A ding-dong in the high street: Berwick gets in on Olympic bells

Crowds gather at the town hall steps to watch John Kenny play the Carnyx
Crowds gather at the town hall steps to watch John Kenny play the Carnyx

BERWICK rang in the Olympics with a display of communal bell-ringing on Friday morning.

Crowds gathered with all kinds of different bells - some from their bikes, and even from their front doors - to join in the national event marking the opening day of the London 2012 Games.

Rosemary Ross led the ringing of the town hall bells for eight minutes from 8.12 to 8.20am.

Unique amongst the many towns and cities hosting bellringing events, Berwick’s human alarm clock featured the Carnyx, an enormous bronze Celtic war horn.

John Kenny blew the massive instrument, designed to be heard over the din of ancient battlegrounds, as he made his way from outside the Advertiser office to the town hall steps.

There, he switched instruments, playing the alpenhorn for the crowds gathered on Marygate.

John describes the effect of the bells and the Carnyx sounding together : “It’s as if the tow itself was singing!”

The event was part of a specially-designed piece of performance art by Turner Prize-winning artist and musician Martin Creed.

Entitled ‘Work No 1197: All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes’, the project aimed to set a new world record for the largest number of bells being rung simultaneously.

Creed described the nation-wide event as “a brilliant and amazing sound” and “a once in a life-time performance.

“Bells are the loudest acoustic instrument - that’s why they’re used by churches.”

Matthew Rooke, artistic director of the Maltings, said: “Everyone was invited to gather on the High Street and show their community spirit by bringing - and ringing - bells of every shape and size.”

People certainly did that - many sat down to a special breakfast with neighbours as part of the festivities.