Linda Garton of Campton, Bedfordshire, has a record of leadership in ringing in a wide variety of roles spread over 25+ years which is second to none. There are plenty of people who lead others, or who are designated as leaders by others, but relatively few manage to inspire them. However, Linda is an example of someone who can.
Linda learnt to ring at the age of 11 at Barton Seagrave, Northants and rang her first peal when 15. She benefited from learning as part of a young, very progressive band at Barton Seagrave, then probably the best local band at a 5 bell tower anywhere in the country, ringing multi-Spliced Doubles. Derek Sibson, also a member of this band, provided her with many of her early peal ringing opportunities, such that by the time she went to university in London in October 1979 she had rung 75 peals.
Following university, where she was part of what at the time was probably the strongest university society band ever, she became Master of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths 1990-1993. These were halcyon days for the SRCY which saw rapid expansion of membership, Society activity and peal ringing. Practices at that time, most weeks on 12 bells, were attended by 25-30 people of mixed ability. In reality these were very much ‘high end’, accompanied by the inevitable aspirational, interpersonal issues that go with the territory, but an ideal environment for cutting one’s managerial ‘teeth’. Results suggest she did that very well since the SRCY were placed 2nd, 2nd and 1st in National 12 bell contests during her 3 years as Master, so she clearly did a great job of maintaining and enhancing what is a very high standard of ringing.
From 1995 onwards she has developed a consistent focus on training and development, helping to build bands at Thriplow 1996-2001 and Campton 2001-2016/ongoing.
When in late 1995 the bells at Thriplow, Cambridgeshire were restored and augmented to a 6cwt six, we were invited to train a band and Linda took a leading role in that process. To teach bell handling quickly we set up two practice nights per week, with 3 shifts and 3 tutors from a team of other committed ringers from the area. We retained about 8 people, all of whom reached quarter peal standard, with 6 going on to ring peals. It was Linda’s inspirational leadership, whether teaching bell handling, providing one-on-one method ringing training, and providing the impetus to get them away from the local tower environment, to local practices or the Essex course, that pushed them forwards and enabled them to become competent method ringers.
Since 2001 she has rung at Campton, Bedfordshire. We arrived to find a very poor 7cwt five, in urgent need of restoration, and a weak, poorly run local band. Following a fundraising campaign from 2004-6, starting with THE BIG RING, a new 7cwt Taylor eight was dedicated on July 1 2007. We struggled with the launch event, both content and name, but THE BIG RING was Linda’s idea and off the wall by normal standards! We raised £1700 because the event was inclusive, appealing to both established and new Campton ringers and also those from the local area.
The results at Campton have been impressive. We attract regular visitors on Tuesday practice night which is run by Linda, some to assist, some to benefit. We have a thriving local band, most of whom Linda and I have taught to ring, and the bells are rung for service every Sunday. We have an 8 year old in the band who has been ringing for 16 months, is just starting change ringing and has joined the Bedfordshire Association as its youngest ever member, a proud day for her. Her mum is a returner who wanted her daughter to learn at Campton.
Since its inception in 2007 Linda has run the Bedfordshire Young Ringers group, which operates as a dedicated activity for young ringers within the Bedfordshire Association’s wider remit. For the first few years this comprised an event (with tower and handbell ringing and lots of cake!) once a year. However, since 2013 there has been a monthly 4th Sunday afternoon practice, usually at one of the lighter 8’s in the county, plus occasional outings, regularly attended by 20-25 young ringers and 15 adult helpers and mentors. The pinnacle of this activity is the success of Bedfordshire Young Ringers teams in the RWNYC. We have entered every contest from 2011 to 2016 and have won the contest in 2013 (York), 2014 (Worcester), 2015 (Oxford) and 2016 (London). The team has changed over this time but a major strengthening factor for the group has been that four of the team have rung in all four winning teams, with several others taking part in more than one winning team. Linda’s inspirational leadership has played a huge part in this success.
In 2015 Linda was appointed by the RW Board as organiser of the RWNYC. As organiser and the key point of contact she inspires the committed team leaders who work so hard at organising and leading the teams. Her motivation and support resulted in a record 24 teams of 8 taking part in 2016, plus supporters, plus host tower volunteers, c400 people in total. As organiser of the RWNYC, Linda is a member the RW board and in 2016 was also elected as a CCCBR representative for the Bedfordshire Association.
