Tina and Vicki displaying some exclusive fashion using the new bellringing logo

President’s blog #90

(The view from the Bridge, unexpected surprises, my brief career as a model, Westley Awards and Bell Sunday) 

I write this blog sitting in the library at Harbury (actually sitting in the librarian’s chair,  fulfiling a wish I didn’t know I had), trying not to be distracted by the ART assessor’s meeting at the other end.    It is cozy and amazing space – books, yes mainly, but also a seed library, warm clothing store, a wee cafe right next to the books!  It is like no library I grew up with.   

This building chimes with the emerging theme from yesterday’s ART conference, which was about embracing new ways of thinking, and working together to solve problems.  I have been a member of ART for many years (since 2013), but this is my first ART conference.  It has been a hoot, with retired guide dogs, weather-induced zoom presentations, flying post-it notes, seriously good cake, and even a bit of modelling. 

I was the first speaker on the day, and cadged a lift with Paul and Kate Flavell for the last few miles to Harbury (the bus service from Leamington Spa didn’t quite get me there for the start).  We wended through the lanes with Kate checking a large version Dove for tower and bell information along the way.  Totally old school.   And wonderful.  Paul and Kate are an examples of ringers who have stepped up at various points in their ringing careers (Kate is a former CCCBR President, one of two that were present at the meeting).  But they also carry on supporting local ringing, supporting ART, generally being helpful and not making a lot of noise about it.   

My topic was the View from the Bridge, upon which I eventually settled on a metaphor where ringing was a massive archipelago connected by hundreds of bridges, in varying states of repair.  After I tortured all possible value from this analogy, I moved onto my key message, which was an unveiling of the new Bellringing branding.  And very wearable branding it was, as Vicki Chapman and I did an active demonstration with our new and very exclusive t-shirts.  They are great by the way, and I’m sure you will want one for yourself – watch this space. 

What was rather magnificent was the spontaneous synergy between all the many speakers:  Max Drinkwater showing a Church of England strategy that looked remarkably like the three pillars of Ringing 2030, and Swaz Apter providing a positive story of progress in London, with close relationships with clergy a key to success. Getting help from clergy was also a plank to Linda Garton’s strategy for change in Bedfordshire. 

All of this is by way of plugging Bell Sunday 2024, which will be taking place on 12th May.  The purpose of Bell Sunday is to celebrate the role of bells in the life of the church, but it is also an opportunity to affirm, and in some cases, revive our relationship with the organisations who own many of our bells.  With many churches (and their associated rings of bells) under threat of closure, an active ringing band could make a different to the fate of a church.  Let’s be both seen and heard. 

After last month’s blog, I was interested to see what a sports scientist had to say about volunteer burnout, and I was not disappointed.  I had no idea so much research had been conducted on this.  An interesting point was the way it way possible to cause burnout by setting unrealistic expectations (both for oneself and for other people).  Being positive and empathetic is a key to high performance and now I can cite the research to back it up.  Reader, I took the advice, found a quiet corner to take my meaningful rest for the day, and I felt all the better for it.   

We had some nice surprises:  Linda Garton mentioned a Bedfordshire Association meeting where she was absent, and the rest of the committee voted through a radical change.  Then it turned out that while Andrew Slade was busy being ART Chair, the Yorkshire Association reformed their membership in his absence.  Maybe I should miss the next Executive meeting and see what happens? 

In between all that excitement, I managed to do some recruiting for volunteers (sorry Andrew), cook up a rough plan for coordinated working on digital projects, share some stories, get some ideas on a social media campaign and eat quite a lot of cake.  All of you who told me the cool things you are doing in your local area, please email them to me, so I don’t forget them.   So many good ideas, I wanted to steal them all. 

The final takeaway from my first ART conference?  Annie Hall is a complete legend.   

My favourite quote (slightly paraphrased): “I have retired early to do more bellringing, my friend has partially retired to do more bellringing, and my other friend here has changed jobs to do more bellringing.”  I’m sorry I didn’t get all your names, ladies, but I totally wanted to be in your band. 

An ART conference necessarily focuses on people, but we also must care for some physical estate, and spreading knowledge about belfry maintenance and general steeple keeping is part of Pillar 3 of Ringing 2030.  So I was pleased to see the announcement of the 2024 Westley Award, an initiative to encourage and recognise early interest in steeple keeping.  If you know a ringer who has recently taken up belfry maintenance and has embraced it with enthusiasm, nominate them: 


Nominations close on the 31st May. 

What about the dogs you ask?  They belonged to Becca Ridley and were not part of her presentation on risk in the tower, although they listened very politely.   They are partial to a touch or two of Stedman Triples.  

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