Songs of Praise programme visits Otley

Wharfedale Observer: Presenter Connie Fisher (front row, far right) joins Rod Ismay (back row, far right), tower captain Meg Morton (front row, first left) and the other Otley All Saints Parish Church bell ringers Presenter Connie Fisher (front row, far right) joins Rod Ismay (back row, far right), tower captain Meg Morton (front row, first left) and the other Otley All Saints Parish Church bell ringers

Church bells will herald the arrival of the Tour de France in Otley this summer – and TV viewers are to get a sneak preview.

A film crew from the BBC’s Songs of Praise visited All Saints Parish Church last week to meet its bellringers and find out how their preparations for Saturday, July 5, are coming along.

The church’s ringers will set to work on the morning of the Grand Depart as part of ringer and keen cyclist Rod Ismay’s project to have bells ringing all along the race’s route as part of the Yorkshire Festival.

Songs of Praise presenter Connie Fisher interviewed Rod and the bellringers during her visit on Wednesday, March 26 – and also had a go at ringing herself under the watchful eye of the church’s Tower Captain, Meg Morton.

Meg, who learned the art of campanology at All Saints and has been ringing for some 30 years, said: “It was great fun having the BBC team here. We’d known about it for a few weeks beforehand so we were quite keyed up.

“Connie Fisher was lovely, very genuine and enthusiastic and I think she could become a good ringer. I gave her a lesson and she got on very well with it.

“I’ve got a new team of really enthusiastic ringers who joined our existing team and they have only been going for six months but are doing very well, and making rapid progress.

“We decided our first objective would be to be good enough to ring for the Tour de France.

“It’s a way of celebrating the Tour and letting everyone know it’s coming. We’re hoping to make well-struck call changes on the morning of the Grand Depart, with the bells sounding up until the arrival of the publicity caravan at about 10.13am.”

Viewers will be able to see Connie cycling up to the church, talking to Rod Ismay and the ringers, and trying her hand at bellringing inside All Saints’ tower when the show screens on BBC1 at 3.55pm on Sunday, June 29 – one week before the Grand Depart.

Meg is hoping it might inspire others to take up bellringing. She said: “We’re looking forward to seeing the results – we’ll probably only be on it for five minutes but it was great fun to be involved.

“Co-ordination and rhythm, not strength, are the two main things you need to be a bellringer and anybody can learn as soon as their hands are large and strong enough. Then you can keep going into your seventies and eighties.”

Visit BellsAndBikes.com to find out more about the drive to get bells sounding along the Tour’s Yorkshire route.

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