The Armistice weekend has been a very special time for these happy bell ringing recruits from Greens Norton, Northamptonshire and surrounding villages. Following an open day at the end of June they signed up for lessons and have received an intensive programme of bell handling training following the ART Learning the Ropes scheme. On Saturday 10 November, inspired by the Ringing Remembers campaign, the learners, teachers and helpers met at Greens Norton church to take part in an hour of half-muffled ringing. All the new recruits rang in rounds or call changes. This was followed by the presentation of LtR Level 1 certificates by Rev Lulu Pelly, and a delicious lunch prepared by the Greens Norton ringers. Several of the group also took part in the 12.30pm ringing on Remembrance Sunday at Greens Norton, Bradden, Cold Higham or Pattishall.
And this is how it all began …
For some time, the PDG Towcester Branch committee had discussed the need for developing recruitment and training in the branch. In February we decided to appoint a recruitment and training sub-committee and out of the meetings of this small but enthusiastic group has come one of the biggest training initiatives in the Towcester Branch for many years.
With a good mix of skills and experience, including a recent recruitment drive at Maids Moreton, three ART teachers, and a keen LtR Level 5 ringer, it wasn’t long before plans were racing ahead for an Open Day at Greens Norton on 30 June. Helped by the Greens Norton ringers, lots of thought and planning went into the day and we assembled displays, model bells, books and information and an army of helpers.We ran the ART recruitment video in the church and made a Ringing Remembers display. We gave demonstrations in the tower, had a video link to the belfry and gave people a go at chiming a bell. Refreshments were served throughout the day. We were very thorough in getting everyone who visited to fill in a feedback form, giving their contact details if they wanted to learn. Over 30 people came of whom an amazing 10 people wanted to learn, ranging in age from 9 to 65!
And then the real work began! In the week following the open day all those interested in learning were contacted and offered a date for an introductory session where the bells were visited, safety rules explained, paperwork completed, and each learner given a taster lesson. Meanwhile, a team of six experienced ringers, all of whom had taught bell handling, were assembled. Ideally, those who hadn’t done so would have attended an ART M1 day course before they started teaching but we ran out of time! Instead we asked friend and ART Member Lesley Belcher to come along the day before we started teaching to give us some teaching tips, which proved to be a valuable refresher for us all.
Throughout August and September, we used Bradden and Cold Higham churches (easy going bells which we could leave tied) for intensive bell handling training. We offered one-to-one sessions morning and evening Monday to Thursday for nine weeks with the aim of giving each learner at least 8x1.5 hour sessions. We set up a shared spreadsheet to record comments after each one-to-one session so that the next teacher would be fully informed. We used slow motion video of the learners and teachers to help in correcting errors and illustrating good technique. Some of the ringers made rapid progress, attending two to three sessions a week in the early stages. Others have not been able to commit so much time, but everyone has remained enthusiastic.
The transition to ringing with others has required more head scratching. It was clear that ten learners turning up all at once to Greens Norton practice would benefit nobody! We are currently running two Foundation Skills practices a week at local towers, to supplement the regular practice night. This formula is working well alongside a few on-going handling sessions.
As teachers we have learned so much. Having a team of teachers has allowed us to offer intensive tuition, to support each other by sharing tips and experiences and has also enabled us to have some time off when needed.Inspired by our efforts we ran an ART Module 1 day course in October and six more branch members are now on the road to accreditation. The whole experience has been hard work but very rewarding and we have a great bunch of new ringing friends of whom we are extremely proud.
Margaret Bulleid, Pattishall