Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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The Wellesbourne Ringing Conference

It's rare that there is a National Bellringing Conference that's not the Central Council AGM. We are after all, usually far too busy spending our leisure time ringing. It's even rarer to find that the conference is only a few miles from home.

The Wellesbourne Conference "Change Ringing for the Future" was held on Saturday 12th November 2011 and given the location, given the subject and given that it was taking place on a Saturday, it was a given that I was going to attend and I was very pleased that I did.

Thankfully I was not alone. A conference of one is not much of a foundation on which to build any platform for progress. Just over 100 ringers with an eye to the future made Wellesbourne their home for the day and participated in a number of seminar sessions and presentations on the issues related to building Bellringing for the future.

It's unreasonable to expect one conference to come up with one lasting solution. The format of the day was great: maximising the input that each attendee was able to make and continual input on these matters is where the solution to our growth difficulty lies. Four seminars were scheduled for each delegate and I participated in:

What did I learn? Well, if I'm going to select my top three conference chatter points they'd be:

I'd just like to finish with a few ideas that were explored at the conference and a few that have occurred to me since.

"Strictly Come Bellringing" is not an immediate thought for a hit TV series but might be worth considering in one way, shape or form. TV exposure, preferably with well-known celebrities, could do for bellringing what "Strictly" has done for ballroom dancing. I can't help feeling the ballroom world would have had some concerns over the ageing of its participants before the arrival of "strictly" some years ago. A number of celebrities do ring so could we get some assistance here?

It wasn't quite celebrity endorsement, but the TV programme on Wednesday 7th December "Come Bellringing with Charles Hazelwood" gave us some tremendous coverage. (I'm sure I remember a TV programme of yesteryear called "Come Dancing"). Charles' enthusiasm, akin to Gareth Malone and his community choirs, is infectious and will encourage people to see the benefits of taking up an interest and not being put off by the nay-sayers. Was the key element here the fact that Charles Hazelwood knew absolutely nothing about church bell ringing and was therefore not afraid to suggest and try something new? Think what happens when you press on despite observing: "We've never done it like that before".

The conference message on branding and logos was pretty clear. We need a National Logo that is universally recognised. How that will impinge on the numerous guild and association logos is an interesting thought. Looks like we might need to prepare ourselves for a national logo competition?

Subsequent to the conference, I heard a very sad tale of a highly competent young ringer leaving university and attempting to engage with a local (highly competent) band. This has proved a significant challenge trying to break into an established band set in their practice routines. Our newly emerged, potential ringing leader of the future is now feeling pretty frustrated with being blocked from participation at the higher level in the tower. This failure to absorb "new people" is quite disturbing given that I believe, perhaps naively, that most tower captains attempt to accommodate all their ringers' needs during the course of the practice.

I expect we've all got our little pet schemes and ideas on how we can secure the future. As we are not operating in a centrally-controlled, hierarchical, disciplined and highly co-ordinated structure (at least I think we're not), we would appear to have some freedom to try out some ideas for ourselves.

PS - If it works, pass it on...

Keith Murphy -