The elegant and massive ringing chamber at Exeter Cathedral, with red carpet, wood panelling and many boxes

President’s blog #91

(In which the President gets boo’d on live tv, fangirls somebody awesome, learns about sexism in the city, plus a week in Zoom and forward planning. )

One of the disadvantages of living in Scotland is being quite a long way from other ringing areas, without a considerable travel commitment, and therefore I miss the casual meeting up with different ringers from different parts of the country.  As a result, I do most Council business via Zoom, and it is normal to have a Zoom/Teams/Skype/Facetime/Whatsapp most evenings I’m not actually attending ringing practice.  Some of these are necessary administrative meetings, but a lot are talking about Ringing 2030, tapping people for new ideas and ways of working, and most of all, persuading more and more ringers to volunteer. 

In one of these rare south-of-the-border excursions, I had the luxury of a good long chatter with Will Bosworth, about remote working, the continual struggle to reach all the ringers we want to reach, and money in the wrong places.  Being the journalist that he is, I did get a good grilling on the new workgroup reorganisation.  I didn’t realise it was the first major shakeup of workgroups since the CRAG reforms.  Is that good or bad?  We shall find out. 

I am pleased to welcome three new Workgroup Leads:  Andrea Haynes, who is heading our new Young Ringers for Ringing 2030 workgroup (our two youth workgroups merged and reflecting focus on Ringing 2030); Mark Ogden, who is heading our new Ringing 2030 Environments workgroup (which is a new workgroup), and most recently John Lagdon, who is heading our new Ringing 2030 Marketing workgroup.  We are already getting great ideas and energy from these three. 

The Ringing 2030 Marketing workgroup grows from the previous Public Relations workgroup, and acknowledges that our marketing focus should be on Ringing2030 objectives.  Previously, the Council Public Relations Officer was the lead of this group, but we have separated the roles, so to make the PRO role more strictly defined. 

In support of this, we also welcome Jayden Milby, who will be directing and leading our Ringing 2030 social media campaign.  After listening to feedback from Council members and Workgroups leads in our most recent meeting, I also recruited Yolande Hasselo, to help us coordinate our internal communications. 

Those Zoom meetings were not wasted.  Although Zoom saves the Council quite a hefty travel bill, it is good to do some in person networking (and a bit of ringing).  So off I popped to Exeter, to join in the Guild of Devonshire Ringers 150th anniversary celebrations, with a dinner and a book launch, and quite a lot of ringing.  Exeter is also hosting the Central Council’s AGM in September, so it was great to put to faces to names.  

I came away encouraged.  Devon and Scotland share some issues – one the one side geographical isolation and on the other a significant core of dedicated ringers aiming for change.  The energy is real.   I asked, at the end of the weekend, “if we came asking in a few months time, would you be able to tell us your recruitment hotspots and not-spots? “ The answer was, “we have a pretty good idea already, so yes.”  No messing.   

An open practice at Exeter Cathedral saw Matthew Hilling manage nearly 60 ringers, giving everyone a go at something new.  It was great to see lots of young people hopping on the big box, with and without strappers, and growing their big bell skills in a completely supportive environment, plus lots of 12-bell ringing.  I managed to catch up with and get lots of tips from Melissa Hunt, who happily described her experience of learning to ring the tenor (which she does very well).   It was great.  I tried to restrain the impulse to fangirl, but I don’t think I quite managed it. 

One of the things I did for International Women’s Day was attend a seminar on inclusive urban planning, called Sexism in the City.  I admit that I went because of the title.  There was a lot of interesting stuff, mostly about safety, but also about connected transport, and pavements without cars parked on them. 

It turns out that making cities more inclusive for women makes them more inclusive for everyone, and generally makes them nicer places to hang around in.  What does this have to do with ringing?  On the surface, not a lot.  But if we can make our towers a bit nicer and more welcoming, it will be easier to attract (and more importantly) keep new ringers.  Of any type.  There is a reason why welcoming environments is one of the three Ringing 2030 pillars. 

As I left the seminar cogitating on this, what turns up on my Facebook feed but a lovely piece about the New Alresford band sprucing up their ringing chamber as part of their Ringing 2030 activities.  Brilliant – and such an easy win.  I’d love more stories like this. 

What about being boo’d on live tv?  This was an invitation to join a panel on a lunchtime current affairs phone in thing hosted by Storm Huntly (I’m so not in the zeitgeist that I genuinely thought we were being interrupted by coverage of an actual storm.) The topic was ‘Should noisy bells be silenced?’  and so I was certain I was going to get cheesed. 

I did manage to move the dial a bit so that the host was asking ‘should noisy clock bells be silenced?’ to the phone-in audience.  The segment ended up being very short because all the callers were robustly in the No camp.  I had our house dumbbell in the Zoom background, and when I mentioned that it was silent, one of the panel said ‘Boooooo!  No silent bells!’.  I had to agree. 






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