunately, after 6 years, work commitments meant that we no longer had access to her bells.

Eight keen ringers and no Bells! A small grant from the NW Arts Council, fundraising and piggy banks raided enabled us to purchase 2 octaves of Malmark bells in 1985. The ’Cestrian Ringers’ were born. We attended numerous rallies (Regional & National) and enjoyed our many jaunts up to Dunblane as Scotland was then part of the North West Region. A memorable highlight was being invited to play at the National Rally in Tonbridge, Kent in 1988.

On moving to Northamptonshire in 1989 I had difficulty finding a team to join. However, in 2002, I read in a local paper that the ‘Stanwick Handbell Ringers’ were looking for new members as a grant from the National Lottery had enabled them to purchase a 2 octave set of Whitechapel bells. Since then 2 further grants from other organisations have enabled a third octave of bells to be purchased. We recently purchased a 4 octave set of Suzuki Tone Chimes and are keen to start using them. So, more challenges for our Team learning to play them and more variety for our audiences during performances.

Three of us meet weekly to try to master the art of ringing ‘four-in-hand’ We find this rather akin to patting your head whilst rubbing your tummy!

I now have another handbell practice session to look forward to each month as I have joined the East Midlands Regional Team. Thank you to John Atkinson and Jane Heald for challenging me to learn new techniques and encouraging me as I strive to improve.

Forty years later and Handbell Ringing is still good fun!