Decide WHAT you want your new ringers to do, therefore WHO you want to recruit, and act accordingly. You will have a much better chance of both attracting and retaining new ringers if you know what “makes them tick” and how this will fit with your band.
A varied group of people who come because they can hear the bells or know a ringer. Will therefore be motivated by the social side of ringing and the sense of service to the community.
Members of the church congregation often see bell ringing as a church and community duty and it’s always useful to have strong links to the church. They will always be there for Services (unless they are also in the choir, a Church Warden or Messy Church helper) however unless they “get the bug” they might not be too motivated by advanced method ringing. Will see the importance of “performance” and will strive for that.
Now, children divide opinion. There is no doubt that the vast majority of top-end bell ringers learned to ring as a child or at university, and most (but not all) adults don’t have the same ultimate potential. However, many towers find them frustrating to teach – they either move away to university and never come back or they find other hobbies and pastimes which are more interesting or “cool”. Acknowledge that times have changed and either adapt (school and young ringers’ clubs are thriving) or decide to do your bit for ringing by teaching any that pass through your doors but don’t target them specifically.
Requires vision, commitment and passion, but the results are extremely rewarding. Ignore those stereotypes of young people rejecting an “uncool” hobby and having too much choice to “stick at it” – great things are happening.
These are the bell ringing leaders of the future. Nurture them, train them and be proud of them. They won’t be there in three years time, but what you will have is a new intake every year. Unfortunately if you’re a local tower (rather than a university society) you will only see them for about 30 weeks of the year, and Sunday mornings could be a bit of a challenge sometimes.
Some towers see working-age adults as the ideal recruits. They are often married, settled, have a family in the village, kids at school or university and a job, no plans to move, old enough to show a commitment and bring along experience, intelligence, and yet are physically able enough to ring. And they can learn quickly.
This is another group that divides opinion; are they worth the effort when they take longer to teach, probably won’t become advanced method ringers and might have to give up because of ill health (well that’s what the sceptics say.) Whatever the truth (or not) of these statements, retirees do have the time to learn, the experience to create a team, and the professional skills and self-confidence to bring about change in ringing. Interesting!
Organising an evening of fun and varied activities in the tower and church can lead to a trickle of young people who ask to learn to ring. The adult leaders tell their friends and this brings in further requests, spreading the word among the more active children in the area.
The scheme definitely gets children into the tower and learning to ring, but how many of them continue ringing afterwards? Some definite successes but some participants will get their report book signed and leave the tower, never to return!
Families taught together are a ready-made support group. When one is finding the going tough, the other(s) can motivate them to continue. Often parents can be persuaded to start ringing when they are sitting in the ringing chamber watching their child being taught. Just be mindful of when they all go on holiday together – that’s a big hole in your band.
There are many lapsed ringers throughout the country. They may have given up ringing for a number of different reasons but these may no longer be relevant. Try and keep in touch with former members of the band who may have given up ringing for some reason. They can be ambassadors for you in the local community or might come back when circumstances change. Even if they don’t want to return to ringing themselves, they will support their children in learning to ring.
Maintain the profile of the band by publishing articles on Ringing Social Media and in the Ringing World. Also have an attractive website which emphasises different aspects of the band such as your ringing achievements and the social side.
If you want to create a service ringing band at your local tower, then you need loyal, public-spirited people who will turn up every week – nicely struck Call Changes would be a minimum expectation, but the ringing could be a lot more advanced. Sell yourself as a kind, friendly, supportive community.
If you want to produce ringers who can ring methods to a high standard then you need to focus on the few who have the aptitude to become really good ringers. In this case, sell bell ringing as a challenge – both intellectual and physical.
Information sheets that you can customise for your own towers.
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