• Accelerated teaching for late starters
    However, once we have got our new ringers to ringing Grandsire and Plain Bob, and having put all the hard work in, we wouldn’t want to see the more able ones travel and join another band in order to learn to ring even more advanced methods. That can’t be sustainable, especially if those bands haven’t put the hard work in. It will just reinforce a two-tier system or downward spiral which towers cannot escape from. I don’t mind the new ringers taking opportunities to progress, by ringing with others in the District or Guild, but they also need to remain members of the local band in order to help the others on the lower rungs of the ladder. That way the band as a whole will progress further.

    Nor does my local band wish to see our practices over-run by learners from other towers, especially when we may have to invest time in re-teaching some of them to handle, or some of the other basic skills needed to ring simple methods successfully. We support the neighbouring practices where the bands are at the call-changes/kaleidoscope stage, as they have an important role to play in teaching the foundation skills well.
    Roger Booth
    In several of the areas I have rung in, you need to band-hop a number of times to get the teaching and support you need at each step in the learning journey. Clusters would seem to me to be one solution. You retain the benefit of your effort within the (larger) group but the ringer receives the opportunities they need. It also gives you the structure to be able to nudge people to where they're most needed (e.g., getting a critical mass of ringers for more advanced ringing, teaching handling etc.) without them needing to get in with a new group. You also get more control over the quality of handling etc. Clusters come with their own problems but I don't believe many parts of the country actually have the resources to develop all or even nearly all tower bands into bands which can teach and sustain competency in basic methods.

    There needs to be far more emphasis on developing bands, and less on individual advancement. Far more leadership training will help.Roger Booth
    This presupposes that there are enough people with the requisite skills to support the improvement. Whilst in some bands, that talent is already there and just needs a catalyst, in others you would need to attract such people, who are likely to already be going to multiple PNs, and so you'd quite possibly be poaching them from other towers.

    I suppose what I am saying is that if a group cannot provide the opportunities needed for progression, then people who are minded to progress will go elsewhere. If the group is lucky, the ringer will stick around to help out at the lower level, but obviously that falls apart if they have to move tower multiple times or move away from the area. Worse still, those who want to progress but can't take advantages of the opportunities elsewhere (due to transport, conflict with PN, different atmosphere in the other band, etc.) will get stuck at the level of the band, potentially sapping their enthusiasm and certainly wasting their potential.

    If you look at the ringers who have progressed to the mid and higher levels of ringing in the last couple of decades, I'm sure you'll find that most of them have acted in their self-interest a few times to keep their progression going.

    There needs to be a proper pipeline, I don't see much signs of one at the moment.John de Overa
    I'd be interested to know what form this might take. It's difficult for me more towards the lower levels than the higher levels to visualise such a thing!

    ↪Tristan Lockheart You mentioned going to the pub afterwards after talking about transport. For Londoners (and probably other cities too) talking public transport may be a fag, but at least you can have a drink and get home. Outside London such public transport as there is often ceases early and of course if you've driven to a practice then having a pint or two afterwards is obviously out of the question.J Martin Rushton
    It’s more for the social side of things and band bonding than alcohol consumption (many post-PN pub trips have plenty of Cokes as well as beers), but I take your point. As someone who doesn't drive, I have to be very careful about where I choose to live and I'm very limited in where I can regularly ring too. Outside of the main metropolitan areas, there are few places where I could live and maintain my current lifestyle, both in ringing or more broadly.
  • Accelerated teaching for late starters
    Not surprisingly, it sounds like London has a decent pool of method ringers. The ringing in the towers in my vicinity is mostly CCs & PH on 6 with occasional Plain Minor methods, but that requires ringers from several towers. Anything beyond that requires significant travelling, so you need to be motivated to keep moving on.John de Overa

    I think the issue is that your fairly extreme situation still has parallels with the situation in London (although perhaps not to the same extent); here, we have fairly large parts of outer London which are fairly thin ringing territory. There are some towers which provide opportunities, but they are easily 45 minutes or more away by public transport (and of course, more ringers in London are without cars). There are plenty of opportunities in Central London and many in the inner suburbs too, but again you have to travel. I think, as Lucy suggested further up the thread, that older learners (as with younger learners) need to be encouraged to engage with other bands in their local areas from an early stage. This would mean that they are more likely to be open to attending the most suitable practice for their need rather than limiting themselves only to their local band (of course, the hope is that they in time attend multiple practices and in time share the benefit of their skills and experience). Looking to the future, a culture of travel will need to be normalised if ringing is to remain sustainable; we will not necessarily benefit from the same number of towers and bands given church closures and the decline in the number of ringers. We ideally want our ringers to travel further if they are no longer able to ring at their current tower for whatever reason rather than stop ringing altogether.