In addition to the above, 2 years ago she identified a gap in training opportunities within the District so set up and runs second Saturday morning training sessions for district members and as from February 2017 she will be coordinating additional local training activities at the newly established Biggleswade Ringing Centre. She also runs a monthly 12 bell Practice at Bedford, the aim of which is to provide opportunities for members of the Association to progress onto higher numbers. Bedfordshire Young Ringers have been key, though not the sole, beneficiaries of this.
The Thriplow and Campton projects, and her more recent work leading Bedfordshire Young Ringers and organising the Ringing World National Youth Contests since 2015, plus the other training events and practices that she runs, all provide examples of Linda’s inspirational leadership.
As a seasoned peal ringer (over 2000, with over 500 on 12 bells) she has the ability and experience to perform at every level, experience she is keen to pass on. More important to her these days is her focus on training and developing others and to this end she has rung in the first peals of 44 people, playing a major teaching or mentoring role for 17 of these ringers, something she values very highly, and which is now her key priority. Linda directly assisted/rang with 12 of the 15 Bedfordshire ringers who were part of the FirstPeal2015 initiative, be it through Bedfordshire Young Ringers, Campton band activity/visitors to Campton.
Linda’s 21 years teaching experience in a teaching career that took her from probationary Geography teacher to Head of Department through to Head of Humanities gave her experience of the various elements of leadership in education, such as planning, organization, managing others and communication.
Linda displays a high level of commitment to ringing and she has a consistent record of success. Although many strands of activity have already been covered, the following three key areas are those where Linda has demonstrated truly inspirational leadership skills and are the focus of this nomination.
Running local band practices at Campton
Linda has run the weekly Campton Practice and Sunday ringing for 12 years and has built up thriving local band, with 12 local ringers, age range 8-80. Six of the band have now rung peals and the first-ever local band peal at Campton, including mother, son (first peal) and daughter, was rung in December 2016. As a local band we can now ring up to PB Triples, and Linda’s next target is a local band peal of this in 2017.
We get regular visitors and we are recognised locally as THE tower to go to learn/progress. Much of this is down to the quality of Linda’s leadership at practices. It is not unusual to have up to 25 at a Tuesday night practices. There are about 10 learners from other towers who come along at least once a month, and one or two every week (ranging from rounds ringers needing help with handling, or those working towards Plain Bob Doubles.) We also have about half a dozen experienced ringers from other towers who come along every week to help and often say that they really enjoy coming along because the practices which Linda runs are fun and they can see real progress being made.
Bedfordshire Young Ringers (BYR)
Linda has led BYR to 4 consecutive wins in the RWNYC, entering the call change category until 2016, when the team rang. Rang. This really speaks for itself, and has been achieved through the enthusiastic, committed and inspirational leadership which Linda has shown, which motivates not only the young ringers, but also the adult mentors/parents who come along every month, and who know how much Linda values their support as she always tells them so.
None of the BYRs are “superstars” but their success has been achieved because Linda sets high (but realistic) expectations of the group and individuals, communicating these clearly, and encouraging a belief that they “can do”. At the start of each practice she asks each young ringer (and their mentor) what they been working on over the previous month and practices are carefully structured, with bands placed to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to consolidate or progress further. She has built a culture of commenting constructively on bell handling, ringing and striking during practices, whilst at the same time ensuring that practices are light hearted and fun.
Linda always recognises and celebrates progress and achievements made by members of the group during the previous month with a pause at some point during practice to announce “Well done to X who rang his/her first quarter of … “ (or whatever!) followed by a round of applause from their peers.
Organisation of the Ringing World National Youth Contest
In 2015 Linda became organiser of the RWNYC, by which time the contest had been running for 5 years. This key outward facing role has required her to make some strategic decisions about the future direction of the RWNYC to ensure that it can continue to accommodate an increasing number of applicants whilst maintaining the quality of the experience for everyone who participates. One of Linda’s first actions as organiser was therefore to conduct a review of the contest and set up a consultation process. This exercise involved all the teams, who were provided with some possible options going forward. These were discussed at a meeting at the Oxford contest in 2015. The outcome was changes to the competition’s format and some rule changes. As Linda said in a follow up article in the RW, ‘In particular it was really good that in all the discussions the emphasis was on inclusivity, with the prevalent view being that we do not want to create barriers, but to ensure that the RWNYC remains the fantastic and hugely enjoyable event that it has already become, with as many young ringers as possible able to participate.’ Throughout the process Linda demonstrated excellent negotiation and people management skills to bring the disparate group of team leaders, including some strong (and difficult!) characters to an agreed solution.
