Continuing CCCBR Reforms

Progress report – updated 31st December 2020

The current Central Council consultation is being carried out by three members of the Executive; Simon Linford, Alison Everett and David Kirkcaldy

Phase two of the consultation on any future changes to the Central Council has now ended and we are looking at the results. The two phases completed so far comprise a series of zoom meetings (15) with representative members of the Central Council and other interested parties. Details of that consultation phase and some of the questions asked can be found on the 18th November progress report which can be found here.

This was followed by a survey sent out to over 1000 ringers who had previously signed up to receive email news updates. We are grateful to Elva Ainsworth for managing the survey, we are aware some had problems in completing this and we attempted to sort out any hiccups as they were flagged up to us.

One thing that has been stated is that ‘What is clear is that a lot isn’t clear’. There have been some ideas which the majority supported, unfortunately there are more that have opposing views. This has been highlighted even at an Association or District level, where one ringer believes that everything is rosy whilst others consider their local set up is at least failing them.

In the survey there were some areas for free text to be added and whilst many just commented they thought nothing needed to change there were some interesting comments. The first set of comments below is those made in respect of how to improve the organisational structure of ringing (or why to leave it alone). You will see on reading them what a difficult task it is to find any sort of consensus! 

There are then a second set of comments from when respondents were asked to comment on their local circumstances and the effectiveness of their own branches and associations. It is fortunate that this is anonymised as it makes for painful reading in most cases. Again there were a number of recurring themes, mainly highlighting the need for more training, especially at a basic level, and better communication. Some were glowing in their praise of what was being offered to them, a few stated that their local Guild offered them nothing. Many wanted targeted recruitment in an attempt to change the age profile of the ringing community, pitched against this a few people mentioned that the events should be geared towards more mature ringers as there were no younger ringers in their area.

We now have a lot of information to digest, we hope to have this completed early in 2021 when we will undertake further consultation if required, particularly if there are some clear choices to be made. We would like to make this consultation as far ranging as possible to get views across the spectrum of ringers, it is, however, a problem communicating with more than the interested minority. 

