Norwich Axioms

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2001 - The Central Council Meeting In Liverpool and the Toyota Axioms

At the 2001 Council Meeting in Liverpool, a proposal was put by Stephanie Warboys, seconded by Andrew Wilby as follows: "That Decision (E) A. 1 be amended by replacing paragraph (a) with 'In methods with hunt bells, there shall be at least two leads in the plain course.'". After discussion, the matter was referred back to the Methods Committee.

In November 2001, The Methods Committee circulated a draft proposal for consultation. These were discussed in the email lists and the Ringing World. This discussion prompted Mark Davies to draft his own set of proposals for Method classification. These were published in the Ringing World as the "Toyota Axioms". By now, there were many who were unhappy with the Methods Committee proposals for differential methods, and there was a groundswell of opinion that a significant shift in thinking was required. An open letter written to the Chairman of the Methods Committee and signed by a group of well-respected ringers was published in the Ringing World.

Open letter to the Central Council

At the 2001 Central Council Meeting in Liverpool the Methods Committee was asked to formulate changes to Decision (E) Methods and Calls to accommodate certain new methods, in response to a proposal from the St Martin’s Guild representative. The Methods Committee’s proposals have been published in the Ringing World, and on the Central Council website.

We believe that the published proposals are misguided and do not represent a suitable or lasting solution to the growing problems of method definition. The sphere of debate on this issue has broadened considerably and ideas and suggestions have emerged which challenge the existing Decisions and present fundamental alternatives. The Methods Committee has developed its proposals somewhat in isolation of a body of expert opinion, including many composers, conductors and ringers who are at the forefront of change ringing development.

We therefore urge the Council to refer the matter (Motion (E)) back to the Methods Committee once again, and to require the Committee to seek wider consultation in order to find a solution capable of supporting current and future developments in change ringing.

The Norwich Axioms

By now the Toyota Axioms had moved on. With the upcoming Council Meeting being held at Norwich, they were rebranded as the Norwich Axioms, a motion had been drafted by the St Martins Guild, and expectations of an "interesting" meeting in Norwich were set.

2002 - The Central Council Meeting in Norwich

The Central Council Minutes take up the story, with Tony Smith, Chair of the Methods Committee speaking:

We expect you will be told by others in this debate about the "Norwich Axioms" (which originally appeared in The Ringing World as the "Toyota Axioms") and how our motion should be referred back and the Methods Committee instructed to produce new Decisions based on these Axioms.

The first strand of the Axioms reflects the premises that it is unimportant that the working bells do all the work of the method or that the plain course be true. Our belief that it is important whether the working bells do all the work underlies this motion. Recognising false methods would be far reaching and would deserve a separate debate by Council; it does not form part of the debate on the motion.

The second strand of the Axioms seeks to remove ambiguities of classification. We accept that this could have advantages. However the ambiguities are obscure and have not caused significant problems in practice. The disadvantages are that the Decisions would be slightly more prescriptive. We would be happy to take this work if Council wished however, once again, that is not the subject of this debate.

This motion considerably increases the scope for describing methods in a coherent and consistent way. Frank Blagrove seconded.

Stef Warboys said she would not be proposing a referral back. At the 2000 meeting the Methods Committee had been asked to amend the Decisions to enable short-course methods to be recognised; the Committee's response was to produce alternative proposals at the Liverpool meeting. Motion F meets her request, as it would make the methods acceptable; however Motion E is not so reasonable: the Committee had interpreted their brief in a very narrow manner, not addressing all the concerns. Stef acknowledged that to carry out the task properly would involve much time; although it may be of minority interest, it was a fundamental issue, which should be addressed. The open letter in the current issue of The Ringing World supports the need for wider consultation: the status quo is not the way, nor is adding things to existing Decisions; a "root-and-branch" review of the Decisions is needed.

Tony replied that it is not the case that the Methods Committee did not consider all aspects; it was not true that they were unwilling to examine the Toyota Axioms; they do not intend to look at false methods without a clear direction from Council; they would look at any ambiguities in the Decisions.

Stef Warboys proposed that the new Methods Committee be asked:

(i) to undertake, or establish a working party to undertake, a complete and fundamental review of all the issues expressed in connection with "the methods debate" and in relation to the current Rules and Decisions relating to methods with particular reference to achieving simplification, comprehensibility, sustainability and congruence with current thinking on developments in change-ringing;

(ii) to consider fully and evaluate in detail all alternative approaches currently formulated, including but not exclusively the Norwich Axioms, and any other approaches and issues that come to light during the course of this work;

(iii) to consult widely amongst interested parties and to adopt an open and collaborative approach during the course of this review, co-opting necessary expertise;

(iv) to produce a detailed paper outlining all the options, approaches, considerations, arguments, advantages and disadvantages for comment and further consideration by interested parties;

(v) to report back at regular intervals and to try to achieve consensus through collaboration. If consensus is achieved, to prepare in due course proposals for the Council to consider. If there is no consensus, to prepare a report and detailed explanation for Council so that Council has adequate briefing to determine the way forward. The motion was seconded by Philip Saddleton.

David Sparling asked whether the Committee had advance warning of the proposal; John Thompson was concerned that the debate might be wrongly reported elsewhere; Jason Hughes (referring to a letter in the current issue of The Ringing World) thought we should accept the suggestion of 27 leading ringers to continue the consultation process.

Responding, Tony said the Committee would be willing to take on specific requests but not wholesale revision; as outlined earlier in the debate on Method Definitions, revision of the Decisions along the lines of the Norwich Axioms would be more restrictive. Roger Bailey supported these comments: the motion was very detailed but its outcome was uncertain.

The motion was put to the vote and lost, and the Methods Committees proposals to introduce differential methods were passed.

Of Wizards and Methods

Undaunted, Mark Davies followed up with a series of articles in the Ringing World called "Of Wizards and Methods", explaining the exercise at large what all the fuss was about.

So - what exactly were the changes proposed under the Norwich Axioms? You can look here to find out.


  1. Minutes of the Central Council Meetings
  2. The Norwich Axioms