Big Ben to chime 40 times for 2012 Festival

Big Ben and the Olympic flag Big Ben is the nickname for the 13.5 tonne Great Bell in the Palace of Westminster

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Big Ben will chime 40 times in three minutes on Friday as part of a mass bell-ringing event marking the start of the Olympics.

It is believed to be the first time the bell has rung outside its regular schedule since 15 February, 1952.

On that occasion, it tolled every minute for 56 strokes for the funeral of King George VI.

Friday's event will be part of an art project encouraging everyone across the UK to ring a bell at 08:12 on Friday.

It was conceived by Turner Prize-winner Martin Creed, who has called the event Work No. 1197: All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes.

Organisers hope it will set a world record for the largest number of bells rung simultaneously.

For its part, Big Ben will have to be rung by hand, unlike the hourly chimes, which are automated.

David Sillito has been to west Wales to meet a community with their bells at the ready.

All The Bells will involve church bells, doorbells, cowbells and more - with events planned around the country.

Martin Creed explains All The Bells

When I was a kid, I used to hear the local church ringing its bells whenever there was a wedding. They used to ring frenetically and I remember that was a brilliant noise. A great sound.

Then I was trying to think of a piece of music to create for a special occasion like the Olympics. I thought that ringing lots of bells like that might be a nice thing to do. But I don't know which bells are better, so I thought it would be best to try and ring them all.

Me and the people organising it are like kids playing a game. We're saying if anyone wants to play they can.

Hopefully lots of people will play.

In Coventry, cyclists will gather outside the Transport Museum to ring their bicycle bells

Scientists from the Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey will also be taking part - even though they have no bells in their research station.

Instead, they will be "ringing" and banging whatever they can lay their hands on, from kitchen pots to bedpans.

Other participants include the Royal Navy, HMS Belfast, British Embassies worldwide and the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Bells will be sounded in Britain's northernmost inhabited house in Skaw, the Shetland Isles, and the UK's most westerly church in Tresco, The Scilly Isles.

It has also been confirmed that the National Assembly for Wales will be ringing its bell along with Stormont and the Scottish Parliament - meaning all four Parliaments are taking part.

The Speaker of the House Of Commons, John Bercow, will attend the London leg. He said: "I am delighted we can play our part in this Martin Creed artwork.

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Olympic-related images

"This is primarily a work for every community within the UK to embrace as their own but it is also important for our famous landmarks to be represented when the eyes of the world will be on us."

Creed told the BBC the instructions were simple: "To ring all the bells in Britain as loudly and as quickly, as often as possible, for three minutes".

As campanologists and amateurs chime in unison on Friday morning, sounds from around the UK will be broadcast on BBC Breakfast, Radio 4, Radio 2 and 5 live, as well as the BBC's local radio stations.

Participants are being encouraged to register their interest on

Big Ben Facts

  • Real name: The Great Bell.
  • Installed: 10 April, 1858. It took 18 hours to lift it into the clock tower's belfry.
  • Weight: 13.7 tonnes
  • Height: 2.2m
  • Diameter: 2.7m
  • Method of sounding: Struck by a fixed hammer, positioned outside the bell, rather than a swinging clapper.
  • Musical note when struck: E
  • Hammer weight: 200kg
  • Chimes: The Westminster chimes, played on four "quarter bells" are set to the tune of Handel's aria I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.

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