I call it a recruitment exercise that went wrong. A tower open day generated 13 people who wanted to learn to ring. Whilst obviously a fantastic response, it also resulted in much scratching of heads in the planning meeting in the pub – how on earth were we going to capitalise on this bounty? The traditional way of teaching wasn’t going to work so we decided to do something completely different; we’d take intensive teaching to the extreme and commit to getting everyone up to ringing rounds on four within a month. This being a leap year February gave us 29 days!
Armed with two rings of bells (Stowe and Maids Moreton) and the availabilities of the new recruits (who committed 10 hours of their time during the month) two days of phone calls drummed up 16 bell handling teachers who could cover the 130 hours of teaching required. As well as people from North Bucks we had teachers coming from Towcester Branch, the Bedfordshire Association and the Chiltern Branch of the ODG.
In the end, every new ringer had 10.5 hours of one-on-one tuition arranged at two towers with 16 different teachers, using the Learning the Ropes scheme as a structure and a handover document. That’s 140 hours of teaching in a month!
How did it go? Everyone loved taking part – ART and non-ART teachers sharing tips and advice whilst teaching side by side. Ringers – all had a go at rounds on open bells at the end of the month. Six got their Level 1 then, whilst four more got theirs in the following 6 weeks – after more one-on-one tuition.
During the last week of the month bells were untied. Six of our learners could ring rounds on six unaided and during the following weeks further one-on-one sessions were arranged to help those who needed a bit longer to get the hang of it. Out of our thirteen recruits, one has decided that ringing is not for them whilst two others stopped at Easter – one had a serious health issue, the other was her friend. So a 75% retention rate for bell handling, but no one has left since.
What about the existing band? Whilst all this was going on, they extended Sunday Service ringing and concentrated on ringing extended touches then. Even now, Sunday Service ringing is by invitation and it is seen as an honour to be invited. I was going to offer QPs … but they found their own solution!
They run two practices a week at two towers (one of which was formerly silent) and they are able to ring at multiple towers for special services. Running both practices allows the keenies to have two practices a week and others to attend at least one practice, depending on their work and family schedules. But most importantly everyone is progressing and having lots of fun. The band is now at the Plain Hunt, covering stage. And they’ve just trained up two new ringers!
Lesley Belcher, RDL North Bucks Branch of the ODG