In 2017 myself and Giles Willson, both teachers at the Northampton Ringing Hub, attended the ART conference and listened to Mark Regan talk about engaging with your stakeholders. During the lunch break and on our journey home we discussed how inspiring we found this talk and how little we engage with the public. As an Hub we ring at 4 churches within the town centre, one of which is our teaching centre, and we do the usual thing of engaging with the churches we ring at, meetings with the vicars and contact with the church authorities etc but we do no engagement with the general public. This needed to change. We had a meeting of our tower captains and trainers and we floated the idea of working in conjunction with the County Council and running an adult education course in bell ringing. After much discussion, and taking on board what Graham Nabb said at the conference about enquiries to ART from the general public were about taster days, we decided the courses should be a one day introduction to bells and bell ringing covering history, music, science, maths and practical handling sessions.
Our next step was to contact the council and we had a meeting with one of the adult education team. They were pleased that we already had a basic plan for the day and we had risk assessments in place for the towers we ring at. We are lucky that our teaching tower has rooms available for theory sessions, and a coffee shop for lunch. We agreed to do a one day session in each of the three terms in which the adult education courses run. For these we were paid by the council, £15 an hour for the church room we used, this money was paid directly to the church, and £25 an hour for the tutor which goes into our Ringing Hub funds. Due to space in the belfry and ringing chamber and our ability to teach two people at a time, we limited numbers to a maximum of 10 learners per session and took bookings for the first two sessions through the council newsletter. These sessions were oversubscribed within a week and a waiting list had to be made. However, on the first session 7 people turned up and on the second 8 people, apparently it is common for some people not to turn up despite paying £60 each for the day, not including lunch!
The courses are run by Giles, an accredited Module 1 tutor, and myself, an accredited Module 1 and 2 tutor, mentor, assessor and workshop leader. We devised a PowerPoint presentation using an amalgamation of resources from the Central Council and ART as well as our joint knowledge and experience. We broke the day into theory and practical sessions interspersed with plenty of tea, coffee and biscuits. We have the facilities to accommodate people in the belfry safely so they can observe a bell ringing, however it is a small space so only four people can be in there at a time and the easiest and safest bell for them to see ringing is the tenor, this meant Giles had the enviable task of ringing the tenor up and down twice on each day! The practical sessions consisted of three sessions of bell handling – while we teach one person each, the others are practicing the hand ring exercise and tying the rope up on down bells; changes on handbells and in the belfry.
The aim of the days is to increase the general public’s awareness of bells and ringing, they were not specifically used as a recruitment tool. However, from the first day in October we gained two new learners and from the second day in March we gained five new learners, two of whom we directed to another teaching centre to learn as they are closer to them than us.
The days are hard work but they are very enjoyable, Giles and I get as much out of them as the students! We did learn a couple of valuable lesson on the first session! The first being to check the paperwork. It got to our start time of 9.30am and no one had arrived so we started to panic a bit that no-one would actually come, after 10 minutes we checked our paperwork only to discover the council had advertised the course as starting at 10am! The second lesson was to warn people that the tower will move when the tenor is rung up, they tend to panic otherwise!
We are running our third session in July and are already booked in to next years adult education programme.