    More broadly, the older learners I know who engage with the wider world of ringing beyond their home PN and Sunday service ringing (ringing outings, other PNs, going to the pub after ringing, the Ringing World, ringing courses, social events etc.) tend to progress more. You have to go out and grab the opportunities and said opportunities need to be out there in the first place. There was a positive initiative in Middlesex recently where new members of the association were invited to try out 12 bell ringing with lots of support from experienced ringers at St Martin-in-the-Fields followed by a tour at St Pauls Cathedral and plenty of opportunity to get to know ringers from other London towers and get an introduction into the wider world of ringing.
  • Ringing Survey
    83% of ringers want to improve their ringing, which obviously includes older ones.John de Overa

    We were really pleased with this statistic. It shows that there is considerable energy in the exercise which is one thing we'll need in abundance to ensure the continuation of the art.

    Whilst there's an understandable focus on youth opportunities I don't think older ringers should be forgotten, as at the moment they are the backbone of most towers, and will be for some considerable time, even if youth recruitment is successful.John de Overa

    Quite. There wouldn't be many young ringers around if it weren't for the older ringers teaching, mentoring, taxiing, etc. for a start! We need to get the balance right between giving special attention to young ringers rather than giving all of the attention to them, if you catch my drift.
  • Defibrillators
    Our (not a cathedral) nearest defib available in the evenings is half a mile away uphill at the railway station, and we have a fairly long and narrow staircase. Getting the defib to the casualty would not be quick, and neither would the arrival of paramedics/evacuation of the casualty (it requires the Hazardous Area Response Team specialists and our practice exercise with them took ages to extract the 'casualty', so not going to help in a heart attack situation).

    We've taken precautions, such as signage with the tower with the address of the tower and location of the station's defib, instructions to remind 999 that the HART will be required for casualty extraction, and ensured that the ambulance and fire services have information about the constrained access in their despatch systems. Any visitors are advised of the access situation and to consider any medical conditions they may have before going up the tower.

    To be blunt, if someone has a heart attack in many towers in this country, their odds aren't going to be great, particularly if there are not people able to deliver CPR in the tower. However, having a defib in your vestry is probably a better situation than many towers will be in. Defibs are not cheap, so I can understand their reticence, although it would be ideal to have one up the tower.
  • Open days
    Speculation time here, but what could be the factors behind fewer people going on

    • Less spare time? - an open day eats up time on a weekend, and people tend to have busy lives. An ongoing trend throughout ringing and hobbies/volunteering in general - hours are down across the board.
    • Maybe people don't like dashing around to get to all the towers? A more relaxed schedule with fewer towers might make for a better balance between energy and tower grabbing.
    • You need a car or someone to share a lift with to take part - petrol isn't cheap these days either.

    Less dashing around could also increase the quality of the ringing; I for one certainly wouldn't be up to much by tower number 8!

    That said, I'd echo @Lucy Chandhial's observation - there are plenty of young people into tower grabbing, so I don't think Open Days will be going away any time soon. There may be fewer people coming onto the tours and thus a lower level of income, but probably still enough to be worthwhile (particularly in areas where Open Days are less common).
  • Will all towers ring for the King?
    We’ve been chasing quite a few towers for a while, asking if they need help, but it seems that those towers that are under strength often have an inexperienced ringer in charge, left over from a once active band. We note from our mailing system that some don’t even bother to open our e-mails or newsletters. The traditional cascade system falls down, and the local ringers are not engaged with the District or the Guild. The response below, received yesterday, is typical of the reaction to our offers of help that we have experienced.

    It’s a shame as the keen new ringers who can now ring rounds unaided would love to ring at more than one tower on the big day. Some have been turning up to two or three practices a week for a couple of months, often at different towers. Teaching them has stretched the resources of those of us with active bands, yet it’s the towers in the other two categories that need new ringers the most.
    Roger Booth

