The Tower Handbook

9.1: Developing and sustaining a band

a: How can we create the right atmosphere in our tower?

It may just happen because of the personalities involved, but more usually it requires a little thought and effort. The officers can set the tone, but all of you can contribute. Always take the trouble to welcome people to the tower. Take an interest in the wishes and aspirations of other members of your band. Show you care about the quality of striking and set a good example as far as you are able. Offer to help people if asked. Help keep the ringing room looking smart and cheerful. This is all 'motherhood' stuff, but it makes a difference. There are drab towers where miserable looking ringers sit solemnly and silently between doing their duty in uninspired touches. Don't let your tower be one of them.

b: How can we keep the youngsters interested?

This can be a problem. Two or three of the same age learning together can keep each other company, but they may also find other things to do together, perhaps at the expense of ringing. The secret is to keep them busy, even when not ringing. Have them look at new methods and revise the ones they already ring. Let them stand with an experienced person ringing a method they know, to watch what is happening. Many youngsters like rewards. The Sherbourne Teaching Aids can be used for this, or a simple star and chart system.

c: How can we make sure adult ringers are happy?

Don't just focus on the youngsters. Keep adults busy too, but don't be overbearing. They too need to enjoy their ringing. Make sure they do something really well at least once in the practice. Mature learners generally want to understand more about what you want them to do, so spend time with them to explain what is required. They can do the same exercises as above, but they may feel progress charts are beneath them. Learning new skills can be more stressful for adults, and they need to feel wanted. They need plenty of talking and showing. The pub or coffee house after the practice can be a good place to do this, but do not neglect those who prefer not to go to a pub.

d: Should all our ringers be expected to progress?

We often assume that continuous progress is a good thing. In the early stages it is essential but there comes a point where most ringers are content with what they are ringing. Providing they are not complacent about striking or attendance, there is nothing wrong with this. But to remain healthy a band does need continual challenges. Some will find challenge from recruiting and training new ringers. Most bands can gain considerable collective satisfaction from doing new things occasionally.

You do not want to encourage an 'us and them' feeling in your band, so include all your ringers when you want to learn something new, but if some do not want to learn new methods, be accommodating and cater for their needs as well. You will have to balance the wishes of ringers who are keen to learn with those of the ones who are less keen, in the same way you must cater for people at several different stages of experience.

e: How rapidly should we bring on learners in their ringing?

Fast enough to maintain interest and momentum, but beware of pushing them on before they have adequately mastered the current stage. If you do, then subsequent stages are likely to be slower or unsatisfactory. You can start teaching theory before it is needed (see below). But some people move to method ringing before they have really mastered bell control and as a result take ages supposedly 'learning' plain hunting or Plain Bob. Break things down into as many small stages as possible. It makes progress more visible and more certain. See section 11.1.

This is good general advice, but be flexible. Individual ringers respond differently, and the same person will respond differently on different occasions. You must judge between the benefit of 'giving a taste of what is to come' and the possible demoralisation of 'pushing beyond his or her limits'.

f: When should we teach the theory of ringing?

Quite early as long as you concentrate on general principles rather than trying to teach a lot of methods people are not yet ready to ring. Remember that the best progress is made when they spend quite a lot of time ringing within their limits consolidating their skills as well as being pushed up to the limit to extend them. Encourage them to apply the theory by standing behind people, rather than either rushing prematurely into doing it themselves or just abandoning it so they feel they have wasted their time.

g: What is a touch book?

A book in which you record notable touches. It can be effective for stimulating interest, but don't record every touch, just those worthy of note (well struck pieces, firsts, good efforts, no mistakes). You can think of other reasons so long as there has been significant merit in the ringing. You can involve the ringers by putting it to the vote - 'Should that go in the book?' You may get an interesting response.

h: Do we need more than one teacher?

Yes. What if the one teacher was suddenly not available? Involve other members of your band in teaching. Let them learn by working with your experienced teachers. Perhaps encourage them to attend a course on teaching ringing. See also section 11.2.

i: Should we have just one conductor in the band?

No. What happens if he or she is absent? Your band will be healthier if more people can conduct. Learning some elementary conducting should help your ringers to ring methods more reliably, even when they are not conducting. Simple conducting should be within everyone's grasp, so encourage any or all of your members to learn to call. Let them start with call changes and work upwards as they become more confident. See also sections 11.12, 12.3 and 13.11, and Will you call a touch please, Bob. Information on what to call is in eg The Ringing World Diary, Standard 70.

j: How can we help all of the band to develop good striking?

Striking should be a respectable thing to talk about not a taboo. Encourage your conductors to take note of the striking.

Specific instructions are more helpful during the touch when there is the opportunity for people to correct the problems, but general comments about the overall quality (good or bad) or advice on handling related striking problems are best given afterwards. This may come from the conductor or the ringing master (or tower captain).

Entering striking competitions also helps you to focus on improving your striking as a collective effort. See section 8.8.

k: How can we make sure everyone feels wanted?

Remember that other members of the band may not see things from the same perspective as you. It is easy to take people for granted when you are busily involved in the tower's affairs. Ringing can become an antisocial activity for those on the periphery. During the ringing they are expected not to talk. Between the ringing there is little said apart from arranging the next touch. After service ringing most people rush down into the service. After practice many rush round to the pub.

Make the time to talk to each other. Show that you appreciate other ringers' efforts. If you are in charge of a ringing session, thank people for coming. And if you are an ordinary ringer observing one of your officers' nerves fraying at the edges, don't just walk away, show you are grateful for the time and effort he or she puts in on your behalf. Ringing is voluntary and we all need to know our efforts are appreciated.

l: Can we make use of ringers' outside experience?

Yes! Each member of your band brings an added dimension, as well as his or her ringing skills. Members with teaching experience can obviously use it. If you teach them, they may be able to use the experience to help improve your teaching methods. Ringers with managerial, financial, engineering or other skills can be encouraged from an early stage to use them to help with appropriate aspects of running the tower, even before they have become proficient ringers.

m: How can we secure commitment from our ringers?

Commitment is the key to good attendance and long term retention, so it is important. Not all your ringers will be motivated by visions of progress in the long term, in fact most of them won't. They will be getting on with other aspects of their lives. If they stop to think about it at all (which they probably won't) many would assume that their ringing would go on much as it is now.

The members of your band will be motivated by different things. Some will see it as a service, some as a challenge, others as stimulation. Some will be social animals while others are loners. The differences do not matter. What does matter is that you can turn their motivation into commitment. The survival and health of your band depends on generating commitment from each of you that will keep you going when the motivation wanes and be strong enough to compete with outside attractions.

Whatever our individual motivations, most of us respond to feeling we are doing something well, feeling we are making a useful contribution and feeling we are appreciated.

Try to make your ringing sessions friendly and enjoyable. If possible, help all your ringers to gain satisfaction form their ringing week by week. Try always to have some targets, or some activity lined up for next week, so there is always something, however modest, to look forward to. Talk to each other and be sensitive to each others' needs. Try to be positive about things.

PreviousPrevious  Sheet  NextNext

Currently hosted on