• Simon Linford
    Following discussions started in other threads, I have been reviewing the 1988 Survey of Ringing which was a mammoth undertaking that sample surveyed over 500 towers and involved over 75 volunteers. The final report is over 100 pages long.

    These 10 questions were posed in the Ringing World in November 1989 and they were due to be debated at an Open meeting of the Council in 1990. What happened as a result of all that survey information? Did any particular strategies come forward as a result?

    1. One-third of British bells are silent on Sundays. Does this matter? If so, should there be (a) a national recruitment drive, (b) more effort put into recruitment at the Guild/Association level, or
    (c) something else?

    2. The more bells there are in a tower the more likely they are to be rung on Sundays. Should
    (a) all rings of bells be augmented to 12!,
    (b) recruitment drives be concentrated on Guilds/Associations with a preponderance of 5s and 6s,
    (c) more effort put into promoting 5- and 6-bell ringing, or
    (d) something else?

    3. Nearly one-third of all new recruits give up ringing in the first 12 months. What can be done to retain a greater proportion of these?

    4. There was a clear request from tower captains for more information on belfry maintenance, yet only 16% had a copy of the Maintenance Handbook and 6% the Towers and Bells Handbook. How can this need for more training in the skills of bells and belfry maintenance be met?

    5. Some 35% of clergy reported that they visited the ringing chamber infrequently and 8% not at all. How can closer relationships be made between ringers and local church officials?

    6. There is still a great need to train the ringing teachers. 55% of tower captains found courses on how to teach learners the most useful. The Beginners' Handbook and One-per-Learner Book are provided or encouraged widely. What more should be done?

    7. Ringers come from a narrow social base. Should anything be done to widen this and, if so, what?

    8. Ringing is healthier in many large city suburbs and other densely­ populated areas. Should more effort be put into providing new rings of bells in these areas?

    9. Many areas, particularly inner cities and some rural parts, possess bands serving several churches. Should this be encouraged more and what can be done to make it easier?

    10. Most "average" ringers perceive that their Guild/Association has very little impact on their ringing. Is this perception accurate and, if so, what can be done to improve the effectiveness of Guilds and Associations?
  • John de Overa
    I tried looking for the report online but it doesn't seem to be available. But I did come across this, which mentions it:

    Reflections on why some ringers fail to progress much beyond ART Level 2/3

    Some snippets that particularly caught my eye:

    Perhaps we need to accept that most ringers are not that much into it. They ring every week on a Sunday, they go to a weekly tower practice and the odd outing or association meeting, but that is where it ends for them.

    To achieve the modest goal of ringing some rounds and call changes on a Sunday we do not need to progress much beyond ART level 3. We do not need to learn blue lines, to understand bobs, to get to grips with the structures of methods.

    There's a lot more there, much of which I also disagree with. The low expectations expressed in the article are disappointing but no great surprise as they seem to be the default in most of the towers I've been in. It really doesn't need to be that way, indeed we can't afford for it to be that way.

    As far as I can make out, it is at least 40 years since my tower's band could ring anything other than poor PH5 with "Fred's bell", "Eve's bell" and so on. Over the last few months we have been starting method ringing. Yes it's only Minimus + covers but people have started moving bells, ringing inside and actually getting all enthusiastic, even though many of them have been plodding along not making any progress for decades.

    It's great that there's a focus on recruitment, but I think we shouldn't forget all the "stuck in the mud" bands, because we need those people just as much as we do new blood.
  • John Harrison
    the survey may not be online, but Steve Coleman, who was part of the team, wrote a series of articles explaining and interpreting all the different aspects of the results. It was called something like 'rumaging through' and published in the Ringing World. You should be able to find them, but if not I can dig out the paper copies to check.
  • John de Overa
    No worries if the survey isn't available online, it was just idle curiosity.
  • Simon Linford
    I have the full 100 pages in a couple of pdfs, which I will send to you. It contains all those Ringing World articles.
  • Alison Hodge
    Have you compared 1988 with what was reported in about 1914?
  • Simon Linford

    I haven't seen that report. However it I were to guess what the statistics that I quote in my blog were in 1914 compared with 1988 they woud be as follows:

    1988 - 87% of tower captains were male
    1914 - none

    1988 - 58/42 male female split
    1914 - tricky one. I am going 90/10

    1988 - 62% of tower rang on the average Sunday
    1914 - 85%

    1988 - 41,000 bellringers
    1914 - far few towers. About the same?
    I've no idea really how many ringers per tower there were.

    1988 - 25% of Tower Captains under 40
    1914 - 50%

    1988 - 49% of ringers generally under 40
    1914 - 60%
  • A J Barnfield
    I have just searched the 1914 RW ("survey") no useful hits but I did notice in the editorial of 18/09/14 a reference to "The 25,000 ringers throughout the country..."
  • Tristan Lockheart
    I think one of the issues is the lack of 'involved' people. The 88 report states concerns about the number of teachers and steeplekeepers, and a lack of vibrancy at guild level. Certainly at my tower, one person is all three and is the only one who can do all of those things. It'd be interesting to see the bus factor for each critical role in towers and guilds - I know in our area, this dedicated individual getting run over by the bus could cause a chain reaction locally and result in a number of towers falling silent.
  • John Harrison
    I can give some comparators based on ODG reports.
    1774 ringing members, 167 towers 'in union', ringers per tower = 10.6
    2133 ringing members, 259 towers (with members), ringers per tower = 8.2
    2480 ringing members, 303 towers (with members), ringers per tower = 8.2

    I chose 2019 as the last pre Covid year.
    If you take the average number of ringers per ring able tower, then the figures drop to 7.7 (1988) and 6.7 (2019). The 1914 report doesn't mention towers with no ringers 'in union'.

    Simon guessed 10% of ringers in 1914 were women. In Sonning Deanery, which I analysed for the article on the effects of war there were 6.5% women in 1914, the first year there were any. That had doubled by1918 but then went down again.
  • Roger Booth
    There is a pdf copy of the 1988 report available online at www.bellringing.co.uk/1988 survey.pdf
  • Roger Booth
    I have also uploaded a copy of the 1972 survey here: www.bellringing.co.uk/1972 Survey.pdf

    The two reports side by side make very interesting reading. One thing that stands out to me is table 1 where it was estimated that in 1972 10% of all towers were unringable or unsafe. This included 3.9% of eight bell towers; 8.0% of six bell towers and 23.3% of five bell towers. Having just checked on Dove, today's figures are 2.1% of eight bell towers; 2.2% of six bell towers and 22.0% of five bell towers.

    When you take into account all the augmentations that have take place since 1972, our stock of ringable towers are in far better condition than they were in 1972. This is mainly due to the support from BRF's, the Millennium commission and the vast amounts of volunteer labour ploughed in. However with an ageing workforce are we going to be able to continue doing this? Also, the vast bulk of unringable towers are 3's, 4's and 5's. Is it sensible to focus the lions share of our resources on these towers, when the problems going forward are going to be parish finances and the number of active ringers per ringable bell?
  • Barbara Le Gallez
    Roger Booth, of course your points are very sensible. But - here's a fairy story about a four-bell tower with a happy ending!
    At the Millennium, the PCC of All Saints' Landbeach decided to restart ringing. The Ely Diocesan Association stepped up to provide teachers and training courses. And oodles of support, which has continued until the present day.
    In the succeeding years, both church and band had their difficulties but hung on in there.
    In 2022, both church and band are growing and enthusiastic (and solvent) and the PCC have decided to augment to six. Yippee! Church and band are looking forward to the future with enthusiasm.
    So my point is - vision and drive are found in sometimes unlikely places, so don't write anywhere off!
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