In this episode, David Smith makes a much-welcome return to the podcast for another conversation with host Cathy Booth that’s brimming with insight.
Find out about about the differences between ringing associations in the UK and those in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. With David’s global ringing teaching experience there are plenty of anecdotes and observations, on all things teaching, learning and mentoring.
It’s also an episode that poses some philosophical questions about the nature of ringing associations and what it means, as ringers, to connect and belong. Associations may not be the future, but from David’s perspective, ringing itself has a very positive and promising outlook!
- A ringing course might not be for you, but why not think about offering to lend a hand and help out
- Feeling brave? Why not ask another ringer you trust to observe your teaching session and ask for some constructive feedback
- Check out the NorthWest ringing course website nwringingcourse.uk
- Now’s a good time to update your website or social media so other ringers can easily find your tower and arrange a visit
Sound like the ART course might be for you? Take a look at bellringing.org/
[Transcribed by Emily Watts]
[00:00:00] DAVID: The course as a whole has a lot of extracurricular activities. Generally speaking in teaching, you quite often find if someone's got handling problems, you tell them about it, they try and put it right, then they go back and ring something complicated and it all gets completely forgotten. But I was amazed that people came along and, "can you help me with handling", steps were taken, improvements were made, and by and large they stuck. It was most impressive.
Ringing by the Society of Cambridge Youths
Introducing the podcast
[00:00:28] CATHY: Hi welcome to Fun With Bells, a podcast for bell ringers hosted by me, Cathy Booth.
Introducing David Smith
[00:00:34] CATHY: In this interview, I'm talking with David Smith, the most
well travelled bell ringing ART tutor I think there is, based in Australia, he's also trained in North America, Canada, and the UK this year.
David's Previous Interview on the Podcast
[00:00:46] CATHY: David's been featured in the podcast before nearly five years ago, and if you listen to that episode, you might remember its dramatic conclusion when David explained how he successfully performed CPR up a Bell Tower.
At that time David, you'd just completed a three-year term as the President of the Australian and New Zealand's Association of Bell Ringers. You are also the writer of the education column of the Ringing World.
David's Roles in the Central Council
[00:01:12] CATHY: I first wanted to talk to you about your roles on the Central Council. You were a Central Council representative, and then you joined the team that was reviewing how it was structured and run called CRAG. Can you tell me a bit about that and how it worked out?
Impact of the Central Council's Changes
[00:01:24] DAVID: I think pretty well. The format of the AGMs has changed.
There've actually only been two of these but everyone's welcome. They both had fairly large roadshows, and they were very different. A lot more people came along. It was much more open.
Other CCCBR changes
[00:01:37] DAVID: Other things like the various committees that Central Council had to actually do jobs were open only to CC reps. They're now open to everybody.
The Future of Ringing
[00:01:44] DAVID: And also a lot has been done about the future of ringing. , Simon Linford was talking about this at the most recent AGM is the thing called the 2030 review. What's going to happen in ringing by then. A lot of work's being done. I'm actually quite confident about the future of ringing. I know there's a certain amount of doom and gloom around, and I think the towers,
[00:02:02] DAVID: I'm going to use the word isolated, which is an interesting one because some of the Australian towers are very physically isolated. We just put bells in Darwin and, I'll have to make up the numbers, but it must be a good 2 or 3000 kilometres from the nearest tower. I don't even know what the nearest tower is. It could be Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, possibly even Singapore, but we've always had the history in ANZAB of not being socially isolated. So there's been a lot of visits there. A lot of people gone up to help with training.
So the isolated towers, I think the UK ones that are maybe only a few hundred metres from the next tower, but "Oh no, we don't, we don't talk to them. " They're the ones that are suffering. I think they're the ones that don't do active recruiting. There's not much change of personnel. They don't do much besides ringing. Possibly they ring very well but as time goes on, they're gradually losing numbers. Covid exacerbated that, it didn't cause catastrophes, but it made the situation worse. I don't think they're going to survive. and indeed many of them already aren't ringing anymore.