    There's a sort of inevitability in that some ringers just want to do their own thing. In most areas, we are not short of towers, so we have no need to worry about an unproductive band 'hogging' a tower. And given that these sorts of bands are not often willing/able to recruit, there isn't much of an opportunity for them to spread an ethos which doesn't involve visiting and working with other towers. I suspect there is little more to be done if active branch leaders are still not able to effectively get through to these certain towers; too much time can be spent trying to save bands which don't really want to be saved which could instead be invested into those who are willing to engage and accept the help that is being offered.
  • Services in church halls?
    Never mind church halls, Porthmadog's church has relocated to this rather petite former dentist's surgery! The latest I heard, the Porthmadog bells were to be relocated to Betws-y-Coed, which as the headquarters church of the local ministry area of 7 churches has weekly services and thus a more secure future than many churches in Wales.
  • Do you have to be 'churchy'?
    'The church would have few if any ringers or musicians for its goings on if only churchy people were allowed.
    — DRJA Dewar

    The last two recruits to our band came from the congregation, so I think this is somewhat of an oversimplification.
    Alan C

    Perhaps, but not excessively so. If, say post-1975, the church banned non-Christians from ringing, I suspect little or no method ringing would exist now, and call changes would also be limited. It's not just a question of the church membership status of the individual ringer; it is a question of those who taught and mentored, rang with them, cast, hung, funded and maintained their bells too.
  • President's Blog #75
    Not the most inclusive turn of phrase I've heard used. I thought church bell ringing was for those with a faith as well as those without.Alan C

    It's a turn of phrase which did not originate from me. It is a sentiment expressed to me by clergy and lay-preachers in the CofE. My post above did not advocate the exclusion of Christians; it was in response to Mary asking whether we were too embarrassed to mention the link to the church and was in the context of recruitment. Do you think that most of the general population would consider a church/religious connection to be positive and something that attracts them to ringing?
  • President's Blog #75
    ringing as a service to the church? Has that connection gone or are we too embarrassed to mention it?Mary Jones

    Christianity, or more specifically, the church, is an increasingly unattractive, or even toxic, brand. Only a portion of the UK population are suitable to be change ringers. A smaller part of that portion are Christians. We cannot survive on Christians alone. The number of Christians continue to decline in the UK, and the traditional CofE who have most of the bells is declining faster. Evangelical churches which are growing in popularity range from indifferent to outright hostile towards bellringing.

    At Freshers Fairs when recruiting for my university ringing society, when asked what Change Ringing is about, we answer “We ring church bells” followed by a quick “it’s a secular activity and you don’t have to be a Christian” when you see their interest plummet upon the mention of the word “church”. In simple terms, ringing as a service doesn’t sell, even to members of the Christian Union. Christians and many non-Christians will understand the religious aspect of ringing because we do it in churches and we ring for services. However, mentions of religion put others off. Therefore, omitting overt mentions of religion and service would appear to be the best overall strategy.
  • Peal ringing decline
    Lots of statistics and charts showing the decline in peal ringing since about 1980. The only charts which are showing an increase are the average number of peals per peal ringer, the average age of peal ringers, and the percentage of peal ringers who only ring one.Simon Linford

    Well, from the sound of those statistics, it seems to me like peal ringing is becoming more concentrated amongst a shrinking pool of people. Of course, this means that there are fewer opportunities to progress into peal ringing, worsening the cycle. However, a fair few university societies have avid peal ringers in their number, sometimes enough for an entirely resident band. So all is not lost (yet).

    So the big question is, does it matter?Simon Linford

    What do you get out of ringing peals? What does the exercise get out of peal ringing? (these are questions for the whole class :D)

    If, say, it is the notion of an extended performance or acquiring the skills needed to ring continuously for a longer period of time, is that already covered by QPs?
  • Acknowledging Long Service in territorial Associations/Guilds/Societies
    I have been involved in membership matters from old students' associations to railway preservation societies, and life memberships do cause problems.

    When societies are wound up, life members get upset that they are losing their 'investment'. Let's say the Anytown & District Guild wants to merge with the Countyshire Association, as the two societies no longer have critical mass individually. However, many of the life members are life members of both associations, but no longer derive the benefit of being life members of both societies. Likewise, if a Direct Membership Organisation was introduced, there would be no way to equitably transfer life memberships should any particular association decide to call it a day.

    Often, the loss of annual fees causes a severe monetary loss for the society. For many years, a (non-ringing) society I am a member of offered life membership for £300, accounted for as £15 per year over 20 years as opposed to £20 per year plus fee increases. Those who purchased it for £300 are 'paying' their last £15 this year; meanwhile, new members now pay £43 annually (for various good reasons). In another society I'm a member of, they coughed up something ridiculous in 1972 like 50p, and haven't paid since. Life membership probably makes sense if they are past retirement age and it's a decent lump sum, but otherwise it causes nothing but grief financially.

