Enticing back lapsed ringers

It’s surprising how many people you meet who “used to ring bells”, but who gave up some time ago due to life circumstances – perhaps they moved away, got a job, got married, or had a temporary physical problem (such as a bad shoulder) which meant they stopped ringing, then got out of the habit of going.

Very often people return to ringing once they have space in their lives to do so – perhaps their children have grown up, they find they are working less hours or they’re looking for a hobby which they can do for a bit of “me time”.

There are also a surprising amount of lapsed ringers who return to ringing through a sense of duty – having heard their local band ringing 4 bells out of 6 on practice nights, they realised that they could be useful. Although we don’t advocate recruitment messages such as “our team is struggling, we are desperate for ringers”, this approach does tend to resonate with lapsed ringers who decide that they really ought to turn up and help!

Hearing the bells is always an aid to recruitment but with lapsed ringers it can often be the thing that spurs them into action.

Making sure your team is easy to contact, ringing regularly (good quality ringing is always a great advert), open days, publicising your achievements and reporting on your ringing locally (newspapers, local radio, social media) all make your team accessible and keep the public aware of where to find you, including lapsed ringers.

Or why not try advertising a refresher course? Advertise a weekend’s ‘learn to ring’ course, with a special welcome to ex-ringers who might feel a bit rusty and welcome a few handling lessons to refresh their skills. Sometimes fear of looking stupid might be preventing them from turning up at their local tower, but going on a dedicated course for a bit of individual tuition might just give them the confidence to start again. Just as with someone who hasn’t driven a car for years, a few individual lessons might be much appreciated before they feel able to get behind the wheel again.

Seeing the bells rung at a wedding

One lady in her 40s who had last rung when she was at University attended a wedding where bells were being rung from the ground floor at the back of the Church. During a break in the ringing, she went to say hello to the ringers who of course invited her to ring a few rounds with them, still wearing her large hat as an amusing shot for the wedding photographs! Ringing for such a joyous occasion and being made so welcome meant she contacted her local band to start ringing again.

The passing reference to ringing

One of our ringers, a GP, found out about the bells because one of his patients who was learning to ring, went along to him complaining that he had hurt his shoulder due to practising his new hobby. Shortly afterwards, the GP joined our band. Another lapsed ringer happened to be walking past the church one day and heard the bells ringing, and came in to find out more. Another one went to a local wildlife spot to look at the ospreys, and there discovered an old friend of his, who is also a ringer, and who then told him about the bells.

The tower open day

One quiet gentleman attended an open day a few years ago because he was curious to see up inside the tower. Whilst there, he mentioned that he used to ring as a teenager, but that he had been “too stupid” to learn change ringing, so his old team had routinely given him the task of tenoring behind.

After a couple of years of this, he understandably became bored and drifted away. Nevertheless, now in his 60’s, he was persuaded to come along for a trial handling session with some other people he had got chatting with at the open day, and once there, he was full of questions about the method diagrams on the wall. It transpired that the band he had joined

as a youngster had never offered him any tuition further than handling and rounds, and their practices were primarily focused on their own method ringing, leaving their new recruit on the tenor. He had assumed they hadn’t bothered to teach him anything complicated as he was obviously “too thick”. Eighteen months after attending this open day, this ringer had not only re-learned to handle a bell, but had rung over 100 quarter peals, including methods like Oxford Treble Bob inside. His team wondered what kinds of advanced methods he would have been ringing, had anyone taught him properly forty years ago.

It was something I could do with my daughter

I am a lapsed ringer who has returned. I first started to ring with my father in the late 80’s at St Mary’s, Hendon and then at St Stephen’s,St Albans. I stopped ringing because of family life. When we got married the church we went to did not have bells and I did not have spare time to give the commitment to ring with starting a family. My daughter, whilst in the guides had a visit to St Peter’s church,Berkhamsted, as part of a badge and after that her and a friend started to learn to ring. When her friend started to give up, I restarted as it was something we could do together, and as St. Mary’s was now our family church we both started ringing there together. My wife consequently took up ringing (after getting some lessons from a silent auction at ourchurch) so it is now a family activity!

It helped me regain my confidence

I started ringing at about age 15 while I was at school. I stopped at around 20, when working and part-time college commitments and new friends drew me away. After suffering from anxiety and depression, a friend who had taken up ringing encouraged me to go along to a beginners' session to regain my confidence after about 35 years absence. It also helped to improve my health and encouraged me to go out and meet new people.

Why do lapsed ringers come back?

A small sample group of returning ringers gave the following responses. The most popular reasons first.

Sense of duty or feeling of guilt because they heard so few bells being rung in local tower

More time later in life once children older and wanted an activity for “me time”

A shared activity to enjoy as a family once children old enough

Meet new people and get out (health or moving to a new area)

Moved from an area with no ringing, back to somewhere where there was

Often people cited a number of factors all leading up to the decision to take up ringing again.

What's next?

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