Enthusiasm: Linda exudes enthusiasm, and this is infectious. She celebrates achievements no matter how small, frequently deliver a high five, a noisy “whoop” or encouraging a round of applause when somebody achieves something for the first time. She points out achievements others wouldn’t notice e.g. “Do you realise that’s the first time we’ve rung Bob Doubles (or whatever) with an entirely Campton band on a Sunday”.
Empathy: Linda’s innate ability to understand how learners ‘tick’ and identify with them, as individuals and groups, is key to her inspirational leadership. She always seems to know what to say to encourage or to identify a particular problem which a learner might be facing and finds a way to overcome it.
Excellent communication and interpersonal skills at all levels perfected during her 22 years as a comprehensive school teacher and now as a Bishop’s PA.
Ability to ‘Think out of the box’: Linda is used to planning and delivering activities that are enjoyable but that also challenge and develop young people. She quickly evaluates whether initiatives with groups or individual learners, be they are young ringers or adults, will work in the tower, and will adapt them if necessary. She is adept at thinking ‘out of the box’, quickly evaluating problems and working out how best to overcome them. All this helps improve the learner experience so hopefully they feel great and not frustrated about ringing!
Inclusivity: An example of this (and also thinking out of the box) was the “Firsts Day”.
Commitment: As a successful teacher she is committed and used to delivering week after week. Learners know that they are valued no matter what their ability and that Linda cares about their progress and they reciprocate this commitment.
Fairness: In a practice situation Linda is seen by all as being fair to all. She endeavours to meet all individual needs irrespective of numbers present and if she feels she has failed to do this she will quietly apologise to the individuals concerned, her idea of being scrupulously fair.
Negotiation and people management skills: see RWNYC above.
Valuing team members is key to building and sustaining a team, and ways in which Linda does this have already been mentioned.
In terms of succession planning, the BYR has two capable deputies when Linda is not there and Linda encourages the young ringers themselves to run ringing, particularly on outings, and mentors them whilst they do so to give them an understanding of how to run a good practice. At Campton, again there are others who rung the ringing when Linda isn’t there, and a target for the coming year is to encourage others to do the ART teaching modules.
Firsts Day: Bedfordshire’s activity around the ‘FirstPeal2015’ anniversary on 3 May demonstrated Linda’s inspirational leadership. Linda took the Central Council theme of ‘First’ and adapted it to make it more inclusive and suitable for our purposes. We had a day of firsts: peals (3 firsts) and quarter peals (2 firsts) and 4 assorted other firsts (calling call changes, PH in 5, course of PB doubles) followed by lots of pizza! Following a write up of the “Firsts Day” in the RW, Linda was contacted by Viv Nobbs, Master of the W&P who subsequently used Linda’s idea and organised a very successful “Firsts Fortnight” in her own Guild.
Peter Jasper – assists Linda in running the contest
Linda has been at the helm of the Bedfordshire Young Ringers since its inception for the first Ringing World National Youth Competition in 2010. Following that inaugural competition, where Bedfordshire came 5th out of 12 teams, under her guidance, the Bedfordshire Young Ringers have continued to flourish and have now won the competition an unparalleled 4 times.
In recent years she has taken over the huge task of organising the Ringing World National Youth Contest itself and has seen it grow to be the second largest ringing competition by number of competitors after the National 12 Bell. Last year alone, there were 24 teams represented in London for the competition.
However, more than this, she has helped to inspire the setting up of many other Young Ringers teams in other branches and guilds across the country based upon similar lines to the Bedfordshire Young Ringers.
I wholeheartedly support her to be recognised for this exceptional contribution to the Exercise which will, through her inspirational leadership provide benefits for ringing for many, many years to come.
