The Nottingham University Society of Change Ringers (NUSCR) are based in and around Nottingham, with the Society tower, All Saints’, situated a short walk from the City Centre. The society was one of the first societies to be formed at the university; it has been going strong since 1958. The society is very well integrated with ringing in the local area, with practices at a couple of towers in the city centre (St Mary’s and St Peter’s) being run by NUSCR alumni, and another tower in Beeston very well attended by our old and current students alike.This allows us to get help with ringing when we are in need of numbers for things such as quarter peals, tours, or even practices on occasion if necessary. The society is very active, with about 12 current students, along with a few more who graduated in the last few years, from both Nottingham Trent and The University of Nottingham regularly attending society practices and social events. There are also quite a few (too many for me to remember) alumni members in the local area, along with many other alumni who we see at larger NUSCR events such as the yearly anniversary dinner.
This year in NUSCR we have had a fantastic influx of student members. At our first practice of the academic year in September we filled the ringing chamber, with more than ten brand new people up the tower! We welcomed a good mix of some who could already ring and some who had never seen, or in some cases even heard of, ringing before. Over the next few weeks only two of those decided ringing wasn’t the right hobby for them, and we gained an extra one a few weeks later! This brought our total number of new members for this year up to 12, which is probably the best we’ve ever had! Our retention rates in NUSCR are high, both in ringers and non-ringers alike.
We like to put on lots of activities outside of regular practice nights to give our members a good time to socialise with the other student members, as we know the social side of things is very important for people as part of their university experience. I believe this helps us retain members, as it allows the society to be a good place to have a good time with new friends, as opposed to being only about the ringing. This means students aren’t forced to look elsewhere for friends to socialise with at weekends etc. Some of activities we have done include: nights out to ten-pin bowling, meals at members’ houses, regular ringing tours (we’ve had three NUSCR tours this academic year so far, which were all well attended by our new members), and of course evenings at pubs/bars in Nottingham. We also have a Secret Santa running at the moment and plans to go ice skating in January. All these activities help to create a friendly atmosphere for the society, allowing new members to quickly feel at home, which we believe is key for ensuring they stay a part of NUSCR.
While the social aspect of the society is important for us in NUSCR, we also realise that our focus is, of course, primarily about the ringing. We teach new people to ring every year. We take pride in our learners, doing our best to help them progress as well as we possibly can. Learners are prioritised at our society practice nights, and we aim to push them and get the most out of their abilities. Unfortunately, due to rules set in place by the church, we can’t provide any extra support or 1 on 1 sessions outside of practice nights at our home tower for the learners. However, thanks to our connections with ringers in the surrounding area, we are able to use the simulator at Beeston for the occasions where we think someone would particularly benefit from having a one on one teaching session, or an hour or so just ringing on their own.
We are making good progress with teaching our new members this year: many of those who are brand new to ringing can comfortably ring both strokes on their own and are settling into ringing in rounds by themselves. Those who were ringing grandsire/plain bob triples are now ringing touches of those two, along with bits of trebling to surprise, and one of them has started ringing surprise minor. I personally started learning to ring with NUSCR at the start of the last academic year (Sep 2016), and thanks to their teaching and with some help from a few of the other NUSCR-attended local practices am up to ringing spliced Surprise Major, which I attribute all to some of the incredibly helpful members of the society who pushed me along and guided me.
Much of our advertising for the society within the University happens at the freshers’ fair each year, where we aim to entice as many people as possible to come along and give it a go. This year, and in previous years, we have had an eye-catching stall with the help of a dumb bell hired from Derby DA. I helped out at our stall at the fair for both days this year, and we had load of people coming up to find out what it was and what we did. Again, with regards to when we can ring at All Saints’, we’d love to do more things such as tower open days (one was held recently at a tower in the city centre with, I believe, reasonable success). We also do the occasional bit of ringing for the University, for things such as the Carol Service at Christmas, which raises some awareness to the university students of what we do.
Social media is not a huge part of what we do at the minute, mainly being used to contact any ringers who are coming to Nottingham to study to ask them if they’re planning on joining NUSCR and let them know who to contact. We usually hear about these people through our alumni, people in the city we ring with, or members of the other university ringing societies who may have siblings/friends coming to the uni. There are also plans to start using the Twitter account we have once we nominate someone to do so at our upcoming AGM, allowing us to interact with other students, and we can go through the university/student’s union accounts to advertise any University related events we may be helping with, spreading word about the society more than we do now.
Personally, I believe the reason for the continued success of the society is a healthy balance of good quality ringing progression for the individuals who attend, and chilled out social events where people can relax a bit more and get to know those around them. Although most importantly is of course ensuring we continue what we are doing to attract more new and current ringers to join NUSCR!