Arts column: Laura Davis: Taking part in All the Bells was a near disaster

MY EFFORTS to take part in Martin Creed’s Olympic art happening Work No. 1197 began to go wrong when I realised I don’t have a bell.

For Work No. 1197, more commonly known as All The Bells, the artist encouraged as many people as possible to ring a bell as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes from 8.12am last Friday – just under 13 hours before the Games’s official opening ceremony.

Bells were rung by the Royal Navy, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the British Army, the RAF, the National Trust, the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers, the National Theatre and the National Football Museum.

Here in Merseyside, Liverpool Cathedral joined in, pealing above the drone of commuter traffic.

Individuals and groups registered their intent to bell ring online and could download an exclusive ringtone, created by Creed, to play if they didn’t have a bell.

The only bell in my house was one that had lost its clapper – a little ceramic lady in a floral skirt that I’d had since childhood (very twee but too infused with sentimental value to send to the charity shop).

The clapper, a tiny stone suspended beneath her skirt on a piece of wire, had long since come loose (I imagine much to her relief given its uncomfortable positioning) during a spot of over-zealous ringing when I was four years old.

I had downloaded the exclusive ringtone but hadn’t yet got around to adding it to my phone via my laptop.

The Runcorn Bridge is to blame for my frantic dash to find an alternative on Friday morning. Well, not the bridge exactly. The bridge is actually an innocent bystander in my tale of campanological near disaster. It was the people who decided to shut the bridge for half an hour last Thursday night so that it took 90 minutes to get home from Chester, where I’d been reviewing.

Too exhausted to start faffing about with iTunes I decided to sort it out in the morning. I set my alarm for an uncommonly early hour and fell asleep.

My experience of Work No. 1197, went something like this: Wake-up, press snooze, wake up, press snooze, wake up, press snooze, wake up, panic, download sound effects app on phone, shower, dry hair, turn on tongs, run into spare room, realise spare room has no blinds, cover self with towel, back slowly out of room, read Twitter, open app, check time on Twitter, open app, check time on twitter, open app, app plays dial-up modem sound effect, app keeps playing dial-up modem sound effect, hit phone screen repeatedly until doorbell sound effect rings, keep pressing until 08.15, rush to get ready for work, burn back of neck on tongs.

Judging by Twitter, I was not the only person who struggled to find a bell on Friday morning.


Second favourite tweet: “I drank Bells at 8.12 this morning to show support for The Games. You?”

Top All the Bells tweet (or series of five): “On a packed train. Without a bell. Purse has got some change in it. Maybe I’ll shake that. . . Nobody else on this train seems to have a bell. My purse solo could be embarrassing. . . Eyeing up the man next to me’s bike – it has a bell. . . Somebody ring my mobile! Bell panic.”