The ART Award for Excellence in Recruitment or Retention

Highly Commended: Bob Woods

Bob had Identified ringing shortfall across the ten towers on the Lizard and organised a training program to address this. See page 585

The short term objective was to produce a viable band at Wendron and longer term, to address the remaining towers poor numbers, with further training beyond 2022/23.

Initially many towers did not want to help, did not want to travel to assist other towers and did not want to be involved in training. Bob refused to take no for an answer, however, he had no-one local who could/would help him. There was some antagonism towards new learners in an established band. This area is also rural with poor road connections – it takes ages to get anywhere (and a lot of petrol).

For recruitment, Bob used local Facebook groups to attract new ringers. This was initially during covid so dates for starting training had to be continually deferred but using regular Facebook contact he maintained the interest of the group. He set up a specific Facebook group [} and a WhatsApp group to keep everyone informed. He took on the chairmanship of the Western District of the Truro DG to further this, and regularly puts articles in the local paper and District and Truro DG ringing magazines.

Development and succession planning has been a part of his programme. Some of these learners have showed ability to progress to offices within the district e.g., taking up Deanery Steward role and about to attend an ART training course. One of these is hoped to take on the role of Education Officer within the guild – a direct result of Bob’s mentoring and encouragement:

  • Due to upcoming surgery – he is putting people in place to ensure training continues as planned.
  • He has established links to the Rural Dean for the Lizard to ensure the church is on-board and involved.
  • Wendron #1 trained 10 ringers and all (except one who moved out of area – but continues to ring!) are still ringing. Wendron #2 has 12 learners and so far, 10 are continuing. Wendron was a silent tower – now it isn’t, and he's brought life into that little rural church. Other local towers are realising the benefit of Bob’s initiative. An additional benefit has been older ringers feeling useful in this endeavour, one 80-year-old says it feels great to be useful (as a helper). Trainer ringers who have recently attended ART courses have been able to hone their skills in this supportive environment. More ringers have been encouraged to participate in the ART training modules, spreading training across towers in this part of Cornwall. Bob and Wendron is talked about in amongst other things and joins in the following
  • Not accepting the status quo. Communication, communication and communication (and persuasion), and of course cake!
  • Bob was innovative in his use of social media. He calls himself a technical dinosaur, but managed Facebook with ease and flair. Group teaching hasn't been attempted in Cornwall in this way before – it has proved fun and effective.

Critical success factors included the careful choice of training tower, rota of trainers and also of ringing helpers. A social break mid-session to engender a feeling of belonging to a fun and supportive group…lots of coffee and cake! Also collaboration between key individuals across the guild, if Bob didn’t have the resource, the guild helped him get whatever he needed.

Achievements have really surpassed expectations with the successful training of the first cohort of learners leading to a waiting list and need for the second cohort and a third is planned. And importantly, the retention rate is exceptionally high.

Progress has been assessed simply by numbers of ringers initially trained and subsequent retention. Individual sessions are summarised and feedback given. Lesson plans are continually revised for progress. There’s no hanging around!

Lessons learned – don’t give up and despair! Even the most dire situations, with motivation, energy and huge mojo can turn recruitment around. It does however take time, so plan to avoid burnout. Get permissions ASAP for names and photographs in publications.

Bob set out himself to save the Lizard area. By his drive and personality, he has managed to make a huge difference to the numbers of new ringers and is continuing to do so. He has made others stop and think, if he can do it, actually, this thing that seemed impossible, isn't, maybe we can do it. The proof is the guild now has four teaching hubs, one in each district and has never been so coordinated before. This means M1 students have a route to accreditation if they desire in fun, supportive environments.

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Winner: Wensleydale Cluster

Highly Commended: Tom Farthing,

Bob Woods

Nominated by: Miranda Penhaligon