Tim & Jenny Sunter started to learn to ring with a single goal in mind – to get the bells at Brierley Hill, in the West Midlands, ringing again – a joint venture restarting a tower which they had discovered from local media, had become virtually silent.Tim & Jenny decided that they could help by learning to ring and an internet search put them in touch with Birmingham School of Bellringing, where they enrolled as students in March 2014.
Getting the bells at Brierley ringing again is exactly what Tim and Jenny have done.
Soon after they had learned to ring they made contact with the church leadership and the existing tower contact at Brierley Hill and began subtle negotiations that would lead to them becoming the keyholders and the nucleus of the new band at Brierley Hill at the end of 2016. They undertook a massive, but sympathetic clean-up of the ringing room, unearthing some amazing historical finds, including a 1950s box of washing powder! before holding their inaugural practice in early November 2016.
The first practice was well supported by friends from BSoBR, St Martin’s Guild and WDCRA. Since then, the practices have continued every Friday night and they have been able to ring for special services, weddings and civic events.
This was not the end of their ambition by any means – as soon as they had established the practices, they began to recruit and teach a band. Much of their recruitment came through social media with Tim’s witty and regular Tweets to the local community and a genuine interest from local people who responded saying how pleased they were to hear the bells ringing again. They soon had two or three learners signed up. At first they taught them with the help of BSoBR, enrolling their learners as students and paying for them out of their tower fund. In the meantime Tim set about learning to teach and completed both ART teaching modules. He has been involved with teaching two students to Level 1 and taught two students to both LtR Levels 1 and 2. I understand he is currently teaching two or three more recruits. Jenny runs the Friday night practices, organises bands for weddings and service ringing and acts as tower correspondent.
Tim and Jenny have achieved a huge amount in a relatively short space of time. They had a long-term goal and worked towards it by first, becoming “experts” themselves, secondly, by discovering and utilising the support of the ringing network in a sensitive and inclusive way and thirdly, by having an eye to the long-term future of their project by acquiring and utilising existing teaching and management skills to make it sustainable.
Tim has achieved LtR Level 5, LtR+ Doubles, LtR+ Triples, ART M1, ART M2F (full accreditation), M2C and Jenny has reached LtR Level 5.
Tim has a natural ability to put people at their ease. A Friday night practice at Brierley Hill inevitably ends with a visit to the pub and a pint and some pork scratchings. Asking Tim to help me with part of one of my presentations (with a student’s perspective of BSoBR) to an ART AGM was a masterstroke as he is perfectly at home addressing any audience, large or small. He has taken all aspects of learning to ring very seriously and since completing LtR, his achievements show a desire to continue his own progression.
Jenny has a quiet but determined approach to her ringing - the responsibility of running a tower has its’ demands; she runs a very good practice, and has also recently organised the repainting of the bell frame. Both Tim and Jenny display a remarkable sense of propriety. They have handled potentially tricky situations arising from their take-over of the running of Brierley Hill with sensitivity and delicacy.
Approach to learning, tutors and mentors
As students at BSoBR both Tim and Jenny were diligent and regular attenders. They progressed through all five Levels of LtR – Tim in just under three years and Jenny three and a half years. Since completing LtR, Tim has gone on to achieve two of the modules of LtR+, Doubles and Triples, and has completed both ART teaching modules, becoming a fully accredited teacher in November 2017.
During their time as students with BSoBR they joined the local band at Smethwick, regularly attending practices and service ringing. In spite of their new responsibilities at Brierley Hill they still maintain their support for Smethwick and other towers. In turn, they are supported at Brierley Hill by many of the people who, taught, mentored or were fellow students on their journey through Learning the Ropes. Similarly, after completing LtR with BSoBR, they have continued to support the School most weeks – Tim is now one of the tutors and Jenny has taken on an administration role at one of the Saturday towers.
Early on Tim and Jenny were encouraged to join their local Guild and both were elected to St Martin’s Guild in October 2014. Conscious of their prospective home tower affiliation, not long afterwards they became members of the WDCRA. Both Tim and Jenny have embraced the significance of membership of Ringing Associations and both have held office within the St Martin’s Guild – Tim serving for 3 years as PR Officer and Jenny is the current HJ Dinner Secretary.
Tim’s contribution as PR Officer led directly to an increase in local media publicity, securing radio and television coverage, and a healthy interaction on social media.
Jenny has achieved plenty, with several well-written articles about learning to ring, working towards a goal, the HJ Dinner and BSoBR Summer School, published in the St Martin’s Guild newsletters and the Ringing World.
Brierley Hill has hosted meetings and Striking Contests for both the WDCRA and St Martin’s Guild (entering a local band to boot).
Tim & Jenny will continue to build the band at Brierley Hill along with their continuing support and development of ringing at BSoBR in their current roles.