Broken Dreams

Broken Dreams

We like to think that we make a product that will last forever; we like to find old bells made by Messrs. Such-and-such still in use; we like to hope that companies might live on forever; we like to believe that no matter what, certain things will be around for a long while; we like our reality suspended in this trade. We live in the belief that what we do “will last for a thousand years!” The truth is, sometimes these things don’t happen.

The imminent sale of the current building and loss of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry has stirred up a lot of commotion in the bell world. Seasoned ringers and laymen alike all stare despondently into the future trying to grasp at this new reality where their beloved London company is no more and the bells that bear the triple crown are reserved as relics and antiques of a bygone era. Things change, and while some might balk and bicker about these yet unknown futures, some of us carry on. We carry on knowing that there is work to do and that the trade does indeed live on, and we are responsible for it’s survival.

Living in the romance of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries as a 21st-century business only has so much utility. When a manufacturing business slowly turns into one that sells an experience; tells the same old stories instead of writing new ones, there is a problem. We like to talk about what once was made, what once was done; pointing to trophies on the shelf of history. We’ve seen those trophies; we’ve heard those stories. They are already known. A public impression is formed, and a workshop all of a sudden becomes a museum.

The funny truth (with any craft that balances between preservation and reconstruction) is that in the attempt to “save” crafted history, you might stay the craftsman’s hand who is responsible for keeping it alive! Tears are shed and death knells are rung for those that do not last. What harsh reality is this? For why must this be so!? Businesses live on revenue. They must have work. When they do not have it, they close. This is the reality.

The possible permanent closure of “the world”s most famous bell foundry” is a sobering reminder that these things don’t last forever. Nothing is permanent. So let this be a moment of reflection that perhaps ringing isn’t enough, playing isn’t enough, listening isn’t enough. Change may happen, that’s okay, we can embrace that. There are other options and new traditions to be made. There is still work to be done by everyone. If that work isn’t done…then it’s all just a bunch of broken dreams.