[00:02:59] DAVID: But there are a lot of places where there are huge numbers of recruits, a lot of youngsters coming in, a lot of training going on. And that's just fantastic. And I think that's the future of ringing and there's a lot to be optimistic about.
David's Involvement with the Volunteering Work Group
[00:03:08] CATHY: You were particularly involved with the volunteering work group, weren't you?
[00:03:12] DAVID: On I was, yes. I've done, I've completed two terms on the Central Council executive, and that's the most you're allowed. So I'd rather dropped out from that. But certainly one of the things that, I was and indeed still am.
The Northwest Residential Course
[00:03:22] DAVID: Is the Northwest Residential course. This again, was a thing that's a Central Council initiative to say let's have more residential courses. But the last thing Central Council wants to do is take over and do the day-to-day, hands-on management of new courses like that. But it did want to get one going and it has got going. When I was in the UK a few months ago, we had the second of them that's at, Myerscough College, near Preston. I think given that the last year, it was the first time it had ever been run, it was really pretty successful. and I think this year was even better. Not 10/10, there are always things that you can improve, but it was slightly bigger. The feedback's been very positive.
The Northwest Residential Course Details
[00:03:57] CATHY: And what was taught on that course?
[00:03:59] DAVID: The original intention, and this is when we started talking about it, this was, pre-covid, was the feeling that many of the residential courses dealt with, you've rung rounds, you've done a bit of plain hunting, let's improve your plain hunting and get better at that. Let's start doing a bit of method, ringing that sort of level as a sort of gross generalization and we were trying to make it a little past that learning the ropes level five plus from the ART point of view. That I think was a good idea at the time. But post covid we found actually the demand was more for the slightly lower levels and certainly in the course we've just had. One of the topics on offer, there were quite a few, was something called Learn it, ring it. And that was improved handling, beginning with methods, and that was by far the most popular one that I think we ran four instances of that. I was running a starting surprise. Which is more the sort of level we were originally aiming at. We had certain students through that, and that really went very well because it's a difficult hurdle.
And by the end, six of the seven students were ringing quite long touches with no supervision. And the one person who didn't quite get there were still doing plain courses and he felt he'd made a lot of progress and he's quite right. He did make a lot of progress. The thing that blew me away with that is: we had a bit of a Zoom get-together and sent some messages out before the course started, and I set quite a lot of homework. And having been a classroom teacher for part of my life, one expects that homework won't always necessarily get done, particularly amongst ringers.
But everybody did it and did it very thoroughly. And I think, I was literally blown away by that. But it certainly helped. It made a big difference. It was a great success.
[00:05:32] CATHY: If people are looking to go on this course next year? What's the level that they should have attained before they would go on it?
[00:05:39] DAVID: It depends very much on the individual topic.
Handling improvements at the Northwest Residential Course
[00:05:40] DAVID: The course as a whole has a lot of, extracurricular activities. I was particularly pleased I did a couple of handling workshops, that wasn't quite what they were called. Something like that and again, generally speaking in teaching, you quite often find if someone's got handling problems, you tell them about it, they try and put it right, then they go back and ring something complicated and it all gets completely forgotten. But I was amazed that people came along. and "can you help me with handling," try this, it wasn't just me, I was running it, but everybody was helping each other. Steps were taken, improvements were made, and by and large they, they stuck. It was most impressive.
So that's certainly something that's relevant to anyone at any level.
A range of topics
[00:06:16] DAVID: But otherwise, when the topics for next year get announced, go along and have a look and see what they are. So some of them, like advanced conducting are very much not just Bob calling, it's can you do transformations of coursing orders?
Which I can do, can you do them in your head while you're ringing? Which I absolutely, definitely can't do. So that's a pretty advanced one. Beyond that, probably the Surprise was, that's moving into the red zone, but there were other ones that were more rudimentary, that were improving your handling and trying to plain hunt better and getting better at that sort of thing. So quite a range
[00:06:45] CATHY: Quite a range yes. Range of levels. So how long was the course?
