I talk to quite a few people every week as part of my role as ART Chair – keen people, driven people, people who love ringing – and I’ve noticed a change in mood in recent weeks. People are becoming disheartened. The gung-ho spirit of the early months of lockdown which produced a flurry of technical innovation and activity is being replaced by a feeling that it will be a long time before “normal” ringing resumes and that a fair number of learners and older ringers won’t be returning. Even Ringing Room is palling for some people – it’s not the same as physical ringing.
I do believe there has been a real mood change and we should talk about it.
There are positives in the conversations I’ve had, though. The forced break from ringing has made some reflect on what is important in their lives and the role of ringing within it. They don’t want to give up ringing but are looking for a better balance – be it stopping peal ringing or stopping going to that awful practice where no-one learns anything – so they can concentrate on what they do like doing, including teaching. Supporting ringing in their tower and the people they ring with is still a priority for many and it is good to see the thought and activities going into keeping people together and planning for the future.
So, what do we do now? In the here and now we must carry on, working to retain existing ringers and planning for the best return to teaching that we can deliver. What’s the alternative?
Keep in contact with fellow ringers socially and continue other ringing related activities to keep bands and individuals motivated. ART are offering to teach ringing teachers how to use Ringing Room. It might not have been what you wanted at the beginning – after all technology is not for everyone – but sometimes needs must. We can give you the opportunity to learn how to use the technology before getting together with your band. If you haven’t got enough to set up a Ringing Room practice, then why not have a look at Ding – it allows you to assign an automated ringer to ring one or more bells if you’re short. And what about handbells? This can be taught online and then finessed in the garden. Quarter peals are now appearing on BellBoard with firsts for both new and experienced ringers who’ve never touched handbells before. We’re talking Plain Bob here, by the way, not Bristol Maximus. Again, we’re looking to resource and train people up in ringing handbells.
When it is time to teach again, we all need to be looking to move quickly, which requires a bit of planning and preparation.
First and foremost, as ringing teachers we each need to ensure that we (re-)start where we left off. After a long break from teaching we need to take time to remember what good teaching is – those little in-between steps, and alternative ways of teaching something. To help you, we are building online refresher courses for each of our teaching Modules and I’ve asked the ART Tutors to organise and run physical refresher courses when the time is right.
Recruitment and retention will be a priority so why not organise a recruitment and retention workshop in your local area. This shares good practice and ideas from around the country and you will build a personal plan fit for your unique local needs. You might already have read about the 10-point plan in the Ringing World, but if not, copies are available as part of the ART Recruitment and Retention resources. It is best to plan ahead for recruitment and retention so why not book an online version of the workshop now.
Finally, we are planning to run small, local day courses – Module 1 and Module 2 – as soon as possible after ringing practices resume. You might well feel more comfortable attending a course with ringers that you know (and trust) rather than travelling to a course and spending the day with strangers. We won’t be restricting the size of courses so if just a small group of you want to hold a course in your local area, that will be just fine.
So, why not contact ART to express an interest in a refresher course, a recruitment and retention workshop or a small Module 1 or Module 2 course. Together, we can plan as much as we can and then fix a date when we’re able. Let’s all work together to create a positive future for ringing.
Lesley Belcher - ART Chair