Top Comments

Centralise budgets. Centralise the production of newletters. Have standardised Annual Reports in same format nationally, in digital format. Biggest expenditure of most Guilds is an paer based Annual Report that is barely read by the members or referred to! Less focus on bell restoration. Primary focus should be on ringing events/practices – hot housing certain ringers/bands and tower captains. Nurturing those who have enthusiasm and leadership skills and supporting them- being surgically precise and mercenary to keep good bands thriving as centres of excellence in each county – especially away from the cities where it only takes a few to leave/die for a band to start to collapse or drop from ringing at high level to a low level. Focus to support recruitment/training/retention – build the base.
supportive network/pool of members to lend help to local associations. Help to break down area boundaries
I feel there is real value in some of the localised training organised by local associations and branches and that they should remain while it continues. But, my association and branch seems to be stuck in the past with no real interest in change or new initiatives, which is an area in which the CC seems to be particularly strong at the moment. Given the age profile of those on the execs and those who attend meetings, I’m not sure that these local organisations will continue to be viable for much longer.
In my view we still need Associations but there should be better a means to improve collaboration between towers that close to each other but not in the same Association.
I think there’s value in belonging to a group at 3 levels: Your local tower A larger geographic area A national/worldwide body I don’t think the local tower level is in any doubt, and this is where the majority of ringers’ week-to-week interaction is. The “larger geographic area”, i.e. territorial Associations/Guilds is the harder one. There is value in organising things at a regional level and fostering local contacts. The Associations do a lot of good work and are have a much more intimate knowledge of what’s happening in individual towers/areas than it would be possible for a top level body to have. I think the answer is somewhere between “replacing all structures” and “running alongside the current structure” but neither of those are in themselves the right answer. I think if you were to start again with the structure of ringing you would belong to a tower and a national/worldwide body. The national/worldwide body would then also provide, as part of its services, a regional level of local organisation, perhaps largely staffed by volunteers. For what its worth I’m in an Association that doesn’t have branches, there’s just towers & the Association and I think that works well. I think adding branches into the hierarchy puts too many levels between the grass-roots ringer and the CCCBR/Direct Membership Body
The association/guild model of organisation is, or should be, critically important to the health of ringing. It is essentially a grassroots activity for the vast ringing population and the local tower and district are the elements that most people relate to. The CCCBR needs to ask ‘what can i do to help the grassroots’. The dedicated peal ringers etc will always support their own activities, its the rest of the population that needs help.
Current associations do a good job, but CCCBR too remote for individual ringers, need to improve communications in both directions between top and bottom of ringing organisations
I would like to see direct membership coupled with reforming of Guilds and Associations into a more flexible structure with up to about 20 towers so that a ringer has the option to choose which group to join
some guilds are excellent, others are frankly comatose and worse than useless as their presence inhibits creativity in problem solving. CCCBR is, by comparison, on the ascendant and is trying to think in a C21 manner. So I would be happy for more influence to flow to the centre now, less to be held remotely. That is what is taking place in reality, in any case, so the structures may as well reflect it.
I think post lock down the traditional geographic associations will need to be modernised. Direct central membership would assist this with different ringing hubs. Currently many towers have a few ringers but, do not ring as a collective
Local links are critical in getting people involved and local events set up. If we can supplement those with national training and campaigns for recruitment then fantastic.
It’s a sad fact that some Associations/Guilds are a lot better than others, either in all respects or in some (i.e. it’s quite possible for Assoc. A to be better than Guild B in one respect, but worse in another). As someone who lives near a border and rings regularly in the territory of two Associations, plus occasionally a third, the fact that I have to choose which one to join (or to join more than one) makes very little sense. We need a single membership body, with the existing Associations/Guilds (in whatever form they take on) offering their current range of training, etc. to all-comers, including those living “on the wrong side of the border” without them first needing to join yet another organisation.
I think the association structure is outdated. you get very little value for money unless you have the time and enthusiasm to attend all the local events. Area groups still have a role to play, but county event can be difficult to attend and regional events (as long as they more around a bit) would be just as useful. I have not been a member of the local association for at least a decade, I am still a listed as a member of the association where I grew up and only ring once every year or so, why, because they have insurance. My local tower captain has the view that insurance is stupid as it encourages poor ringing, I think that this is an idiots point of view, it is import in this current litigious UK society. while most ringers are sound folks, the parent of youngster who may be learning might not be… and in the very rare case of a disablement from an accident it is just prudent planning against loss of income. I think that this is the greatest roll thank the central council can provide, bringing ringers together to get cost effective and worthwhile insurance cover and proving the training/training structure necessary to ensure the we never need to use it. There should also be two tier of member, full member and insurance only member at bare minimum cost, all ringers should be included, even if the local church or tower covers the insurance membership on their behalf. Should this not be the aim of national organization? Safety and representation? not bickering about peal records and other fairly pointless rules in the long run….
I am yet to be convinced that the average ringer would be interested in direct membership but would be happy to be proved wrong.
I do not envisage central membership replacing territorial or non-territorial societies, but rather working in partnership. There is currently a great deal of unfounded hype about the ineffectiveness of territorial societies; if this is repeated often enough, people start to believe it!
