Friday is market day in my home town of Stamford, Lincolnshire. And yesterday, when I woke up, I was preparing to mark time, waiting for the working week to end and for the London2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony to kick off in the evening.
Suddenly, listening to the morning radio, I heard that a national Cultural Olympiad event was about to start.
Question: How do you create a work of art that is (a) truly national and in which (b) everybody can take part, regardless of ability or talent?
Answer: Get everyone to ring a bell, madly, for 3 minutes, all at the same time, across the nation. And it doesn’t matter what sort of bell – church bells, bicycle bells, school bells, door bells, etc. You can even download a free app that makes a bell sound when you shake your phone.
Isn’t that a brilliant idea? And why hadn’t I heard of it before? And had Stamford planned anything?
I leapt out of bed and headed into town, hoping to hear some bells ringing. I didn’t really have time to think about it, so I only grabbed two items – my door keys and my iPhone.
At first, all was quiet. The sky was grey, the light dim, the town sleepy. Stall holders were just setting up, ready for the market. People were walking through the streets, only half-awake, heading for work. I heard someone say “I thought they would be ringing the bells this morning?”
Suddenly, at 08:12 am – on the dot – it started.
The church bells began ringing.
I walked along the High Street to Red Lion Square and stood by All Saints, recording the noise on my iPhone. We have numerous churches in Stamford and I didn’t have time to visit any others, but I gather bells were also ringing in St Mary’s Church. I walked back along Broad Street, where most of the market stalls are sited, taking photos with my phone.
At 08:15, the bells stopped. I heard the lonely sound of St Michael’s (a deconsecrated church, converted into shops) tolling the quarter hour. It was over.
I came home and put together a short photo montage and used the sound of the recorded bells as a backdrop. It’s only a minute in length and that is even shorter than the mad episode of bell ringing. If you enjoy it, please visit the BT Olympic Storyteller site and give me a [like]. The story features here
Here it is, Ringing in the Olympics: