We’re looking for new ways of getting our stories out there

There’s no doubt that ringing needs more publicity, and it would be wonderful if ringers could come up with some innovative ideas. We need to encourage newcomers to take an interest and former ringers to return to the ropes. So here’s an example that has the potential to stimulate interest in the wider world.

The story began when Stella Bianco attended the unveiling of a blue plaque in London, and heard that English Heritage (which runs the London Blue Plaque scheme) was keen to receive nominations for more plaques. She wondered whether it might be a way to commemorate a famous ringer – perhaps someone like Fabian Stedman, if we knew where he lived. (Stedman is already commemorated with a plaque shaped like a bell, inside the church of St Andrew Undershaft in the City of London.) Stella passed her thought on to the Central Council PR Committee, and I followed it up.

There are nearly 10,000 plaques on buildings across the UK. Just under 10 per cent are in the London scheme run by English Heritage. Elsewhere, there are plaque programmes (more than 280 in England alone), operated by many different councils and local societies. Schemes differ in their objectives and also in the style of plaque. To help provide an overall picture, in 2009 the Royal Society for the Arts funded the Open Plaques project, whose website openplaques.org has comprehensive lists of plaques not just in the UK but worldwide. Currently it shows 9,806 in the UK. This will never be completely up to date because it relies on people submitting information. (Of three installed in 2014 only one was listed.)

Blue plaque schemes are always looking for new nominations; for example, English Heritage plans to install twelve each year in Greater London. The widespread appetite for plaques could provide opportunities to commemorate ringers or ringing events, provided that ringing historians can identify suitable links with building, and provided that we can make good enough cases for commemorating them.

I wondered whether any ringers already featured on a blue plaque. The only plaques to known ringers that I found were Alfred White (of Whites of Appleton fame) described as ‘Innkeeper, Church Bellhanger, Founder of the famous business’ (see RW 15th August) and Frank Muir, described as ‘comedy writer, radio and television personality’ (but he only rang during his teens).

Another thing I realised while thinking about blue plaques was that they represent just one way in which ringers (or any other specialist community) can collaborate with another body to achieve something beneficial to both. That is why the page of advice now on the Council website isn’t restricted to plaques, but also covers many other groups within our communities whose activities and enthusiasm we might be able to engage in order to help inform the public about ringing. As well as plaques, other possible targets are local museums, historic inns (yes, really), and heritage open days. Groups worth working with include local history societies, civic societies, councils, and event organisers.

For more information see: cccbr.org.uk/pr/advice. If you have other ideas and would like to share them, please contact advice@cccbr.org.uk.

on behalf of Central Council PR Committee

BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers