As we are released from the COVID restrictions, we will all be looking forward to getting back to our ringing, maybe starting with the lifting of some restrictions on the 17th May. Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (CCCBR) guidance for ringing following 17th May can be found at: Guidance 17 May to 21 June – CCCBR. However, we will be facing some significant challenges, as we will have lost ringers for various reasons and have also not been able to recruit and train new ringers over the last year. All bands are likely to be affected, and some may be really struggling to continue.
The wider ringing community appreciates the challenges we will face and have been working hard on actions to overcome them. The CCCBR and ART (Association of Ringing Teachers) have developed a Survival & Recovery Toolbox which is available for us all to use: http://ringingteachers.org/survival-and-recovery-toolbox. They have also set up a network of Recovery Champions throughout all ringing societies to communicate their work and ideas. Ringing Recovery Champions for the Association are Paul Flavell (ND) and Noel Gibbin (SD).
Within the Surrey Association we have been working hard on our own Recovery Plan having set up a Recovery Committee back in November. Since then we have undertaken a survey of most of the Association towers to understand their concerns and needs, and from this have developed the Recovery Plan. We have also set aside a budget, together with a generous donation, to spend where needed on actions within the Plan.
The purpose of this email is therefore to advise you of the outlines of that Plan. More details of items within the Plan will be communicated separately by emails, the association website and other means, including at the AGM on 8 May. The AGM will be held on zoom so please do attend.
What is clear is that, from the least experienced to most experienced ringers, as towers, districts and association, we all need to work together, put in effort, work in different ways and encourage each other to ensure we have a bright ringing future within Surrey. Let’s use this as a restart of growth as well as recovery, and be positive about what we can achieve.
The Association is providing grants to towers to have a maintenance inspection and service from a professional bell engineer. These are already being carried out.
Before we start ringing again all rings of bells should be inspected. If not undertaken through the above scheme this needs to be undertaken by the home bands with support as required from others with the appropriate experience.
Out of practice / Loss of confidence
Many ringers and bands may have lost some confidence and will certainly be out of practice. We will be encouraging bands and organising sessions to provide confidence building and basic ringing sessions. This will be in three levels:
Tower organised sessions
Tower organised sessions with the support of other local experienced ringers
Open (but need to book) organised sessions
The training committee and both Districts will also be developing a programme of events to be organised in the months following the opening up of ringing. We will also be looking to organise an ART bell handling training course so that we are more prepared for new ringers and to increase the number of ringing teachers.
We will need to start recruiting new and lapsed ringers to rebuild bands.
The CCCBR will be putting in place a national recruitment campaign at the appropriate time.
The CCCBR/ART toolbox has useful ideas for us all to use for recruitment.
The Association will be providing designs and grants for each tower to obtain a banner to use in their recruitment drives.
The Association will be looking into how we can advertise ringing in the Surrey wide area.
Due to the nature of training new ringers requiring close contact, this will be subject to further risk assessment which the Association will support with and will follow on from helping existing ringers regain confidence.
Individual and inter-tower support
As we get closer to being able to ring freely again we will again be talking directly to our towers to understand in more detail their particular needs.
We will be looking for experienced ringers who will be willing to travel and help with the training of new ringers and the development of the ringing at other towers.
We will be encouraging all ringers to ‘adopt’ another tower to enable those towers to have viable and regular practices.
Towers will be encouraged, where necessary, to join forces with other local towers who may also be ‘struggling’ to continue.
Tower clusters may be organised to support each other in the training and development of their ringers.
All towers will be encouraged to ask for help and make known their needs.
We will provide support in producing risk assessments and procedures for ringing at towers and events.
We are working with other Associations and Guilds to ensure we learn from their ideas and coordinate our efforts where appropriate.
All activities will be run in accordance with Covid guidance.
With the COVID restrictions being slowly lifted and the guidelines for ringing being relaxed many towers will be thinking about returning to ring from the 17th May, or if not then maybe from the 21st June. You should return to ringing only when you feel comfortable to do so. Many of our bells will not have been rung since the start of the last lockdown in November or possibly even since the beginning of restrictions last March. It is therefore important that we all make sure our bells are safe and in good working order.
Many towers have taken up the offer of a grant from the Association for an inspection from a professional bell hanger, most of which have already taken place, and I am sure they will have found these inspections valuable and reassuring.
If you have not taken up this opportunity I would urge you to undertake a thorough inspection of your bells and ropes before you start to ring.
Please make sure that these inspections are undertaken safely and most importantly:
The bells are down when working around them
Inspections are undertaken with a minimum of 2 people present
COVID social distancing rules are followed
If you do not have the appropriate knowledge to undertake an inspection then do contact a Steeplekeeper from another local tower and I am sure they would be happy to help. If not, or you find something you are not sure about, then please contact your District Master or myself and we’ll try to assist in suggesting suitable assistance. Contact details of many Steeplekeepers are provided in the Annual Report available from the Home page of the Association website.
Useful information and checklists are available from the ART and CCCBR websites to assist you with your inspections.
One potential issue that has been highlighted is that some ringers, perhaps particularly people who have not been ringing for very long, may have lost confidence during the long break in their ability to handle a bell safely. A couple of towers have told us that they would benefit from having an additonal experienced bell-handling teacher to help supervise their less confident ringers during their first one or two sessions. The Association District Ringing Masters will be happy to help arrange this kind of support, so if your tower is interested please do get in touch with either Pam (Northern District towers) or Paul (Southern District towers).
Moving forward from the first few ringing sessions, we've also heard from towers that some would really like one or two extra ringers at some of their practice sessions to make up numbers. If your tower would like this kind of support please get in touch with your District Ringing Master and let us know what you're looking for.
Pam's contact email address for Northern District towers is: email@example.com
Paul's contact email address for Southern District towers is: firstname.lastname@example.org
We're planning to restart District practices and events as soon as we can but this won't be until after 21st June at the earliest. In the meantime we hope your band will be able to get back into tower bell ringing, even if on a reduced number of bells. And if your District can help and support you in any way please let us know.
Re-building confidence ringing