Where current associations and districts are functioning well, local structures are preferable for many but not all things. Where they are not functioning, a national organisation would be useful. In other cases, a combination would be good, with things like ART courses.
I believe that something has to change to keep ringing alive for future generations and my local association seems hellbent on infighting about keeping the status quo, which to be quite honest, I haven’t missed a bit during lockdown!
Locally, our branch of our association is doing well, but the next district has very few active ringers and towers now. This diversity means fundamentally different strategies are needed for ringing to re-emerge, and it’s not a given it will sadly.
It’s almost 50 years since I first commented that “the associations have presided over a slow decline in ringing” – perhaps I’ve been unlucky in having lived in areas with poor and ineffective (but self-important) ringing associations / guilds. Some are better now (thankfully), but others are still inert, ineffective, reactionary and (yes, this is true) actually obstructive or destructive. I can understand local loyalty. I realise there are many who think the existing structures worth “keeping going”. I don’t think that replacing local associations is a realistic possibility – nor, to some extent, is reform from within (many have tried and failed ). I would like to see a structure whereby those falling outside (or just opting out from) the traditional structures have an alternative pathway – and direct membership offers that. Also, ringing (the activity) or more important than its organisations (which have no automatic entitlement to exist if they are failing to meet their objectives). The Council has been woefully inward looking for too long. At last we have a body wanting to take a strategic overview and engage with the wider world – representing and negotiating for ringing in a visible and meaningful way. I want to support and be part of that.
Our local Association, which I have served/am serving in various capacities, is small but vibrant and busy. Even this year. About 25% of members usually join in activities, with social activities and focused training attracting the most. Online only about 10%. I think the silent majority support in order to access a) the tower fund, b) personal accident insurance, c) the Annual Report. Most ringers would resent ‘interference’ in their local Association, but if it is not providing good service local members should be encouraged to take their officers to task. All ringers should certainly be encouraged to think about what they expect/want from their local Association, but how to reach them?
running alongside existing structures, THAT WILL NEED REFORM THEMSELVES. One national focus for membership, standards, opportunities and communication with local Guilds and Districts getting on with the practical tasks of organising local hubs, training and the service of ringing to the community
Value to me of any association is in the local activities and contacts. Some things are needed at national level and some can perhaps be helped from a national level – but the core activity naturally remains with local towers and groups of towers.
I feel sweeping current structures away regardless of their effectiveness would be too much to expect. If the new body is effective existing structures will be absorbed over time.
I am worried about the future of the associations if control is centralised. I see a need for reform, but not of a form that would have a negative effect on local arrangements. I believe in the grassroots. I realise that no-one wants to damage these grassroots, but fear that they might unintentionally.
Local Guild hasn’t changed with the times – it’s objectives would need overhauling. The only benefits I get from it are insurance (would be cheaper if done centrally) and some training courses. So long as these two items were picked up by a central organisation I don’t see why we need a guild. I personally still see the need for some local organisation, but slightly smaller than the branch which we are currently part of.
The current system of local branches feels far too complex and is too dependant on local champions so therefore the quality and breadth of what is offered is too much of a “postcode lottery”
I am pleased after years of going on about it reality is starting to dawn at The Top of the Shop. I wish I could say the same about ringing locally which seems to be stuck in the late 19th century and is slowly sinking out of sight.
Creating a central umbrella would be good, incorporating as much as possible as “divisions” – a Central Council of Associations; Ringing World; ART; Whiting Society; online resources. There is too much overlap at present, with the same people involved but under different organisations. Bringing all together to work together and share resources offers the prospective of improving all, especially if combined with creating a national ringing centre that houses as much as possible (library, museum, RW office, ART etc).
I think organisation at a local level will continue to be needed but it may be that the real work is done at a level smaller than the current associations. I think it will be the CCCBR which will need to change or be replaced. Something at a national (even international) level will be needed for record keeping and as a maintainer of method collections and which hopefully can provide those things which are best achieved aggregated, such as insurance.
I stopped paying subs to my local association when I became very dissatisfied about how the finances were managed and how little interest there was in reforming things like district boundaries. Living in the corner of a county and having two other territorial associations close by, I see how much benefit there would be if there were no association boundaries and ringers were more informed about all that was happening within a reasonable radius of where they lived.
I get huge social and practice value from locally-organised events and training in the district, and some in the county. In a direct-membership-only organisation, the locally-organised events would continue to be what provided me most value, so the existing Association-based model puts the emphasis where it should be for me. The CCCBR had small (but positive) impact upon me until COVID, at which point the centrally-organised government/C of E liaison has been indispensable, and I’m most grateful to those involved. This beautifully illustrated the need for a central body, but I don’t think makes a case for a takeover of local activities. Having been a member of the National Trust for many years, I wouldn’t like to move ringing to that model of a very anaemic/practically invisible regional organisation. Most of our towers would do nothing if the district wasn’t keeping a lively programme going. I think there is scope for slight expansion of the CCCBR to cover administrative areas such as insurance and legal advice, where real specialist knowledge and/or scale is needed, but that’s all.
I like having local associations, but joining the association should be like joining any club that also has a national body. Local administration and activities will always also be valuable to me, but having a national body to join is very important too.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (yet)

