General articles

Have Your Say – Seminars on The Future of Ringing

 York - 8th February

The third in the series of seminars inviting ringers to “Have your Say” was held at the Priory Centre, York with some 40 ringers present. The attendance was primarily from Yorkshire plus interested parties from Staffordshire, Lancashire and Lincolnshire. It was described as “a good day”, “a useful event” and “very thought provoking”… this is what happened:

Barrie Dove, Yorkshire Association President, welcomed the assembled company and Elva Ainsworth outlined the statistics behind the changing profile of both church attendance and available ringers. Bob Cater spoke of the present activities of the YACR in the spheres of recruitment, training and education. Bob was keen to emphasise the joint aims of ringing for service, and training and fostering friendship between new and existing ringers. A current target is to extend contact beyond existing newsletters through the use of both website and email.

Acting as facilitator, Elva sought views regarding challenges presented to ringing. Amongst topics raised were:

  • Leadership – the need for energy, people skills and charisma
  • Retention – thought to be more important than initial recruitment with particular need to give a good experience coupled with ongoing motivation
  • Networking – overcoming tower insularity whilst respecting limited aspirations
  • Teasing out lapsed ringers

Mark Regan gave an inspiring presentation on the achievements in Worcester showing how a tower centred training facility could be a catalyst for wider influence. The key factors were the involvement of both church and local community and welcoming all. The importance of working with non-ringing groups is a public relations exercise and produces funding opportunities.

As one of the ITTS tutors, Neil Donovan outlined how this training scheme was working locally. The associated ‘Learning the Ropes’ syllabus was described together with the work of the Association of Ringing Teachers. The Yorkshire Association was supporting the ITTS and LRT initiative and were offering places on courses to their members.

Questions at this stage centred on the following key points:

  • ITTS and LTR were still not fully understood by many ringers despite widespread publicity
  • There was concern that ITTS accreditation would become a formal requirement

Chris Mew gave an overview of the work of the St Martin’s Guild, Birmingham which is currently piloting a new recruitment and training scheme using ITTS certified teachers and LTR levels 1-5 for students. One of the most radical elements of the scheme is that a brochure has been sent to all incumbents of churches with bells in their area outlining the scheme and offering to provide training to recruits. The scheme has adopted a ‘pay for training’ approach to learners and there was a clear expectation that, once competent, learners would support a nominated local tower. Those passing the appropriate levels could also plough back experience by assisting with further training.

Overviews were then given of the work of the Ringing Foundation in supporting ART/ ITTS and making local grants, and of the role, work and services of the Central Council.

The final discussions drew attention to perceived need for improvement in the following areas:

  • Improved communication between all ringers
  • Better and clearer spread of information from CCCBR/RF/associations
  • Support for local tower captains in recruitment and training
  • Provision of material which could be used in local recruitment drives
  • Improving awareness of the public regarding bell ringing
  • Better funding comparable to other national activities
  • Addressing perceived duplication of activities by central bodies

Feedback from those attending the seminar clarified that it is this sharing of ideas and experiences that is so useful. There was an acknowledgement of the need for more local initiative and joined-up working across tower boundaries and a keen interest in how the Birmingham/Worcester models might work in other areas. There was also a clear request for a new and tested approach to attracting and training learners that would work in the rural areas badly needing injections of resource and expertise.

  • Final word about the seminar from someone attending: “More ringers should come”.

CHRIS MEW / ELVA AINSWORTH

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers