Organising a successful open day


Aim to publicise your open day about four weeks prior to the actual event. Be clear about the purpose of the open day; you want to recruit some bell ringers. Opening your tower so that people can see the view from the top can result in hundreds of people visiting, but no new recruits.

Think hard about your message; how it will resonate with the general public and the type of person it will attract. Saying that you desperately need new ringers to keep the bells ringing will attract those with a high sense of community but who maybe are not too interested in learning methods. This may be just what your tower wants, but if not use a different message.

You need to convey the message that ringing is a vibrant and highly enjoyable pastime. Your message can be general or you can concentrate on a more specific theme which fits in with the culture and ambitions of your band. You could promote that it is challenging, team based, social or fun! Or you could promote the opportunities its gives to join in with social activities, travel around to other towers, ringing for community events and national occasions as well as maintaining a British tradition and providing a service to the Church.


Think about short talks, interesting exhibits, bellringing demonstration, have a go sessions, videos, photos and literature. Introduce them to members of the band whilst they are waiting so provide tea and cakes and have ringers mingling and answering questions about ringing. Check your plans out with a non-ringer, see what they think. You might want to use:

  • Static displays.
  • Laptop with video or slide show with a screen and projector.
  • Recruitment video ‘Bell Ringing – The Inside Story’.
  • CCTV cameras.
  • Simulator or ringing software demonstration.
  • Copies of the ART "Discovering Bell Ringing" booklet – you can sell these.
  • Show the learning pathway – LtR progress books. A display of Learning the Ropes certificates on the wall of the tower can inspire confidence in your teaching abilities.
  • Work out how and who is going to take email details and phone numbers. If a potential ringer is under 16, ask for a parent’s email as a contact.
  • Prepare any Information that people can take away from the open day in the form of a leaflet or A4 information sheet. Include ringing times and contact details, Twitter and Facebook groups and learn more web addresses, .

On the day

You need to convey the attitude that ringing is a vibrant and highly enjoyable pastime. It is challenging, team based, social and FUN! There are opportunities to join in with social activities, travel around to other towers, ring for community events and national occasions as well as maintaining a British tradition and providing a service to the Church.

Use people to their best effect

Some people will be more suited to meeting the public, some would prefer to stay in the background, making refreshments or demonstrating ringing.

Tours of the Tower

It is not practical in every tower, but if you have an easily accessible belfry, you can take people in small groups up the tower to see the bells. Have someone up there to give guided tours, tell them the ages and weights of the bells, answer questions, explain what the different parts of the bells are and how they work. If a bell is silenced, you can ensure everyone is standing well clear and give a signal to someone below who can turn the bell over a few times so that your visitors can see the movement of a bell as it turns on its wheel.

For many visitors, this is a real highlight! People often remark that the bells are much bigger than they thought they would be, very impressive and quite dramatic.

If you are running tower tours, organise these for set times and make them last 10-15 minutes maximum, or you can find that a constant stream of visitors up and down the belfry means it gets too crowded up there (which is not safe), and you never get a chance to close the belfry so that ringing demonstrations and teaching can take place.

Demonstration of Ringing

  • Make sure the ringing is good and quite short (3-4 minutes).
  • Make sure the ringing is attractive to those you wish to recruit. It’s no good to have all the demonstration ringers over 65 if you are trying to attract the under 30s. Likewise a group of teenagers ringing might seem daunting to mature recruits who could get the impression they might be ‘too old to learn this’. A mixture of age ranges and genders is ideal.
  • If the band does not sound good raising the bells in peal, raise them beforehand.

Having a go

Members of the public attending an open tower day usually want several things – to see the view from the roof, to see the bells, to climb up narrow, winding staircases and to make a big loud noise with a bell. They may leave feeling slightly disappointed if they haven’t made something go DONG.

Make sure you have competent ringing teachers around to help people have a go at backstrokes with assistance, to answer questions about learning to ring, to show them how to hold the tail end and give a basic tutorial on safety around bells.

If you have a large crowd or even a queue of people, having a set of handbells downstairs in the Church can keep people entertained and learning whilst they wait. A ringer who can show people how to ring rounds and call changes on handbells is already teaching them about ringing with others. By the time they get up into the ringing chamber, they’ll already be familiar with the concept of hand and backstroke, the idea of ringing rounds and that bells are numbered. A good start!


Email or phone within a couple of days of your open day and offer a taster or trial lesson at a convenient time to the possible recruit. Organise a specific date and time rather than just telling them to turn up on a practice night – because usually they don’t! Get them to bring a friend along if they wish, they might like to give it a try too. Consider how you will teach – plan for intensive teaching and at the taster session explain the teaching process, probable timetable and content of lessons.

Publicity after the event

If your open day has gone well, use photographs of the day (with people’s permission) and write up the event – get quotes from people, what did they think of the experience? Was bell ringing what they expected? This can be a good way of maintaining awareness of your team and your local paper or newsletter may be pleased to include it.

If you have people’s permission to use their photographs on Facebook, do post them up in a gallery and encourage them to tag themselves so that the pictures get shared on their timelines, and all their friends can see it (and hopefully want to come next time!)

In your after event publicity include plenty of information about how people can get in touch to still come along if they were unable to attend this time, or if you have another open day planned, tell them when it is so they can save the date!

A cautionary tale

On a recent open day at Marsworth, Bucks the extensive advertising and publicity had gone so well that over 250 people turned up to visit the tower during a two hour time slot. Due to the sheer overwhelming numbers of people, it became impossible to cater for demand and there was a long queue snaking out of the Church. People had arrived an hour early and dozens were waiting in the local pub asking ‘when is the tower open?’

Instead of doing brief tower tours interspersed by demonstrations of ringing, the bell team spent the whole afternoon trying to keep the impatient queue entertained and move them through the tower tour in groups. Nobody got to try out ringing, or even hear the bells rung. They spent lots of time on the tower roof taking photographs and enjoying the view.

Not a single person was recruited …


The Maids Moreton open day

Our open day visitor’s book showed us that all publicity channels had been effective and, indeed, nearly 80 people 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 was that the majority of visitors were from homes where they could hear the bells on Sundays and practice nights. 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.

Bob Christopher

Effectiveness of different publicity channels

As reported by those who attended the Maids Moreton open day

Leaflet through the door
Word of mouth 10
Leaflet in church 5
Local newspaper 4
Business Magazine
Leaflet in shop window 3
Can't remember 4

What's next?

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