The Maids Moreton open day

We all know through experience that responding to a survey can lead to all sorts of trouble; phone calls from over-enthusiastic wine salesmen, circulars from funeral pre-payment plan providers and all sorts of other unsolicited contact. The 2015 NBB Tower Census was no exception. How nice it was to have, at one of our practice nights last November, a visit from our Buckingham Deanery Ringing Development Leader. Even better, she joined us at The Wheatsheaf for a post-practice drink. Then, suddenly, the trouble started. “What are you proposing to do about the dwindling population of ringers in the Buckingham, Maids Moreton and Stowe consortium?” said she. But she had picked her moment and the drink was beginning to talk. “Not a lot – but perhaps we should” was the semi-sozzled reply.

With that we quickly resolved to hold an open day in the New Year, on the second Saturday of January, during which we could assess what interest in ringing there was amongst the local population. Maids Moreton, with its easy access, easy bells and brand spanking new kitchen and loo, was chosen and the great publicity machine ground into action. The main thrust was an A5 sized leaflet drop – we decided on 2000 – throughout Maids Moreton, Dadford (change here for Stowe) and parts of Buckingham. Some of the leaflets were held back and placed in pews before services.

We used Banana Print of Market Harborough who charged just under £70 including VAT and delivery. Ordered Thursday evening, despatched Friday afternoon and delivered Monday morning – nothing to complain about there! Our local paper has an ‘Around the Villages’ section and our village contact in Maids Moreton was only too happy to give our event a mention over several weeks before the big day. Our bi-monthly magazine full of adverts, called MK18, gave us a free entry on the ‘What’s On’ page for which we were most grateful. Of course the event was also announced in church.

For the big day we assembled a display in the church centred on the smart posters that the Branch owns. There were old photos, old books, a broken clapper, a stay, a rope – in fact anything we could lay our hands on. Up with the bells we installed four 100W light bulbs and a fairly inexpensive security camera and down in the church, at the other end of a long wire and pinched from a bell ringer’s bedroom, we had a television screen which gave a remarkably clear picture of the bells in action. Finally we prepared a visitors’ book and with this we captured addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and a note as to which publicity item had drawn in the visitor.

This book showed us that all the publicity channels had been effective and, indeed, nearly 80 people, including ringers and helpers, passed through the church that day. We opened shop at 10.00am and the first visitors arrived within seconds. Our last visitor arrived just 15 minutes before our 4.00pm closing and at no time during the day were we without visitors. What emerged from conversations was that the majority of visitors were from homes where they could hear the bells on Sundays and practice nights. Ample refreshments were available all day and visitors were invited up to the ringing floor in small groups of four or five where they were given a short talk, shown a model of a bell in frame and allowed to have a good tug at the ropes!

Very quickly after the Open Day all potential ringers were contacted and asked to confirm their interest and then training dates were offered and agreed. We now have 14 would-be ringers in concentrated training and who we hope will be able to ring on their own at practices from the beginning of March. So far it’s been great fun and we are so grateful to our RDL and the other qualified trainers who journey to us and who are providing so much help.

Bob Christopher, Maids Moreton

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