The ART Award for Excellence in Recruitment or Retention

Highly Commended: Catherine Sturgess

Originally several of us were recruited via Ringing Remembers, some were returners who were needing confidence to resume and some were recruited by Catherine’s own enthusiasm and passion. When we could ring on real bells, we had lessons with Catherine twice a week and then she integrated us into the regular bands. When lockdown commenced we greatly missed our practices so Catherine set up a weekly practice using the amazing Ringing Room and Zoom to communicate. We used this as a way to keep in contact and motivated. We have some ringers who live alone and are considered vulnerable and the weekly practice helped us keep an eye on them, in a kind way.

Since lockdown, we originally met weekly then more practices have been added by Catherine as we have progressed. This has allowed us all to develop and grow, each at our own rate, without feeling pressured.We now meet up to three times weekly depending on ability; some people prefering to ring just once, whilst others are gluttons for punishment and ring three times. Several have also had the courage to join other bands.

As some of us could not ring in person in our home tower, when the rules relaxed to allow this, Catherine has been instrumental in getting us to ring, masked, socially distanced, in another tower. This gave us our confidence back that we would be able to pick up ‘real bell’ ringing again, when we are properly able to so do.

Catherine encourages and is inclusive of all abilities of learners, never tiring of repeating the same exercises or instructions over and over again. She gives close attention to everyone’s needs so that the sessions work for everyone. The fact that the learning band comes back week after week is a testament to her compassion and knowledge. That is not to say we don’t get pushed. Each practice ends with ‘homework’ to practise on Abel or Mobel. We are each encouraged to lead and plan sessions so we are developing other skills. We now ring many methods, are learning to splice, to call bobs and singles, to start and stop methods. All skills which will help us progress more quickly when we get back to the tower.

She provides help on a one-to-one basis in the tower, to work on our weaknesses. We are encouraged to study theory in more depth between sessions and provides a 24 hour helpline! If we email or text we get a quick response and she provides notes and methods online to support our practice. She helps encourage and retain novice ringers by ensuring we have fun so we are not nervous to make mistakes. Then there is the never-ending patience with those that struggle with technology.

She encourages the band to come up with their own suggestions and exercises and is willing to give anything a go – at least once. Ringing with eyes closed was particularly hilarious! From an outcomes perspective nearly all of us beginners are still ringing and progressing, with all ringers now calling at least a plain course and ringing methods inside.

She inspires and has developed our confidence, with ringers who were just learning Plain Bob Doubles in the tower, now ringing and calling touches of triples in Ringing Room. She has developed future leaders and succession planning by sharing the tower captain role and all learners have led at least one of the regular Monday sessions.

Latterly she has encouraged and recruited ringers to try hand bell ringing so that ringing for service can be done in a safe and socially distanced way. It truly is amazing that she has kept us all ringing during lockdown, retaining and recruiting, and along the way she is keeping us together and sane!

Catherine aspires for her ringers to progress and to ring beautifully. She has kept us progressing together for two years now; she has entered us in a couple of striking competitions and she and we leaners aspire to actually win one! To that aim we shall keep on practising, keep on supporting each other and aim to do Catherine proud.

Through Catherine, future leaders are being developed and all learners have led at least one of the regular Monday sessions developing skills as potential Tower Captains. That visiting grandchildren were encouraged to join in with in group practices has increased the possibility for more young ringers in the future.

Catherine has been brilliant at keeping us motivated during lockdown. Several of us would have stopped ringing and because we were beginners and some of us getting on in years, we would probably not have resumed ringing in the tower. She turns up to every practice, encouraging us all to develop further. Her enthusiasm and positivity has been amazing.

Sponsored by AbelSim

Winner: Laura Goodin

Highly Commended: Sonia Field

Highly Commended: Tom Hinks

Highly Commended: Catherine Sturgess

Nominated by: Judy Towns