The Tower Handbook

8.6: Local ringing organisations

a: Why do local guilds and associations exist?

They provide a ringing community beyond the local church tower but with a coherent identity to which ringers can look for help, support, and challenge. They serve the church by promoting the ringing of bells for Christian worship and other appropriate occasions. Their objectives typically include encouraging service ringing, training ringers and the care and restoration of bells.

Many of our so called territorial societies emerged from the belfry reform movement of the late nineteenth century. They are mostly based on either county or diocesan areas. Others have been formed since as dioceses have been divided, or in response to local need. Many universities and colleges have their own association, reflecting the 'community' within the university. Members of some of the professions have also formed ringing societies.

b: What do guilds and associations do?

Most associations are divided into a number of branches or districts which form the main link with 'the ringer in the tower'. Their most universal and visible activities are regular district meetings (normally monthly). Anyone can attend and you can often ring things you may not have the opportunity to in your own tower. You are generally able to ring with more experienced ringers. Even if you come from a very active tower, you may still have the chance to do something different, and you will also meet people from other towers.

Many associations do far more than this, for example:

c: What are associations, guilds, branches, districts etc?

Some organisations call themselves 'guilds', some 'associations' and some 'societies'. A few of the older ones idiosyncratically call themselves 'youths'. They are essentially the same sort of body. Apart from the very small ones, most are split into units of between ten and thirty towers each, either called 'districts' or 'branches', but essentially the same. Most monthly or more regular events are run by the districts. They cover smaller, more manageable areas. Association events are normally limited to annual meetings, but they also run training courses, striking competitions, festivals, etc, as well as committee meetings, secretaries' meetings and the like to co-ordinate the activities of the districts. Many districts hold striking competitions (often heats for the association event) and some run training events.

d: How can I find out about my local association?

Ask someone in your tower. If there is one, read the newsletter when it comes to your tower. Keep an eye on your tower notice board for details of meetings or look in the notices section of The Ringing World. Contact the branch secretary (phone number in The Ringing World Diary). Go along to one of their meetings and talk to people.

e: How good must you be to join a ringing association?

You will be made most welcome whatever your current standard, providing you meet the membership requirements which are rarely onerous. In most cases, you only need to have progressed to ringing for services, but some require the ability to ring a simple method.

f: Should we support our local association?

Yes. This usually means supporting the local district. You will gain more from it than you might imagine, socially as well as in terms of ringing benefit. As you become more experienced, you will also be able to pass on your experience and help others. It is always a good idea to share expertise and socialise. Local association events can be good places to do this.

g: How can the association help us?

Your band can benefit by taking part in many of the activities listed above. Most associations will also try to help individual towers if there is a special need.

Remember that this help has to come from people in other towers, so be prepared to give as well as receive when you can.

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