Comments on effectiveness of branches and associations…

There is an image problem that needs addressing which is long overdue. The association is of very little relevance to the average tower and Sunday service band (those who ring mostly call changes and perhaps simple methods e.g. bob doubles). The General Meetings appear to be the preserve of the Elite, with too much emphasis on peals and striking competitions. Many of my band would love to be able to make progress but feel intimidated in the presence of advanced ringers.
Membership taking more interest
Looking towards the future and how local ringing can remain viable. How to attract recruits, ideas like forming clusters, ringing schools etc
I get lots from local branch but very little from the association the branch is in. (I’m the branch sec, so it is a case of nothing much from the centre, rather than it not being passed on!)
People moan and want something different but don’t want to step up and do it. Things they suggest have often been tried before and haven’t worked, even with the person requesting it not attending.
I have to say that I have strong connections with two Guilds and both are very good, but in their own ways. They do things differently, but what they do is good. I wouldn’t change a thing. Don’t try to change things because a few youngsters think it would be good. Splitting into smaller Associations and smaller units within, where adjoining or distance units can meet and work together without being tied . So a unit might have relationships with a number of units not necessarily in the same geographical area
Devolve some of the finance (subscription income) from Association level to Branch level to support Branch events. Reorganise the subdivision of Associations into more practical and useful geographical areas for their Branches/Districts.
I should confess that I’m the district chairman! We do what we can with local training initiatives and we have re-imagined what a district event ought to look like with some success if measured by attendance. The number of ringers has declined and the number of competent ringers in the area has declined even more quickly making it difficult to deliver the higher end events that keep people interested. We have a lot of ringers at the call change / PB doubles stage who don’t want any more and wont come to anything where there is a risk of more
They are all run by older generations who are stuck in their ways and it seems like an impenetrable way of doing things. Although friendly, it seems too old-fashioned And bureaucratic so I don’t want to get involved.
Needs a stronger functional base rather than the geography base structure currently in place. People need more support, ideas, encouragement etc. Too much time is spent arguing that “someone somewhere should be doing something” while giving no support to do so.
The only relevance that my local association has is branch practices and training sessions. all other functions could and should be transferred to a national organization. More involvement to allow more events and greater engagement with local ringers. The trick is finding out if the local ringer don’t want it, or is something else putting them off.
The effectiveness of a Branch and of a Guild depends to a very great deal on the initiative and energy of the leaders (chairman/woman, secretary, ringing master/mistress etc). An enthusiastic and active team tends to attract more of the same, and vice versa. My own Guild and Branch has, in the last several years and in my opinion, lost its momentum in this respect. It probably will not be fixed until the next charismatic leader comes along.
Guilds and Associations are of little value – locally run groups based on location/ hubs with direct membership is the way forward
I wish more ringers/towers would take part in Branch activities but how one achieves that I haven’t yet discovered
Better communication structures with individual members rather than through unreliable tower secretaries. More openness about what goes on a County level with individual districts. Allowing training to happen at district level rather than insisting on it being open at County level given the size of the county.
A robust action plan for recruitment and retention. Helping ringers of all abilities with tailored workshops. Encourage towers, deaneries, branches, counties to say what is working well for them. Excursions and outings are becoming too expensive along with falling number of ringers. Areas will need to work together on a range of issues and Associations can assist in bringing towers together.
Would not know where to start. If they listened to other opinions that would be a start. Learning the mantra ‘ if you do what you’ve always done you will get what you’ve always got ‘ no good moaning that towers don’t get involved if you aren’t prepared to listen to the reasons why. I would rather a committee that could only ring Plain hunt at best but knew about management than experts that haven’t a clue about managing people. Every time I try to offer some advice I get all but ignored. My Tower is doing well and is all but independent.. The branch is doing what it has always done…Badly.
Local branch organises valuable local ringing, our Association doesn’t organise ringing and had become a talking shop. Local ringing needs to follow best practice; unfortunately local practices can be frustrating when run poorly. Ringing masters need training on running a productive practice.
I’m not sure how much scope Associations / Branches have to be able to “do things differently”. What is needed is for more Association Members to become Active Association Members. Only then will Associations and their Branches get the opportunity to do something different.
Stop trying to act like it’s still a ‘respectable’ 1960s bell ringing club and become a vibrant and exciting association. My association has made a lot of changes in recent years and has come a long way – I intend on supporting it through more developments. Some association stuff works, such as method ringing in active areas, and others don’t. I hope my association will continue to remove the old system which bases members on who they are, which part of the county they’re from, and who they know, but instead not letting silly traditional ‘this is the way we do it’ rules get in the way of building an active and worthwhile membership base.
In our case there are just too many local branches so organizing events is a struggle and many are only attended by a faithful hardcore of members. Organizing on a more regional basis could facilitate a diversity of events ranging from those aimed at “social ringers” to the opportunity for those at the top end of spliced surprise.

Previous updates