Thursday 26 April 2018

5 ways to keep Big Ben in your life when the famous bell falls silent

The world-renowned chimes will silence for four years during restoration work.

(Steven Paston/PA)
(Steven Paston/PA)

By Nicola Irwin

The chimes of Big Ben are set to be silenced until 2021 during restoration work on the Elizabeth Tower and the Great Clock.

The bell is still scheduled to sound for significant events like Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve, but for anyone hoping to keep Big Ben’s E note ringing on a more regular basis, here are some alternatives.

1. Downloads the chimes as a ringtone.


The Parliament website offers MP3 files of the chimes of Big Ben as well as the bell being struck as a ringtone. Head to the website here and follow the instructions to save the file to give every phone call gravitas.

2. Listen to poetry by Ian McMillan.

(Yui Mok/PA)

Barnsley’s Ian McMillan was commissioned to write seven poems to celebrate the sounds of the bells in 2013. The works coincided with the 90th anniversary of Big Ben’s chimes heralding in the New Year and are available on BBC iPlayer.

3. Listen to Oranges and Lemons by Benjamin Till.

Another case of Big Ben inspiring art work. Composer Benjamin Till created a piece for the 150th anniversary of Big Ben chiming for the first time which included all the churches and institutions from the longer version of playground favourite Oranges and Lemons.

4. Visit another bell.

(Steve Pond/PA)

With Big Ben silenced and tours to the Elizabeth Tower suspended, visit the Olympic bell in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. While it too is silent – it is considered too loud to strike as it would disturb neighbours – it was commissioned from the Whitechapel Foundry which also made Big Ben. The bell took centre stage at London 2012 when it was struck by Team GB cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins during the opening ceremony.

As a second alternative, there’s Little Ben, at Victoria station which is an replica of the Elizabeth Tower, but no bell.

5. Listen to The Pin.


Comedy series The Pin with Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen returned to Radio 4 in July for Series Three. The first episode, on Education, “starts with a sketch making the best use of the chimes of Big Ben I’ve ever heard” according to David Hepworth in the Guardian.

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