29th September 2023 – Max Drinkwater


I lost another peal of Suffolk Surprise Major last weekend. It’s not a particularly pretty method, but in the centenary year of the Suffolk Guild of Ringers it makes sense to try to ring it. It is Bristol under and Double Dublin over, but with Belfast starts in 3-4 and 5-6. Or at least, that is how someone else described it to me – I didn’t particularly find that a helpful way of learning it!

Calling that particular place notation ‘Belfast starts’ is a sort of label, of the kind that we use in all walks of life. It is a label that can be useful, especially if we are familiar with Belfast and how it might look when we ring it, or how it might sound. But a label is only useful insofar as it does help us to understand what is being labelled – there are lots of ways in which Suffolk Surprise Major is very much not like Belfast at all.

When I found John Leach’s book about contemporary worship bands and their place in charismatic-evangelical worship (RW 8 September, p.879), it caught my attention because it seemed to help not just explain what the label ‘charismatic-evangelical’ means, but to understand it. Leach is himself familiar with this style of worship, and so he can speak from within that tradition, and help us to apply the label effectively.

Labels like this can be useful, communicating not just a reference, but a whole concept. But they can also be used to discriminate too. When we use labels such as migrant instead of refugee or ex-pat, we are communicating how we feel about someone’s status, and how we might treat them.

So here’s to helpful labelling, and understanding the labels we use. And hopefully to a successful peal of Suffolk.

Max Drinkwater