In a recent episode of "Fun with Bells", bell-ringing tutor David Smith took us on an enlightening journey through his experiences teaching bell ringing in different parts of the world. David's insightful contributions provide a fascinating perspective on the art and craft of bell ringing as he has experienced it across North America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. This blog will take you through the key points of his interview.
Teaching Bell Ringing across the Globe
David's journey as a bell-ringing tutor started in Australia where he helped introduce the modules created by the Association of Ringing Teachers (ART). These modules aim to assist those bell-ringers who wish to pass on their skills by teaching others or by running practices. According to David, the ART modules, rich in content, cover everything from teaching a person who has just walked through the door to helping them become a full-blown method ringer, and are an invaluable aid to helping ringing teachers develop their skills.
In 2023, David's journey took him to North America and Canada, where he ran a series of ART modules at the invitation of the North American Guild, in Atlanta, Boston, Washington and Quebec. Here, the combination of dedication from the attendees and the robustness of the ART modules allowed about 50 ringers, making up about 10% of the bell-ringing community in North America, to discuss, compare and advance their teaching techniques.
Later in 2023 David moved on to UK, helping deliver the newly-created North-West residential ringing course. Some towers in UK are now struggling to keep ringing going – a situation exacerbated though not created by Covid. This applies particularly to the socially isolated towers that don't mix much with other towers. Interestingly this decline is less apparent in Australia, New Zealand and North America, despite the greater geographical isolation of some of their towers.
David brought up an interesting point about how important it is that bell ringers feel that they are part of a wide-spread community that provides mutual support. A contributing factor is, he suggested, the lack of a unifying organisation where all ringers feel part of an international community. Though the Central Council attempts to fill this role, it is primarily an association of associations and not an association of ringers; other institutions such as ART and The Ringing World achieve a great deal but are not universal enough in their membership or readership to satisfy this need.
Key Takeaways and Bell Ringing's Future
David highlighted the importance of the wider ringing community and interaction among ringers for the growth of the craft. He pressed the need for a global body that encourages interaction among ringers. He also referred to a proposal for a direct membership organisation for ringers, stating that it could help create a feeling of belonging, increase cooperation and assist in knowledge sharing.
David was optimistic about the future of ringing, mentioning the 2030 initiative, a project looking at the future of ringing, and other Central Council changes and initiatives. While there are certainly areas in bell ringing that are struggling, David is confident that initiatives like the 2030 project will contribute to positive changes.
Bell ringing may have evolved differently around the world, but one aspect remains consistent – the appreciation for the craft and the dedication to master it. As David Smith's journey shows, there is so much we can learn from each other. To further dive into his experiences and insights, tune in to the "Fun with Bells" episode. There’s so much more to learn from this lifelong teacher and ringer.
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