Building good relationships with your local community

Anecdotal evidence suggests that non-ringers are missing the sound of bells. In the short term many towers remain silent as physical church services are suspended and it may be some time before we can return to ’normal’ ringing. So it’s a good idea to keep reminding our local communities of the presence of our bells and bell ringers. Hopefully it will then be less of a shock when we start making lots of noise again; and recruitment activities have a greater chance of success if there is awareness and appreciation of ringing and ringers among the wider community.

Raising the profile of ringing

So, how to raise the community profile of bell ringing, especially with current limitations? You may think that if ringing and tower open days are off limits, there’s nothing you can do. Not true! The following suggestions can either be actioned now, or actively planned in readiness to initiate them once restrictions are eased.

Write articles

For community and church magazines, and local papers.

Approach your local radio

For a promotional mention or interview. With many planned events and activities cancelled, local media will be more appreciative of interesting content and stories.

Publicise everything you do via Social Media

Set up a Facebook Page, Twitter feed, or Instagram to present short updates of any ringing activity you are engaged in to the public. Include pictures.

Encourage the younger members of your band to contribute. Link your tower’s social media presence to other community publicity, including both local newspapers and radio. A series of regular features may have more impact than a one-off article or post.

Update websites

When was your association/branch website last updated – is the most recent content last year’s news? Offer to help update it, write a news story or provide newer photos. Does your church website have an information page about the bells and the ringers? Are contact details up-to-date? Are photos recent?

Offer talks to local groups

Perhaps a history group or WI. Events could be held now via Zoom, which has excellent functionality for public presentations, and advertised online using Eventbrite, together with the social and traditional media channels mentioned above.

  • Despite there being no current physical ringing activity to showcase, you could describe how ringers are practising without tower bells. Take the opportunity to explain why the bells have been silent or sound different from usual.
  • Reflect on your ringing activities last year, or discuss what you’re looking forward to when ringing resumes. How do you plan to mark the return to ringing? Will you ring ‘open’ to celebrate, or half-muffled?
  • Some people will be interested in the historical or technical aspects of bells and ringing, but personal stories are more likely to have broader appeal; perhaps interview your band’s oldest, youngest or longest-serving members?
  • Incorporate photographs of a diverse group of smiling people all having a good time. Actual ringing is extremely difficult to photograph well, so include photos of people enjoying tea and cake, or sitting in a pretty churchyard.

Present a ‘virtual tower open day’

Using photos and videos of good sound quality (clips of ringing at your tower may be lurking on YouTube!). You can use the template slides and guidance notes available to download from the Central Council Recruitment and Retention resources webpage.

Participate in local events as a ringing group

Enter a team in pub quizzes, sponsored walks or bike rides, or the town pancake race. Are there online events that you could join? Remember to advertise your involvement!

In summary

Advertise and showcase ringing to its full in everything you do.

Promote a fun and fantastic hobby suitable for a diverse range of people. The most important thing is to come across as enthusiastic and friendly – that’s what people will remember.

Use as many of the above suggestions as possible to turn the effects of lock-down to your advantage. As restrictions are eased and people return to a ‘new normal’, they may have less time to consider taking up a new hobby. Tower bell ringing is likely to be one of the last activities that will be allowed to restart so it is important to retain, and build, good relationships with our local communities.

Engaging your stakeholders


Make a Ringing Room recording

This is a great way of showing your local community what you're doing when you can't ring your real bells. You can also add your recording to your local online church service and put ringing at the heart of your church community.

» Making your recording

A return to ringing flyer

Thanks to Helen Allton of the PDG for designing and sharing this flyer. Print on A5, which makes for a sensible size to post through letter boxes. It is a series of text boxes, so the text can be customised:

  • Paragraph 1, choose between “have not been able to ring” and “have not been able to ring fully.”
  • Dark blue box – date ringing will start, time of Sunday ringing, day and time of practice.
  • Bottom right had corner – website reference.

» Download flyer

From Twitter to the local radio

The local community really appreciated Tom Wareing's Easter performance on the Ellacombe chimes including this from Radio Somerset:

Great work out! We'd love to play a bit of this on local radio, BBC Somerset, on Monday morning's Breakfast Show - would you be free for a quick chat on the show too?

Next thing they were on local radio...