I have always believed that the ringers of Leeds University Society of Change Ringers are more than capable of ringing better, and a more varied repertoire. Their enthusiasm and dedication is apparent through extra-curricular events like the Freshers Fayre. How to transfer that enthusiasm into their ringing is the problem. The topic of how to improve striking has been brought up at many a committee meeting, and we still have not quite found the solution to the problem.
Reading through past AGM minutes, we discovered that a learning board had been introduced. The whiteboard in the tower is not used for listing forthcoming social events & birthdays as we thought, but for writing a plan of campaign for the evening. As LUSCR has a limited repertoire, we haven’t really needed the board. Still, time to start anew we thought, so, we cleaned the whiteboard!
Emails can swiftly be sent but people often do not check them for inaccuracy before hitting the send button. We are not all glued to our computer screens 24-7, so someone may not have received an email that they were expected too, meaning they have an excuse for not learning the method of the week.
On the wall at the tower, we have a laminated progress chart, with handling at the top, and conducting at the bottom. Every member of LUSCR has a marker (with spares for new-comers), positioned on the relevant box. This was designed to motivate people into progression and moving their marker down the page. To a certain extent this worked, but there was still a high amount of lethargy in the band.
Our next cunning idea was to set everyone a target to reach by Christmas. For the less advanced, this was simple (ringing plain hunt 10times in an evening was rather waring for the more advanced but they never complained) but finding something new for the advanced people to ring or call was a little more difficult. People have worked well towards their targets, and it has also helped me to run the practice with more focus.
Method of the week has been a continuing theme, adding the delights of Antelope, Reverse Canterbury, St Simon and St Martin to our repertoire. We emailed the method of the week to all LUSCR members in advance, but still no-one seemed to learn the method. Eventually, we changed it to method of the month. This worked well as people used the first two weeks to learn a plain course, and by the fourth week, touches were being rung perfectly. With our influx of new ringers, Method of the Week was abandoned as we did not have time to ring it. I was very aware that this meant the more advanced members of our band were not being stretched to the best of our abilities. After a quick pol at a ringing practice, most ringers said they would like to see a return of Method of the Month. Simple doubles and treble bob methods have enabled learners to perfect trebling and tenoring techniques so have something to offer everyone.
Our latest scheme has been to allocate everyone a ringing buddy. Each group has an advanced ringer, a middley ringer and a not so middley ringer! The idea is that everyone encourages everyone to learn and watch new things. Personally, this has helped me a lot, but success has depended on the group. Absentees have caused the rest of the group to suffer. The group scheme has not meant that people outside the group won’t help - it has just given everyone a specific focus. Through our experience, the middley ringers tended to stagnate most and only advance when they realised the learners were catching them up!
To improve our striking we tried a variety of methods. Grandsire doubles was always rung well, but we had a problem with Grandsire triples so we made the same band ring plain hunt on 8 to help with rhythm and rope sight. This seemed to help, although plain hunt was by no means struck perfectly!
We tried ringing rounds and calls on 8, with someone in the middle telling people when their striking was bad. There were mixed reactions to this as some members felt it may be a little intimidating, and others felt it really made people concentrate on where their bell was.
In a final attempt to get people to listen to their bell, we made everyone ring facing outwards, so they couldn’t see the bell that they were supposed to be following. Most of the band found ringing by ear alone very difficult, whether they were an advanced ringer or a novice. We got good feedback about this, but people feel that ringing like this every week may be detrimental.
As we have had several complaints about our bells being too noisy, we feel that encouraging good striking may be one way to combat this.
Alongside all our learning efforts we have been conscious that ringing is a voluntary activity and pushing people too hard may cause them to give up ringing. The balance between progression and enjoyment is not clear cut, and it very much requires a personalised approach.
LUSCR has progressed, and as turn outs have not declined, I would like to think that we have not pushed anyone too far and that everyones learning experience has been enhanced. Thank you very much to everyone who has helped.