The 2018 London Bell Ringing Summer School used as its role model the Summer School of the previous year, and the design and timetable followed a similar format. There were, however, two significant new features: the use of taster events to act as a filter for applicants, and pre-arranged follow-up sessions to provide continuing support for the students rather than just passing them over to towers immediately. The latter has developed into the London Bellringing School, which works alongside all the other London ringing societies in the support and training of ringers, particularly (at the moment) at the lower levels. It also reflected the desire of the Summer School organising team to provide a more continuous process of teaching compared to the batch process that a Summer School provides.
Initially, four fort-nightly sessions were arranged exclusively for the Summer School participants. The popularity – and the support from established ringers – meant that two further sessions were added on the end. These took place in the Autumn of 2018.
The organisers then took some time off before launching the Rounds & About sessions that have been taking place this year. These have been made available to a wider audience than just the Summer School students.Including Summer School students there were approximately twenty applications for places at the six fort-nightly sessions in January, February and March. Taking the Summer School students as the level we wish to support and looking at what we want to achieve with them, the sessions start with Rounds and then look at simple call changes, dodging, place-making and other basic ringing skills: hence “Rounds & About”. We expect the applicants to be ringing a bell on their own but we are prepared to help with residual handling problems which may be limiting their progress.
Given the demand – which we could not all meet at the Saturday sessions of Rounds & About – the applicants were divided into four groups. The first group, all from Ruislip, were given direct support at their own tower by arranging three dedicated Friday evening sessions in January with the help of Sonia Field, Christopher O’Mahony and James White. These proved to be very effective and a number of residual handling issues were ironed out. It is planned that continuing support will be given by a closer relationship between towers in that area, an initiative being led by Sonia. A second group of applicants from the Docklands group of towers has been receiving the equivalent of Rounds & About sessions from Louise Booth at local practices in Bermondsey and Limehouse. The third group of applicants are some of the Summer School students (and a few others) who have been receiving on-going support at the level of Rounds & About at special sessions at Pimlico (St Saviour) on Monday afternoons (and elsewhere), looked after by Stephanie Pattenden, Peter Blight and James White. This also overlaps with the ringing sessions for boys from Westminster School on a Monday which is part of the outreach programme associated with the restoration work at St Stephen’s Church, Westminster. Also led by Stephanie Pattenden this is supported by David Holdridge (and occasionally others) as well as by Peter Blight and James White.
The fourth group were the ones actually invited to the Saturday sessions of Rounds & About where Louise Booth leads the sessions dealing with handling issues and ringing exercises to move from rounds into changes.In December 2018 St Clement Danes was fitted with sensor equipment so that a simulator can be used to make the bell noises, and some of the sessions start with tied bells (typically the front six) but move on to the open bells, including ringing rounds on all ten. This provides an opportunity for those working on the activities in the “50 Ringing Things” scheme to ring a bell over one ton.
There is further demand for support at the Rounds & About stage so the London Bellringing School will continue after Easter with more sessions which will be advertised once the dates and venues have been arranged.