THE bells are ringing out this year as a Ryedale club celebrates its 20th anniversary. The Levisham and Lockton Handbell Ringers group - known as LL’s Bells - is marking its birthday with a series of events, starting with a concert at Levisham Village Hall at 7pm on Tuesday, June 12.

The group formed in 1998 when founding member Anne Deebank was given 15 bells - an octave-and-a-half set - by her stepfather.

She put up notices around the twin villages of Levisham and Lockton with an idea that others might wish to learn to ring a few carols for Christmas.

Things grew from there, and before long the group needed more bells. They applied to a lottery scheme that was running at the time and fundraised in the villages, and ended up acquiring two octaves worth of handbells and a matching two-octave set of handchimes.

“It was very much a community effort,” said Anne of the fundraising campaign.

Handchimes, which look like square tubes with an external ‘clapper’, produce a different - but complementary - sound to classic handbells.

“The nice thing about handchimes is that they are a lot more robust than the bells so they’re quite good for teaching,” Anne added.

Sue Perutz of the group said: “The great thing about handbell ringing is that you don’t need to be able to read music.

“All that’s needed is the ability to count to three, four or very occasionally to six - plus a desire to take part in music making with other people who all enjoy coming together once or twice a week.”

Membership numbers in LL’s Bells have remained consistent over two decades, and currently stand at 15 ringers, with many of the original members still ringing with the group.

The concert next month will be showcasing the group’s repertoire, which spans all genres from nursery rhymes to film and musical scores, Beatles to Beethoven.

It will also mark Anne’s stepping down as group leader after 20 years. “I’ve done my bit - it’s time for someone else to bring in new ideas,” she said.

The group will now be led by Sue Pearson.

Over the 20 years, the group has performed all over the region - and not just at Christmas, the time of year when the sound of handbells is most iconic. They play for WI groups, at Alba Rose Care Home, for ladies’ luncheon clubs and local carers’ organisations, at churches, and for Victorian weekends at Robin Hood’s Bay and Ryedale Folk Museum.

They have also taken part in handbell rallies with other teams in the area and national events such as the All the Bells project, which took place at 8.12am on the morning of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Put out live on the radio, it was a cacophony - and celebration - of bells of all kinds.

“Everybody came out and brought their bicycle bells or little ornamental bells - the church bell and the school bell rang,” Anne said. “It was a beautiful morning and the whole village came out.”

In 2016, the group joined the ‘virtual orchestra’ at the Last Night of the Proms.

As well as the June concert, LL’s Bells will be part of more celebratory events throughout the year.

There will be a joint ukulele and handbell jamboree on Thursday, October 11, at 7pm, in Lockton Village Hall, and a grand finale concert on Saturday, November 10, when the Beverley Town Handbell Ringers will perform in Pickering Church.