My involvement with St Mary’s, Lytchett Matravers’ tower began about seven years ago when I moved to Dorset, as member of ART’s Management Committee it was my ambition to increase awareness of ART and its activities within the County. Mainly in collaboration with Debbie, hosting teaching Modules coupled with her enthusiasm, we achieved the greatest, annual number of teaching accreditations of any region/county (see Lesley Belcher’s Article, RW, 16/23/30 Dec., 2022, p.1184).
In my 60+ years of ringing I have not met anyone with a greater commitment to the leadership role – she has been described as a 'force of nature' by one of her band; in a recent conversation with a member of ART management they observed "We need a Debbie in every County". Debbie’s commitment is for the long term, cosmologically speaking her approach is Continuous Creation rather than Big Bang.
The scope of her achievements and contributions is evident from the Tower Annual Reports, 2021 and 2022 in particular. Her work is recognised at Branch and Guild level, the wider ringing community and ART. The following is by no means a complete list of specifics:
Initially her objectives were for the local band to ring called changes well on all bells for Sunday services and to maximise retention of recruits. Post-pandemic this has changed to having a band that could ring Plain Bob Doubles well for services. The retention objective remains work in progress.
How best to manage and retain a large number of learners: being very organised; hard working; using the structured teaching-learning approach of LtR; making enough rope and theory time; encouraging a band member to become M1 & M2F accredited; use of computer and web based resources as effective management and training tools; knowing what’s achievable and makes each learner feel valued; creating a strong social bond amongst the band; delegating technical, admin, social responsibilities to other band members.
No experienced ringers: cultivates and encourages friends from other towers to regularly attend practices and contribute their technical knowledge, expertise and experience; extending her own ringing abilities; bespoke, in-house practical and theory training sessions; regular outings to other towers as ringing and social events, often inviting ringing friends from other towers; encourages attendance at Branch, Guild, ART training events; encourages participation in Branch events.
Retention and continuity during the Covid pandemic: Her implementation of a virtual based band network for training and socialising resulted in 100% retention, she also maintained the band’s strong links with St Mary’s church during this period.
Debbie’s success in the leadership role is based on her:
Debbie has been key in developing a team with a sound infra-structure; which is viable and self sustaining. The work-load is shared amongst 8 others taking on roles such as PCC liaison/Teaching/Simulator/Social Media/Tower Web-site/Doodle/Steeple Keeping/Minutes/Catering-Social/Librarian/Treasurer/Safeguarding/H&S). Two other band members are seen as a potential Tower Captain and a Ringing Master; this year she instigated a 3 monthly regime whereby she and her deputy alternate running practices. Continuity and succession are relevant issues as Debbie is asked to take on more commitments in the wider ringing community.
Engagement with the Church, village and community groups is very important with social events and presentations, these have proved beneficial in terms of managing projects, fund raising, PR, raising the profile of ringing and achieving a greater awareness of ringing locally.
Debbie attributes her success in maintaining a cohesive band to the involvement of all the other band members keeping it all together and willingly taking on roles and tasks. She also draws on help from other ringers and the Branch. Her original ambitions have been exceeded and her objectives are recalibrated as she gains more experience and the band progresses. Assessment of progress such as LtR Levels, 50 RT awards and Guild memberships are recorded in the Annual Tower Reports. Achievements are always celebrated with certificate presentations during Sunday services. During 2022: LtR - 7 x Level 1, 6 x Level 2, 2 x Level 3, 1 x Level 5; 50 RT - 2 x Bronze,1 x Silver; New Guild Members - 3. The key lessons Debbie says she has learnt as Tower Captain are continuous assessment is essential and keeping the number of ringers and learners manageable.
Despite her modest ringing ability and experience when she became Tower Captain Debbie has proved over a relatively short period of time to be an inspired, hard working and committed leader, respected by ringers far and wide and of all abilities. She is able to make strategic decisions whilst attending to detail and keeping the personal touch very much to the fore. Coupled with her communication and organisational skills she has produced a template for tower leadership that will be difficult to better.