    Since people are more likely to move from of a society area much more often now than was the case decades ago when most society rules were written, is length of membership the point that should be acknowledged or the contribution that someone has made to the society?Alison Hodge

    I imagine this will increasingly become an issue, especially for those who have been ringing since they were young. I can't justify five guild memberships, so I flit between guilds as needed. I don't think I will ever qualify under continuous or even discontinuous membership rules!

    How on earth do you keep track of them??Steph Pendlebury

    We have a similar issue at the Leeds University Society. All persons who have held any sort of membership automatically becomes an honorary life member as per our constitution. We don't hold any constitutions from before the 1990s but the provision probably goes some way back. We have no list of such members, so our return for the Central Council is based on our alumni mailing list, which is only probably 1% of the possible total members. Simply put, we can't keep track of them and if someone turns up and wishes to exercise the privileges of an honorary life member, the young adult who has been in the society for less than a year, potentially, will have no choice but to afford them said privileges.
  • Don’t waste my time (RW article)
    We should … be more selective and weed out those unlikely to make the grade at an early stage, and use the time saved to bring on the ones we keep.

    I think Philip Gorrod's rather harsh approach is probably not the most appropriate solution for most towers. It is necessary to prioritise - perhaps think about it in terms of opportunity cost.

    Continuing to teach one rather struggling learner versus:

    • focusing on the more able learners to give them the support they need
    • getting others to plain hunt
    • mentoring an aspiring ringing teacher
    • helping on a ringing course
    • teaching others to be steeple-keepers
    • helping with the activities of the local guild, the Central Council, ART etc.
    • organising a ringing tour for the band
    • helping the band prepare for a striking competition
    • your own personal development or wellbeing (you need to look after yourself too!)

    ... etc. etc.

    Ditching learners is not needed. However, a 'strategic reallocation of resources' in management-speak may prove necessary in the event of limited resources. So one learner, and they're struggling? You can probably keep going with them. But if you're doing everything in your tower/area already, then it is probably time to consider what would be best for your band, yourself, and ringing as a whole.
  • Don’t waste my time (RW article)
    For £100, I would be expecting weekly 1:1 sessions and a strong band to ring with! And that’s speaking as someone with a pretty decent financial position. Even beyond issues of affordability, I don’t think bellringing has £100-worth of enjoyment in the first year, at least for an up-front payment. The first year is spent not being able to ring with the rest of the band for some or all methods, and feeling a bit in the way. Depending on the band, there may or may not be a bit of a social life (pub, ringing tours, dinners etc.) but it is not a given. For young people, you may well not have anyone of your own age in the band, so it is not quite so socially-active from their perspective. I’m not saying it should be free, but we need to be realistic about what we have to offer.
  • Happy 2023
    Happy New Year, all! Need to be a bit more sober for my QP later today…
  • Services in church halls?
    It seems that bells may go the same way. Is there a similar body to that which I have described above which can act, at least, as a clearing point? Keeping a watching brief for wherever redundant rings may find a new home, and preferably an active notification policy for what and where is available, is needed.DRJA Dewar

    Sounds like the Keltek Trust to me. They seem to be doing quite a good job so far, but I suppose they can only deal with a certain volume given the level of demand. @Roger Booth's prediction of people trading their bells for nicer rings sounds interesting - it sounds like now is the time to work through your Dove's guide if you're a tower grabber who goes after "interesting" bells...
  • Services in church halls?
    Making the church more suitable for community use means that it will be heated and kept dry. A good alternative to selling it off. Getting back to the original issue of services in church halls, perhaps if the churches themselves were more flexible the churches could be retained as a combined hall and church, and flog off the new buildings?J Martin Rushton

    Our church had work in the last decade to allow its use for other events and make it easier to use for church purposes. Carpeting, pews, kitchen, toilets etc. Someone on the PCC told us that these days, it would have cost just shy of £1m. This was primarily cosmetic, with the structure being well-maintained and without serious defects. Costs for churches in needs of structural repairs will be higher still! Good luck getting that sort of money if you don't have a strong congregation. The new buildings tend to be more structurally-sound, easier to maintain and more suited to modern uses. When it comes to a toss-up between the church and the hall, economically it'll be the hall most times, even if the church holds more valuable. It is often taught in Christianity that the people and the word are more important than the building.

    Insofar as it relates to ringing, we have to be prepared for a considerable reduction in the number of towers. What are the implications of considerably fewer towers for recruitment and retention? Where are the opportunities for relocated rings of bells, or will many be lost?
  • Artificial intelligence- answer to ringing's challenges
    Impressive! We clearly don't need the forums - the AI can do it all for us :P