General articles

Winchester & Portsmouth voice heard

by Elva Ainsworth and Chris Mew

Saturday, 22nd March was important to many for the Eliminators of the National 12 Bell Contest but equally there was a turn-out of some 60 people at Winchester to discuss the future of ringing. This was the fourth of the regional sessions but still managed to come up with fresh ideas and approaches to the recruiting, training and retention of new ringers.

Master, Viv Nobbs set the scene for the day followed by Elva Ainsworth giving statistics on current ringing levels and age profile. Christine Hill outlined the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the Guild which covered a large area including two off-shore Districts. With some 1,500 members there was talent and strong meetings supporting well-maintained bells and with good access.

The perceived problems were summarised as: motivation and commitment of time by ringers; tower leadership; quality of welcome, facilities and training; and also the public image of ringing.

David Kirkcaldy talked to the assembly about initiatives in Sussex where it was recognised that traditional meetings were outdated and sought to explore options of more local working by groups of towers. The Association recognised the under investment in training and had set aside £8,000 for local facilities.

Pip Penney spoke as architect of the Integrated Teacher Training Scheme and demonstrated the process and some of the range of new training recruitment aids available. She stressed the importance of creating competent teachers who would pass on ringing skills. Formalising the curriculum sought to ensure consistency for both teacher and learner.

Speaking on the work of the Ringing Foundation, Roger Booth gave examples of good practice in the Taunton Branch and special events such as the Big Ring in Milton Keynes, the latter having retained a good percentage of recruits attracted. Grouping of towers in East London for practices was also seen as a successful way of helping ringers advance. The RF looked to support provision of facilities and provide financial help locally where appropriate.

 

Chris Mew gave a short explanation of the work of the Central Council and followed with an outline of the recently formed Birmingham School of Bell Ringing. The principle here was a systematic teaching of learners from scratch using the Integrated Teacher Training Scheme model to move in stages utilising specially chosen towers as stage centres. Numbers were limited and fees were charged making the skill “valued” and encouraging high levels of commitment from all parties.

 

Group discussions during the day were led by Elva Ainsworth resulting in a large number of ideas, the recurring themes being:

  • Better structured teaching on band centred basis
  • Improve tower captaincy to consistent training
  • Quality of welcome and enthusiasm essential to keep learners
  • Grouping of towers to work together and share resources
  • Importance of public image, raise profile
  • Scope for national organisation run on professional lines
  • Improve communications especially using modern technology
  • Share experiences around the country

Ringers do not normally appreciate “talking” all day. It is difficult to condense a huge range of issues from such rich debate but it is hoped that seeds of action have been sewn.

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers