Giving talks to groups of people is a very good way to spread the word about ringing.
Community groups – Many invite speakers to their meetings, and most are keen to find new speakers with interesting topics. Talks on ringing are popular with many groups. You have a captive audience and you can can cover a lot of ground. You can add local interest, show the human side of ringing, and dispel a few myths. Many groups will want a general talk, but some may prefer a slant towards their particular interest (history, music, maths, technology or whatever). Invariably your talk will be followed by questions, which enables you to interact with members of your audience and draw out what they find interesting.
Illustrate your talk with pictures and diagrams. Avoid lots of bullet points – your audience wants to listen to you, not read off the screen. Include some recordings of ringing – both methods and call changes (the ones with interesting names). If possible, use video to show what the ringers do and what the bells do. There are many sources of material on the web, including this collection of slides. Try to build up a stock of pictures of your own, especially those with local interest. Don’t forget to include pictures of ringers as well as bells and towers.
Use props if you can. A model bell is ideal if you have one. You could make a cardboard cut-out to show how big tower bells are, and how they swing. You can use a bellrope to demonstrate what the ringer does. It’s easier to do that on an old rope without much top-end – ask your audience to imagine another 50 feet of rope up through the ceiling. Use it to demonstrate the size of the wheel – hold the middle of the sally in one hand and the tail end in the other, so the rope hangs in a semi-circle that is the same size as the bottom half of the wheel.
Many groups expect a talk of between 45 minutes and an hour (plus questions) but some will want longer and others shorter, so be prepared to adapt your material accordingly.
There are many groups.
Primary schools – They will often accept an offer of a talk about ringing during school assembly (up to 20 minutes). Keep it simple, illustrated with pictures and sound, and include plenty of questions like: ‘Who knows how many bells our church has?’, ‘Can you guess how heavy bells are?’, ‘Who knows how old they are?’, and of course at the end ‘Who wants to be a ringer when you are bigger?’. At the end, leave them with the address of a good website for non-ringers, to look up afterwards. If your tower or Branch website has lots of suitable material then use that. Otherwise look around to find one that does. Here is one example and there is bellringing.org.
You can return to the same school every few years, when those who heard the last talk have moved on.
Secondary schools – They are mostly under time pressure, so they need a good reason to fit in anything extra. The best approach is to convince an enthusiastic teacher that ringing can be used to enrich his/her curriculum subject. Here is what one tower offers. This approach may lead to an afternoon with a small group specialising in maths, music, or whatever the curriculum topic is, if you are successful in generating interest. Here is a Ringing World article about one such event.
Alternatively, you may be able to arrange to hold a bigger event during the ‘after exams’ time at the end of the summer term, when pressures are slightly less. This might include several activities, with groups of pupils taking turns with each, for example talks, having a go with a mini-ring, working with handbells, and other exercises. Again, the best way to achieve this is to find a teacher who is keen to push it through and make it work. Here are two successful examples: CRISP and MCS Ringing Club.