The ART Award for Excellence in Recruitment or Retention

Highly Commended: Sonia Field

Sonia has been nominated for her work in the Middlesex Association, specifically with the eKenton ‘tower’.

Sonia was working with a group of recently recruited learners before lockdown began and was quick to start using Ringing Room in order to continue extending the ringing capabilities of this group and to keep them together through lockdown. She organised weekly Ringing Room practices supported by a monthly newsletter email with messaging in between. The Association Ringing Master was invited to join the practises and the group also joins Association activities like quizzes, talks and trainings

I am impressed with Sonia’s dedication to continuing to develop this group of learners by adapting quickly to Ringing Room and Zoom at the start of the lockdown. Many towers took time to start using technical and virtual solutions but Sonia was quick to see the opportunity and to ensure her group of learners were able to continue as a ringing community despite lockdown.

This group has therefore progressed to ringing methods never tried in the tower, but with good advice and learning style to ensure that these skills will translate, reasonably easily into the tower.

These ringers come from a variety of towers in the Western area of the Middlesex Association but they are now a community ringing together as ‘eKenton’ as well as having their own local tower connections.

Sonia has taken responsibility to drive forward recruitment and to offer retention support to inexperienced ringers in her geographical area. She has adapted quickly to Virtual ways of building a ringing community and maintaining progress for the ringers. Sonia uses fun activities and informal community activities as well as structured practices to keep the band motivated and progressing.

A key member of the group told me:

“Sonia has taken some of us from ringing rounds to confidently ringing Plain Bob Major – with bobs – Grandsire, St Simon’s, All Saints, St Martin’s etc.

Sonia has expanded our knowledge of how methods are constructed to help us understand and learn methods. She has also encouraged some of us to begin calling and think about conducting – all these are transferable skills to the physical tower.

Over the course of lockdown Sonia has held online practices involving 41 people, and there is a regular core group of 15 ringers who attend one or more of the twice weekly sessions she holds.

The age range of the people in the regular practice groups is from 17 to early 80s, and some of the taster groups have had younger teenagers. Some of her groups have been composed of non-ringers, and some of those now want to have a go in a real tower when it's possible.

Most importantly, I think, Sonia has kept people involved in ringing and still able to meet up with people regularly to practise, and improve.

This continuing setting aside of time for bell ringing means, I believe, that those of us involved with Sonia’s groups during lockdown will definitely return to our towers when we are able, to rejoin our usual practice nights, as we have been spending that time practising online, and return to Sunday service ringing, as again we have been online on Sunday mornings thought lockdown to ring virtually for services. We have not become accustomed to having that time to use for some other hobby. We also have some new skills which we are eager to try out and put to use at the end of a rope.”

One learner said:

“I’m thrilled to be a member of Sonia’s Ekenton, and in the real world, Harrow Weald band. We are both also part of a band in Ruislip. Without Sonia’s drive and enthusiasm I would have left ringing at the beginning of this year.

Having previously learnt to handle a bell and ring by rope-site using numbers of bell sequence, I was aware I was missing information and was struggling to find it. Sonia has kindly, patiently and with incredible dedication (along with, David, Dave, Chris, Alister) taught me (and the rest of the band) the theory of bell ringing.

Prior to lockdown I had just begun to ring with Sonia at Harrow Weald, having rung previously for two years at two other local towers in Hertfordshire. I was struggling to find the sound of the bells. I had no concept of bell place. No idea at all about course, after bells or circles of work. I had vaguely seen a blue line.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had the pleasure of ringing twice a week (online) since the start of the Covid crisis, once each with eKenton and Ruislip and we have service rung (virtually) on numerous Sundays.”

Another said:

“As a band we can now ring (in Ringing Room): Plain Bob Doubles, Minor, Triples, Major, (we are working on Royal) All Saints, St Simons Doubles, St Martins Bob Doubles. I’ve been learning to call Queens and back on six and eight bells. This has been a scream!

Personally I now understand place, sound, circles of work and am still working on course and after bells. Well you can’t get everything! Sonia has opened the door for my future in this beautiful art. I now feel inspired and happy to carry on. There’s so much more to learn.

I, like everyone can’t wait to get into the tower and get all that lot onto the ropes.

Words can’t emphasise enough her incredible organisation and her attention to detail. No one is left out, everyone gets the same support and attention to learning detail. She knows every one of her ringers, their ringing strengths and weaknesses and supports them all accordingly.

She deserves significant recognition and congratulations for blazing a path in how to teach and retain ringers both previously in the real ringing world and through these exceptionally difficult times.”

Sponsored by AbelSim


Winner: Laura Goodin

Highly Commended: Sonia Field, Tom Hinks and Catherine Sturgess

Nominated by: Lucy Chandhial