Bell ringers hit back after York Minster’s claims of intimidation

The former York Minster bell ringing team in action. Photograph: WTHR / YouTube
17 Dec 2016 @ 8.44 pm
| News

York’s sacked bell ringers have issued a robust response to the latest statement from the Minster – and again appealed to be able to ring the bells at Christmas.

As we reported on Friday (December 16) the Chapter – the governing body which runs York Minster – issued a strongly-worded statement complaining that people who wanted to volunteer to ring the bells were being subjected to intimidation online.

It said one member of the clergy had even been threatened with legal action.

Now the York Minster Society Of Change Ringers, which represents the volunteer group disbanded by the Minster in October, has issued it’s own detailed rebuttal.

The society says none of its members have engaged in any form of intimidation, and it has been trying to reopen negotiations with the Dean of York Vivienne Faull.

Their statement begins:

For some weeks, attempts have been made behind the scenes to encourage the Dean to engage in dialogue with members of the York Minster Society of Change Ringers (YMSCR) in order to restore good relations and to get the bells ringing again.

During this period we were advised to refrain from making public statements on the matter.

However, the Minster have declined to respond to these requests for reconciliation, and yesterday released a statement.

‘We distance ourselves from this behaviour’

The biggest bell at York Minster. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr

The statement goes to issue a seven-point “clarification” of the situation. This is what the society has to say:

1. No members of YMSCR have engaged in any intimidation of other ringers.
“We distance ourselves from any such behaviour, should it have taken place. Likewise, we are unaware of any ‘legal threat’ made against a member of the clergy.”

2. No member of YMSCR has been found guilty of any crime related to safeguarding.
In the court case of December 15 relating to one of the ringers “the judge decided that no sanction should be imposed. Costs were also awarded against North Yorkshire Police. We are told that this is unusual and typically indicates that the case is so weak as to be tantamount to a waste of the court’s time.”

3. No evidence for the risk assessment described in the Minster’s statement was sought from YMSCR.

4. YMSCR were not given, or offered, any safeguarding briefings by Minster staff on this particular matter.
“When we requested such briefings, our requests were always declined on the grounds of confidentiality.”

5. YMSCR have always complied with the Minster’s safeguarding policies.

6. The remaining members of YMSCR.
“It is important to be clear that there is no possible ground for questioning the standing of the remaining members in terms of safeguarding. Twenty members of the band were DBS holders, and several had safeguarding training as part of their employment…

“That they have been summarily dismissed from the Minster after, in some cases, decades of loyal service, is deeply distressing for them. For there to be an implied questioning of their suitability to safeguard young ringers has caused untold hurt to them and their families.”

7. Chapter declined to respond to our requests to meet them to discuss the decision referred to in point 5 above

The statement finishes:

We appeal again directly to the Rev. Vivienne Faull to discuss the matter with us, and allow York Minster’s glorious bells to ring out this Christmas, and beyond.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday (December 17), Robert Lewis, editor of The Ringing World, described the York Minster impasse as “a very bad story for bell ringing” but said he hoped it could be resolved.