A Tale of Three Ringers - Learn to Ring in a Week

The Tower Captain’s Tale (Judith Frye)

Ringing Remembers seemed a good opportunity to attract more ringers. In Dunblane teaching more intensively has long been our aim but it is not always easy to achieve as it requires a lot of commitment on the part of both learners and teachers. Since several of the band are now retired, a five-day course towards the end of the school holidays was planned with the aim of attracting youngsters. “Learn to Ring in a Week” was advertised on the Cathedral website and local websites; information was sent to various youth organisations; the Boys Brigade visited the practice night; Facebook and Twitter were employed; and posters displayed all around the town.

Our advertising produced three very enthusiastic recruits. Since our ringing room does not have a great deal of space between bells, and the bells are quite heavy, this was a good-sized group.

To ensure that all the teachers were working to the same standards an ART Module1 Day Course was the ideal preparation. Since I am an ART Tutor this was easy to arrange just for our tower a few days beforehand.

A detailed plan ensured that we covered all aspects of training in four practical sessions per day. These were interspersed with informal sessions introducing listening skills, ringing jargon, “walking” plain hunt, handbells, quizzes and ringing with Abel.

The Teacher’s Tale (Eric)

The teachers had quite lengthy ringing careers but had recently committed to the ART Training Scheme. The Module 1 Day Course helped individuals not only with the theory and practise of teaching bell handling, but also to get a review of their own ringing technique and make a few changes.

The three learners had different learning styles and acknowledged the importance of one-to-one training throughout the week. They each progressed through the practical skills at different speeds, with them all able to achieve the same results on day 4: ringing separate back strokes and hand strokes in rounds. On Friday they managed a varied number of combined strokes in rounds, which was followed up with another day session the following week.

15-20 hours in the tower during the week and a comfortable informal training room close to the tower for discussion, presentations and group activities were invaluable for the trainees to get to know each other better and let them find out about the wider world of ringing.

Part of the enjoyment of the week came from the time spent up in the bells and also seeing the Ellacombe chiming mechanism – one of the trainees managed to ring a tune on this after a short demonstration. Ringing the bell in rounds at the end of the week was seen as both the highest achievement of the week, but also the most challenging – keeping control and finding the rhythm.

Everyone agreed the intensive week was a great way to learn, one of the trainees feeling quite certain they would not have stuck to it with months of short sessions. The teachers benefited from the group approach to training, being the instructor at times plus observer, mock trainee, video taker for feedback and to help unblock problems that were hindering progress at times.

The Recruits’ Tale

We were made to feel very welcome by our teachers, who would be giving up their time throughout the coming week to help us learn the ropes! The week started with a trip to the bell tower and included the all-important safety aspects, seeing the bells and being shown how it’s done. We also heard a little about the history of bell ringing here in Dunblane. None of us had any idea just how complicated ringing would be; it’s certainly not a case of yanking a rope and a bell would tunefully ring. Our teachers allowed us to progress at our own pace. There was an excellent balance of practical sessions in the tower and other activities in the Cathedral Hall. A lot of thought had obviously gone into the planning of these activities, all designed to reinforce the practical side but also a lot of fun. Clapping exercises to try and get the rhythm of rounds, listening to recordings of bells to try and figure out how many were ringing and using handbells, to name a few. The teachers had lots of clever ideas up their sleeves to ensure that learning was achievable and fun. Above all they were positive and patient - thank you.

The course title was “Learn to Ring in a Week” and we have managed this - just. We’ve also got much, much more from the experience. We’ve made new friends; bell ringers are extremely nice people. We thoroughly recommend bell ringing to anyone, of any age, who wants to learn.

“When I read about Learn to Ring in a Week for Armistice, I thought to myself ‘that is for me’ and quickly signed up for the course. How very tragic that more than 1400 bell ringers lost their lives during WW1. Reflecting on this and upon my love of the sound of tower bells I decided to try to learn myself. I was very enthusiastic before I started learning and despite some frustration when taking or letting out coils without ‘knitting’ them, setting the bell without an almighty thump and trying not to ring in unison with those on my right and left during rounds, I still am. I have certainly taken exercise and the gentle aches are rather welcome. I remain extremely keen to ring with others and continue to learn and master techniques.” Miranda

“I’m retired and moved to Dunblane a few months ago. I was looking for something different to do and saw the poster for the course on the Cathedral notice board. I talked myself in and out of it several times but decided to give it a go. Our teachers were great, so patient and enthusiastic. I have found it quite challenging both mentally and physically but persevered and am so pleased that I did. I’ve learnt a lot during this week, with so much more to learn. There is quite an age range between the three of us on this course, just highlighting that this really is for anyone of any age who is willing to learn. I hadn’t been aware of the Ringing Remembers Campaign before seeing the poster but feel privileged to have been part of it.” Jane

“I heard about bell ringing through my Scout Leader and immediately signed myself up. I found it so useful how patient and encouraging our teachers were. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. Surprisingly I was the only Scout that went for it and I’m definitely glad I did. This week has been so useful and an amazing experience, I’m definitely going to continue with this awesome skill. Living in Dunblane I have listened to the bells frequently, so to get the chance to ring them was so cool!” Molly

The Moral of the Story (Judith again)

Although we targetted our advertising at youngsters our recruits covered a wide age range, but our teachers surpassed that with an age span of more than 60 years! And it didn’t matter; we all made friends quickly.

In five days, our recruits were putting both strokes together with good style and reasonable bell control and they had managed some rounds with assistance. There is a little more work to do before they pass LtR Level 1, but their sense of achievement by the end of the week was immense. The smile on Molly’s face as she rang backstrokes on the 24-cwt tenor said it all.

Our band now has three new ringers who are very enthusiastic and so keen to progress that we have organised some more training sessions!

Our team of teachers have done a considerable amount towards their Module 1 accreditation and have benefited from putting the course skills straight into action. They found that team teaching really works; sharing ideas, teaching different ringers, watching others teach and having support on hand are invaluable.

It was a very successful week for recruits and teachers alike. And what have I learned? Teaching so intensively is brilliant - we’re already

Judith Frye