Acting Education Officer attends the ART Conference 2024

I have been teaching bell handling skills on and off for decades. So why would I need to attend the Association of Ringing Teachers conference?

As a person, I am a firm believer that if you can ever say you know everything and can learn nothing more….. well….lets just say I don’t believe in that!

When I saw the ART conference advertised, I felt this was a good opportunity to network with other ringing teachers and instructors, to hopefully come away feeling a sense of motivation, and perhaps even enjoy a social pint or two.

Roping Hayley Young into the trip, we set off for Harbury (Warwickshire) on Friday afternoon. It occurred to me on the journey it would be nice to get some ringing in having travelled all that way, and we warmly welcomed to Towcester practice night after our four hour drive, my thanks to the team there for an enjoyable practice night on their beautiful bells.

Saturday morning brought day one of the conference. A warm welcome from the chairman, followed by some very interesting talks and perspectives from guest speakers including Tina Stoecklin, Rev’d Max Drinkwater, Swaz Apter and Andrew Slade. I found particularly interesting the comments from Max on how we should and can maintain our excellent relationships with the Church.

After a quick coffee break, my first breakout session was with Sonia Field on how to keep the momentum going. What momentum I hear you ask? In this session, it was both individual ringers and bands themselves. Lots of new ideas generated to encourage closer team bonds and stronger community involvement. For example: can you rotate or take turns on who runs your practice night? Can you have certificates made for both ringers and non ringers who’s birthdays it is, dedicating a particular ring to them (no need for a QP etc, general ringing equally as valuable!) Can you thank and offer recognition to your team by giving them a year thank you certificate? All excellent food for thought. The takeaway from this session: strong leadership vital, a supportive team essential.

A very interesting discussion around teaching hubs was up next. We heard from a newly established hub on how things got started for them and how things are progressing. My immediate thoughts during and after the session was in relation to the fairly unique geography of our County. Towers are spread over vast distances, some are silent, some have difficulties in being able to teach anyone wanting to learn, some have no problems! The takeaway from the session did provide at least part of the solution – together we can do more! Your Guild is here to support you should you require it, and I would encourage you to reach out to us if you need any assistance.

Lunchtime! Lots of networking, chatting, banter and some sustenance ready to re-engage our brains for the afternoon.

A couple more breakout sessions; ideas on how to engage non-ringers; as expected, it is important to remember that bell ringers are generally an aging breed and we must try to encourage the next generation into the art. You cannot ignore the role that technology will play in this, as well as building good open relationships with our communities and the Church.

We also heard from Mark Sayers on how he started a band from scratch in 2021 who are all still ringing now, keeping their own church bells sounding out, as well as supporting other nearby towers. Hearing from Mark gave me a renewed appreciation of what Bob Woods has achieved in the West of our Guild.

The ART awards followed in the evening, and I send my congratulations to all the nominees, the highly commended and the winners of their categories. It was heart-warming and motivating to hear of such wonderful individuals and groups all over the country who are making a massive difference in their areas.

So, what have I come away which I think can help myself and others in the TDGR?

  • Renew efforts to build positive relationships with the Church, the congregation, and the wider community. Are you visible when ringing? If not, can you set up a TV feed to the bells in the Church? Offer an open day or tower visits? Can you speak on a Sunday morning to the congregation? Be featured on the Church’s social pages? Post on your local Facebook pages about bellringing? Remember, if you need help with any of this, please contact the Guild Officers if needed.
  • We must be welcoming – I don’t mean friendly, as I am sure we are all doing that already! This is more in relation to our environment. Is you tower clean? Uncluttered? Do you have interesting pictures, peal boards, diagrams etc for people to look at? Is It warm? Is there somewhere to sit? Some of these are more difficult to achieve than others, but it’s all good food for thought.
  • It takes a team: it’s all too easy to end feeling alone and solely responsible, especially for those in leadership positions in their towers. Remember, you are a team and try to avoid all pressure being on one person. Share the load – share the fun! And if you need help, ask your district or the Guild.
  • We know we must recruit; we know we must teach. For those of you who are perhaps feeling less confident in teaching a student from scratch, please do get in contact with me and we can talk about how we can help with that. For those of you who have perhaps completed an ART M1 course already; have you completed your logbooks? Have you been assessed and accredited? If you have not and wish to get this finished, please get in touch with me.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the ART conference this year and feel my attendance has benefitted me. I hope to see many of you soon at future district and Guild events.

As always, happy ringing!

Acting Education Officer.