Central Council logo, a circle of overlapping bell shapes

President’s blog #89

(Considering the Rolls of Honour, volunteer burnout, and intangible cultural heritage)  

There are good weeks and there are bad weeks.  This week was pretty awful.   Mostly the day job – soft brown stuff was flying everywhere.  These weeks happen and we all have them.  However, it makes it tough to keep up with things on the volunteer side, and I have to admit to struggling with all the things this week.  Work-life balance?  Disappeared to the Algarve without me. 

Attending the Council Executive meeting came as a welcome respite (which paints a kind of picture), and I was reminded again how ringers not only tend to help each other out, but also do so with kindness and good humour. 

I think it is good to be open about this.   Volunteer burnout is real.   Too many times I have seen ringers (but other volunteers too), overextend, and then get stressed and withdrawn because they are unable to cope with expectations.  But at the same time, won’t admit to having taken on too much.  Unfortunately, it makes other people unwilling to take on those kinds of roles, because it does look like too much.    It’s a tricky problem – as a Council we have an ambitious roadmap and it does rely on people stepping up.   But we don’t want to kill our volunteers either. 

Some people are more open about this.  I’ve had several conversations with ringers over the past few weeks where they have admitted they tend to overextend and ‘blow up’, and want to be careful that they can do the things they commit to doing.  I respect that and it means that everyone is honest about what is and isn’t possible.  With that, it is possible to make realistic plans.   

Still, I am a bit stuck – we are getting volunteers who are excited to get involved in Ringing 2030, and it’s great that we are involving new people who have new skills to offer.  But we are struggling to identify and persuade people to take on Lead roles for Workgroups. 

The theme we most often hear is ‘I don’t want to spend a lot of time in meetings, or doing admin.  I want to do helpful stuff.’ 

In fact, the most successful Workgroup Leads hold almost no meetings at all.  They get involved in the things that interest them, trust other people to cover the areas they are less interested in, and let everyone get on with getting useful things done.  Email, chat groups, and the occasional zoom discussion keeps information flowing.   It is less admin that one might think.  We are working on ways to keep reporting lightweight and preparing a guide on the kind of support a Workgroup Lead can draw on within Council resources. 

We are shy on some people with digital skills or interest, likewise engineering, guidance and practical belfry maintenance.  We still have large gaps in our Marketing group, which is key for delivering Ringing 2030.  This is an exciting time to get inside and make this happen, so please get in touch.  Did I mention Librarian?  We are still looking for one. 

Nevertheless, several Ringing 2030 projects are underway – you can now see and query the project plan on our Ringing 2030 section in the website:  https://cccbr.org.uk/ringing-2030/ 

This is a working document and regularly updated as we move forward.  Notably, you will see that the deadlines we had in place for recruiting all new Workgroup leads and project teams was the end of 2023.  We haven’t quite made it. 

The Rolls of Honour is a beautiful volume recording the names of ringers who lost their lives in various wars.  Through his research, Alan Regin has found a further 90 names.  It is appropriate to record these in the same way and attention to detail as the original, and the Council has committed to doing that.  As the 80th anniversary of D-Day approaches, a donation to this project would be a nice way to mark it.  If you would like to donate towards this project, details can be found on the CCCBR website.   

We held the first of our public meetings about bellringing as an intangible cultural heritage.  The first meeting had a healthy attendance including some new names to me, which is great.  As many people have pointed out in Ringing Forums, there is a public consultation underway now.  The extent of this consultation is only about what type of criteria should the UK Government consider when it starts to consider applications.  Does it go all the way with the UNESCO criteria, or does it add some of its own?   

It was hard to discuss things at this administrative level without drifting into all the areas where bellringing activities seem to tick all the boxes.  One of the emerging themes was the realisation of how many different boxes bellringing can tick.  For one thing, Devon Call Changes is clearly an Intangible Cultural Heritage all on its own, distinct from Change Ringing.  Supporting both is a whole wealth of knowledge encompassing specialist craft activities.     

Another interesting piece to come out was the idea of devolving sponsorship to the individual nations within the UK.  Would there be a UK-wide opportunity to apply or would we have to make an application through each individual nation?  Where that leaves the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands we couldn’t tell. 

The consultation is open until the end of February and we encourage as many people as possible to add their views.  It takes about 10 minutes and you can access it here or just search on the phrase:  https://bit.ly/ICHConstulationSurvey  

Tina Stoecklin 





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