Initiated by the Education Committee of the Central Council, this national conference was held on Saturday 12 November 2011 at Wellesbourne, Warwickshire to gather a wide range of varied, possibly controversial, ideas with a view to formulating a set of recommendations for consideration and action by the Central Council.
A particular focus was on how to attract and retain many more young people to ringing, and we intend to encourage as many young ringers as possible to contribute to the discussion.
Paul Flavell has provided us with an interesting account of the proceedings.
Change Ringing for the Future - a review of the Wellesbourne conference on 12 November
The Wellesbourne conference was conceived by the Central Council Education and Ringing Centres Committees and The Ringing Foundation, and masterminded and chaired by Elva Ainsworth. The conference was intended to bring together interested parties to discuss how the art of bell ringing could be secured for future generations and act as a catalyst and focus for action. There were approximately 115 delegates and speakers/helpers who enjoyed a stimulating day of discussion and ideas. All the speakers are renowned exponents of teaching ringing or other skills and the conference did not disappoint. Over 27 societies ringing societies were represented.
After opening comments from Elva and Kate Flavell (CC President) on the objectives of the conference, proceedings started by an address from Alison Hodge of the CC Ringing Trends Committee on the very real threat to the future of ringing if we do not recruit new young ringers. The stark facts are as follows
1914 1959 2008
Number of ringers in the UK 40-50,000 >41,000 <39,000
Alison asked if ringing (and the church) was keeping track with society. Society is global, 24/7, technology based. Other organisations such as Youth Hostels (property sale, refocus) and The Croquet Association (simpler game, player lifestyle) had rebranded themselves. It was vital that the CC and ringing changed the image of bell ringing to be more attractive to the public and recruit and retain new members.
The conference then broke into a number of seminars which were repeated several times to keep the
numbers to manageable levels and ensure everybody saw the seminars of their choice:
There was an excellent address from Rev Richard Crossland who asked whether the CC could consider the following – which could be eligible for government art/development funding - to demonstrate that bellringing is a beneficial activity for youngsters for following reasons:
Parents are happily taking their children to dancing lessons, piano lessons and paying for the privilege, because there are trained people with recognised qualifications and a formalised learning program. This should also apply to ringing.
The clear issue that kept being raised in the seminars is that there are no consistent standards for teaching in the country. Thus some people are taught to ring very well but others are taught badly who would have no chance of teaching good ringing in the future. It is essential to ‘train the trainers’ to a recognised standard, probably in the ringing centres or on specific courses. The difficulty is some tower captains could resent being told they had to take the training course; this would need careful handling at a local level.
The star of the show was a young ringer from Newcastle who made everybody laugh by his references to ‘dust and pensioners in the tower’ but he and other young ringers attending the conference made thoughtful remarks about how ringing could be more attractive to youngsters;
So what actions were proposed?
The findings of the conference should be reported back to local associations and a plan drawn up to implement this at local level.
Thanks were expressed to the organisers and speakers, and also to the Wellesbourne ringers for providing the excellent lunches and the superb facilities in the church hall.