The 132nd Henry Johnson Commemoration Dinner ~ Saturday 29 February 2020
The Banqueting Suite, Birmingham Council House
If the HJ Dinner were a touch of Stedman Triples (starting on the 7th)…
Dodging at the back – with a bob to keep you there!
The Birmingham Council House is the setting for the annual Henry Johnson Commemoration Dinner at the end of February. The Banqueting Suite provides a fine setting as ringers dodge around each other in their finery, trying to reach the bar. To keep them at the back a bit longer, Richard Postill provided a picture quiz of Guild Towers from unusual angles – resident members and visitors alike were left scratching their heads.
Down into double dodge 4-5
As everyone made their way towards the front, the splendid table plan and arrangements made by dinner secretary, Jenny Sunter, ensured minimal dodging for all to find their seats. Imagine my delight at having graduated from the back student table to Table 5… which turned out to be at the back of the room (that said, the advantages of that will become clear).
Madam Chairman, Gill Postill, welcomed the assembled guests, inviting Dean Matt Thompson to say grace before the meal began. The quick work here represents perhaps the shortest of the speeches.
Double dodge 4-5 up
I’m sure that no one reading this really wants to know what everyone ate but I won’t let that stop me. The starter, served to the guests at the table, was roasted sweet potato soup with a griddled scone. Just the one set of double dodges.
Dodging in 6-7 up
A buffet station, rather than table service, showed the advantages of sitting at the back. Seeing others walk past with their plates of beef steak, fish pie or mushroom and spinach chilli gave time to carefully consider the best choice. And if that choice was the wrong one being closest for going up for seconds (bob).
Dodging in 6-7 down
Repeat with dessert – with seconds of course (bob).
Double dodge in 4-5 down
Coffee or tea with mints, of course.
Go in slow
With everyone well fed and content, the main entertainment for the evening could commence. Despite being the slow work, with speeches from a range of interesting speakers interspersed with handbell ringing, all were kept captivated.
Gill Postill, secretary of the Birmingham Cathedral bell ringers, ringer at St James Shirley and chairman for the evening, opened the programme with toasts to both Her Majesty the Queen and the memory of the late Henry Johnson. In her speech, Gill recalled how this 132nd dinner was only the 4th time that the dinner had been held on 29th February. In her tribute to Henry Johnson, Gill revealed that she had been baptised in the same church as Henry Johnson – St Chad’s Lichfield.
Following this, a toast to the guests and visitors was proposed by Clare McArdle, now Guild Master of the St Martin’s Guild. All in attendance gave a round of applause but no one more enthusiastically than retiring St Martin’s Guild Master Simon Linford. As well as welcoming those ringers who had travelled great distances to attend the dinner, Clare did her bit for ringing harmony by introducing John (attending his first HJ dinner) to fellow ringing widowers so they could compare notes after the speeches.
In response, Phil Rogers recalled his feelings at ringing in Birmingham including with the late Rod Pipe. On the whole this was a feeling of being nervous apart from the times he was terrified!
As a break in proceedings, a faultless handbell touch of Stedman Triples was expertly rung by Michael Wilby, Alistair Cherry, Mark Eccleston and Arthur Reeves.
Halfway through the slow work, the programme continued with Julia Cater proposing a toast to the continued prosperity of the St Martin’s Guild. Julia’s recount of time with the well-loved former resident Guild members Maurice and Margaret Edwards was well received along with her attempt to replicate their accent. She spoke fondly of the Guild and remarked on how its reputation continues to grow with its cutting edge Monday night band at St Philip’s Cathedral; 12 bell band and Birmingham School of Bell Ringing to produce ‘made in Birmingham’ ringers.
In his response, Michael Wilby proposed a round of applause to congratulate Simon Linford on his new role as President of the Central Council. In going on to propose the Health of the Chairman, Michael spoke with affection for Gill. Although he recalled how Gill could be ruthless with rotas, this is outweighed by her generosity with jelly babies for which she is known and loved.
Dodging some more (with a single and bob should bring it round)
With the slow work drawing to a close, ringers and non-ringers were left to mingle and socialise until ‘that’s all’ was called. A successful touch of 123 changes of Stedman Triples.
(Apologies from the author that her composing ability couldn’t turn that into 132 changes and still relate it to the dinner).