Anthony Smith – A supporter of BYR activity who assists at practices, 50+ years a member of the Bedfordshire Association
Linda exudes enthusiasm which passes on to those around her. When running the young people’s meetings they are well structured and each touch has a purpose, whether that be a personal milestone or group advancement.
She encourages people to give of their best whilst making sure they enjoy what they are doing. She gives leadership opportunities to those who wish for them, whilst giving guidance and not allowing them to flounder.
She encourages other experienced ringers to attend BYR meetings and involves them with her enthusiasm.
Clare, Charlotte and Henry Francis – Clare learnt to ring at Campton in 2010 and has rung several peals. She is also food and drink organiser at BYR monthly practices. Daughter Charlotte (13) and son Henry (12) have also rung peals.
Linda has taught us to ring from the very start and the time she has taken to teach us many skills is inspiring. She is extremely patient and makes the whole ringing experience interesting and fun. She is dedicated to helping us improve our overall ringing and shares her time so everybody gets an equal amount of practice with her.
I’m an older learner and mum of two young ringers to whom Linda has been an inspiration. She allows learners of all ages to progress at their own speed, making the whole experience enjoyable and doesn't make anyone feel inadequate or incapable.
With Linda there are no boundaries that are unbreakable. She has the patience of a saint and her bubbly personality makes each and every one of use want to come back for more and feel a part of the ringing community.
Ruth, Thomas and Isobel Monks – Ruth, Thomas (15) and Isobel (13) are regular BYR attenders. Linda arranged Thomas’ and Ruth’s first peal as part of the Firsts Day in May 2015. Thomas is at least a 4th generation ringer!
Linda has been a most encouraging bell ringing leader since we met her about three years ago. We have got to know Linda through the Bedfordshire Young Ringers and she has made Thomas and Isobel (and I) feel very welcome from day one.
Her passion and enthusiasm for bell ringing is infectious, and Linda is central to the development of so many of the Beds Young Ringers. She has taken the time to get to know each of the youngsters, and makes sure she leads bell ringing practices so that each one of them is 'stretched' to try new things, whilst supporting them along the way.
She leads the practices in such a way that all the youngsters feel included, whatever their ability, and she is very keen to develop the youngsters as bell ringing leaders of the future, by encouraging them to call touches or run practices themselves. She was instrumental in organising Thomas' first peal, calling on support of other bell ringing friends to ensure it was a great experience for him.
The Scott Family – The Scotts are the Vicar of Biggleswade’s family. Alice is 20, Clarrie is 17, Kate is mum and Guy is the Vicar.
Message from Alice: "Linda has endless energy and an infectious laugh which puts everyone at ease. She is always willing to help and provides opportunities for people to achieve the 'next step' in a supportive and encouraging way."
Message from Clarrie: "Linda makes the difficult seem easy. She challenges you, but boosts your confidence, as well as being bubbly and fun."
Message from Kate: "We are very grateful to Linda for the support and friendship she has given to our girls. She is a big part of why they have stuck at ringing and achieved success at national level. One in particular might well have given up had it not been for Linda, the Bedfordshire Young Ringers ... and the cake!"
Message from Guy: "Linda's enthusiasm is infectious. She has that ability to encourage all in ringing. A very able and gifted ringer herself, she is willing to help those just beginning their ringing career. In addition, she is friendly and sociable."
Lizzie (18) and Caroline (16) Pawley – Lizzie (all) and Caroline (1) have rung in BYR winning teams in RWNYC.
In the few years that we’ve known Linda, we’ve seen first hand the incredible results good leadership can have on a band of ringers. What puts Linda in such a strong position is her innate ability to manage ringers of all abilities and make them all feel as though they are always improving.
There is always an opportunity for everyone to improve their ringing, which Linda gets us to strive for by having the most consistently positive outlook on ringing that we have ever seen. This enthusiasm as well as her band management makes her a role model, not just as a ringer but a leader whose success managing the Bedfordshire Young Ringers to a fourth successive win is just one of the many things reflected in her leadership.
Although it’s fabulous to be on the winning team, Linda makes the practices throughout the year so enjoyable that we’re excited to take part whatever the results.
Christine Williams, District Ringing Master
Linda is the Leader of our monthly District “older learners” practices. These sessions are extremely productive, their success being due to her enthusiastic, imaginative & innovative