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County rings in countdown to London 2012
Oxfordshire awoke yesterday morning to a cacophony of clanging bells, marking the 12 hour countdown to the official opening of the 2012 Olympics.
Church bells rang out, motorists honked their horns, cyclists tinkled and hand bells shook across the county at 8.12am, part of the national All The Bells project.
At Carfax tower, the Oxford Society of Change Ringers rang the bells from 8am until 8.30.
Ringing master Michael Williams said: “It was very successful.
“It was fun to say we have taken part, especially since there has been so much publicity for bellsringers.”
The event, commissioned by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), was the brainchild of Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed, who wanted all the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes.
Hilarie Rogers, bellringing team captain at Drayton St Leonard church, said: “The weather was lovely for us.
“We started ringing inside just after Big Ben’s first bong. “It brings a lump to your throat.”
Gay and Alan Cooper, who became overnight stars after performing a handbell cover of My Heart Will Go On, on Britain’s Got Talent last year, took their bells out to Wallingford’s market place.
They took spare bells so that members of public could join them in Chariots of Fire.
Mrs Cooper said: “It was quite interesting. We got there and it was quite quiet, so we started playing and people turned up and melted in, so it was quite fun.
“We had about 17 people in the end, and the church bells were ringing, which added to the atmosphere.
“We have got Olympic fever now just like everyone else.”
Oxford’s town crier, Anthony Church, who belongs to the ancient and honourable guild of town criers, took part in the bell ringing aboard HMS Belfast on the Thames in London.
Mr Church, 62, of Barns Road in Cowley, said: “It was the proudest moment of my career.
“We were standing on the captain’s bridge, and there were in excess of 4,000 people lining the riverbank.
In Clevelands, Abingdon, 16 residents got together to ring bells including triangles, an elephant bell and bell from the Second World War previously used for gas attacks.
John Barker, 81, said: “We should all be very proud of the fact the Olympics are here.”
Joy Pomfret, 77, from Wootton, was driven to Woodstock by son Chris to ring her own handbell for three minutes.
Mrs Pomfret said she was very disappointed the town did not ring its bells to mark the launch of the Olympics.
Many churches, including Great Haseley near Chippinghurst and St Ebbe’s in Headington, followed up the morning’s ringing with a more sedate ceremony in afternoon.
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