Composition of the course
[00:06:50] DAVID: It was. Thinking of doing it slightly differently next year. It's basically Thursday afternoon. So you arrive Thursday lunchtime all the Friday. The typical day is a theory, not practice, theory session in the earlier morning, then out to a pre-lunch ringing session, pub lunch somewhere, a post-lunch ringing session back for dinner.
And then various evening activities that are not part of your topic. So you go off and do you know the handling course or you do handbell ringing or you would go and ring the mini ring or whatever it is. Or there were things on rope splicing or dozens of things.
And so that's Friday, Saturday, and then Sunday's a little bit different in that, it is service ringing. For those who wish you can just sign up. And then a final, topic session on Sunday afternoon before everybody goes home.
Number of people / need for helpers
[00:07:34] CATHY: How many people attended about?
[00:07:36] DAVID: It's around something like around about a hundred students and quite a lot of helpers as well. We had greater difficulty getting helpers than students. All the courses were fully subscribed or if not oversubscribed.
But it was a bit of a scramble getting, an adequate number of helpers and the need for that varies a lot. I mean, there are some things when you're ringing where you really want one learner and at a time. In the Surprise we started off with just one learner in with five helpers.
[00:08:01] DAVID: But after a bit we could, we certainly managed to have two people ringing at a time quite successfully, but in other situations you might not. Whereas other things like the conducting courses, basically the people at them can all do the ringing, so you don't really need helpers. We weren't short of helpers on the day, but it was a closely run thing.
And it's the helpers that are, there's the greatest demand for, from our point of view.
The Evolution of the Northwest Residential Course
[00:08:21] CATHY: And, what's the evolution of the course? How is it different between 2022, 2023, and any plans for 2024?
[00:08:30] DAVID: 2024 is still being discussed at the moment. 23, everything was "well, let's not be too ambitious." But it went pretty well. So this year it might've been a quarter as big again, or a third as big.
Again, in terms of number of people. Many things were the same. There were a few changes. Last year we went off on the Sunday afternoon for a jolly, those people who wanted went to Liverpool and rang there, and that did very well. this time we made the Sunday afternoon though a closing session for the topics.
But I think this time we felt we'd reached the capacity. It's partly how many the college can cope with, but more than that, it's how many suitable towers are there in the area. I think it's just about reached the maximum size. But there are plans to get a Southwest one going as well. I don't think that'll happen in the immediate future, but, the plan was let's have more residential courses, plural.
North-western is the first, but I very much hope it won't be the only one.
ART - The Association of Ringing Teachers
[00:09:18] CATHY: In your last interview you explained how you became an ART tutor. Can you
[00:09:24] DAVID: I've forgotten. I've forgotten that.
[00:09:26] CATHY: Yes. Yes. I won't go through it 'cause people can listen to that
episode. But can you remind us about what the M1 and M2 courses cover?
[00:09:36] DAVID: Effectively ART; I've been thinking about this a lot. It's a funny name. ART stands for the Association of Ringing Teachers. It does a very good job. And overall, I think it's the best thing that's happened to ringing in the last decade. It's been going a bit over a decade. but the one thing it isn't, is actually an Association of Ringing Teachers.
Typically, people who are interested in teaching come along, do the courses, and I'll say what they are in just a sec, but they mostly don't go on to join ART itself. They get a lot out of the course. The reviews are nearly always just fantastic. And then they do for a bit sign up their learners onto the Learning the Ropes scheme, which is also very good.
But it isn't nearly so much a forum for teachers. Most teachers, don't join ART. Even the ones that have done the ART courses, and I've got no idea how many that is out of all the teachers that there are, but most of them don't go on to join. I don't say that as a criticism. I think it's fairly true of ringing generally that we have lots of associations, but we don't associate, the turn up at Association meetings and that sort of thing is usually pretty poor. That's not a criticism of ART particularly, it's just a comment on ringing generally. but
The ART modules
[00:10:40] DAVID: the things that it does brilliantly are the two modules. These were pretty much the same as they were originally set up, by Pip Penny and others about 10 years ago. They've been modified a little bit, but they're essentially the same.
ART Module 1
[00:10:52] DAVID: Module one is for people who want to teach bell ringing. And it covers what you do from someone who just walks in through the doors and says, "Hey, I'm interested in bell ringing. Can you teach me? " to showing them the bells, introducing them, what to do, and then the business of teaching them to handle safely roughly up to the stage where they're ready to join the group and start, ringing rounds with other people.
So it covers basically all the one-on-one lessons that you need to start with.
David's experiences as a teacher
[00:11:19] DAVID: I found that invaluable. I've been in education all my life, but I'm not a dextrous person. And I never ever thought I'd finish up teaching a physical skill. I didn't have the confidence to do it. And when I went along and did the M1 about almost 10 years ago now, I suddenly found that it's, it is actually quite possible.
And the extraordinary thing is, I dunno if you've ever been in perhaps before a
A ringing session starts and you've got some learners there and someone teaching them, and they're on the far side of the room, and it's really nerve-racking watching them, especially at the stage of putting the two strokes together.
You're talking to somebody, you are the whole time thinking, "oh, are they going to be all right or not?" And much the easiest, best, safest, most confident, inspiring place to be is the teacher of, a few inches away from the student. Because you know that anything goes wrong, you can take over and it'll all be okay.
It's not nearly as nerve-racking as watching from a distance.
[00:12:06] CATHY: Yes.
[00:12:07] DAVID: That's a really great course. It offers a lots of suggestions. It does have a layout saying, this is a way to approach, but sometimes people think it's a bit prescriptive. thou shalt do it the ART way. This is the one and only way.
And that's not the case. Certainly all the courses, I've run, we get a lot of input from the, teachers themselves. I dunno how many I've run, it must be getting on for about 50, I should think. I've never been on one, whether it's one that I'm attending as a student or as a shadower or as a tutor.
There's, I've never been on one, I haven't learned something myself.
The next ART Modules
[00:12:36] DAVID: Then what was originally Module 2
is taking someone who can ring safely and going through the whole business of introducing them, ringing rounds with other people, and then various exercises, changing position, how to do call changes or better still do kaleidoscope exercises to change position to start with a much more suitable from a teaching point of view, all the way through to your first methods. and, getting to that stage.
It's now been split into two this is as a few years ago. There's a thing called M2F and another one's M2C. I forgot what the F and C stand for. Something very sensible. But basically the M2F takes you from that position where you can ring safely by yourself through to plain hunting, call changes, whereas the M2C goes further with lots of suggestions for getting people into method ringing and basically finishes at the stage where they've probably done their first quarter peal.
[00:13:30] CATHY: So is it to teach people to do those things or is it just run a practice?
[00:13:34] DAVID: No, the module two also does suggest how to run a practice. Effectively the theory sessions there are more on the sort of group psychology, what works well, how to run a practice in terms of getting the group together. Ringing's always had a bit of a reputation that, you know, you shout at people.
And to some extent you have to if you're in a ringing chamber, it's a fairly tense situation and you can't gently, quietly have a two minute matter to someone while they're ringing. but certainly the people who are experienced, teachers generally, be it school teachers or teachers of other things, will find most of that side of it, not the practical sessions, but that side of it, obvious, . In a nutshell, it's have a whole lot of materials available. By all means, try and teach something in a big step and see if it works, but if it doesn't be ready to split it into smaller steps. And if the particular approach that you are taking isn't working, do a different one.
Don't do the, the traditional. English tourist overseas, talking to foreigners who don't speak English, and if you don't understand it's your fault, I'll say it louder. Which does happen in teaching. I must admit that it doesn't really work very well.
[00:14:34] CATHY: No,
David's Experience in North America and Canada
[00:14:34] CATHY: so moving on to your time in North America and Canada. I understand earlier that you ran four of each of these M1 and M2 courses in North America and Canada. First of all, where did you go?
[00:14:47] DAVID: Mostly the East Coast. I'm sorry, my geography's not very good. Flew into Atlanta, and the church where we had the courses, there was,
Course participants at Marietta
[00:14:55] DAVID: Marietta. So that was a module one and then a module two C. In the UK the two f the more abbreviated, more concentrated one is more popular. So we were doing an M one and M two C. Marietta was pleasant.
David's trip itinerary
[00:15:09] DAVID: Then, onto Boston, and Washington DC. So a bit of a backtrack there and then finished up in Quebec. And I absolutely loved everywhere.
[00:15:20] DAVID: Everybody was so hospitable. We probably did at least as much eating as we did ringing, but, I
[00:15:26] DAVID: particularly loved Quebec.
It's French speaking, which was fun and it reminded me very much of Montmartre actually in Paris. It's a very French feeling. There are a lot of little bistro places and people eating and drinking outside. A lot of street artists and just a lovely atmosphere. not that Washington and Boston, the other places weren't a lovely atmosphere.
They were a fascinating too but I particularly fell in love, I think it helped that the people I was staying with there. The wife was the ringer one of the team, and she was doing the course. The husband wasn't a ringer, but he was a fairly eminent local historian.
And when we were just wandering around, having him as a guide was fantastic. And somehow it's a city that manages to preserve its historical and cultural heritage. It welcomes tourists without being swamped by them.
And sometimes heritage stuff gets a bit over the top and you feel you're not allowed to touch anything and it's all frozen. Doesn't quite work somehow, rather than they managed to get it right and it really does work and it's a lovely place.
Australian based tutors
[00:16:23] CATHY: Why were you running the courses and not someone from America or the UK?
[00:16:28] DAVID: Yes. That's a very good question. the American part is easy.
When they started off, they had a, a couple of tutors. One had stopped ringing a while ago. And then, Bruce Butler, who very sadly died about a year and a half ago, so they don't have a tutor, and they were completely stuck. Because without a tutor, you can't run courses, you can't progress or pass other people. You're stuck.
We also about 10 years ago, for about a year after, ART started, Matthew, my immediate predecessor as President and I became tutors.
and we then in due course have trained various other ones. Which does mean that we've got a certain amount of flexibility. If you look at the numbers, it's ridiculous. We've got four, fairly active tutors for four or 500 ringers. UK has got, I dunno what the numbers are, certainly, more than a dozen, but not as many as 20 tutors for goodness knows how many tens of thousands of ringers. They've got their work out a bit more.
But we do need it because of the great distances involved. But it does give us a bit of a luxury. It does mean that, for example, we, nearly always, I've done some, modules by myself, but nearly always, we have two people, running the two courses and we alternate, we agree beforehand who's going to do what, but it's so nice. If you're talking or demonstrating or doing something, having someone else there who will just say, "oh, and I think David's forgotten to do this, or, here's another way of doing it." But that's a bit of a luxury.
[00:17:51] DAVID: One of the things that is very difficult, it's never really worked, and again, I don't mean this as a criticism. The theory was that if you went on one of the courses, you would then have a mentor.
And ideally the feeling is that the mentor is an experienced teacher who will look after you. But of course, when ART started, the feeling was that, everywhere I suppose that teaching needed a bit of an improvement and a boost. So there weren't necessarily all those people around suitable to be mentors. So that didn't really work.
[00:18:18] DAVID: It's been replaced now by a system whereby the assessment is not done by a mentor. It's done by someone who's an assessor.
And again, that's come in the UK. But, in the UK the tutors are flat out, so they can't therefore run the assessments as well. There just aren't enough, whereas with the five of us, those people who do want to go on and be assessed and become official members of ART, we can do the assessments as tutors. In fact, going back to the North American Guild thing again, they were keen to give the teaching there a bit of a boost. They formed something called the red, REDD, which stands for something. I forget what it was.
I'll probably get it wrong if I try and remember it.
But they wanted to give teaching a boost. It's not clear whether they're going down the ART path or not, and that's not for me to comment on. That's entirely their decision. They'll do some things for themselves, some things they won't.
My personal view is that you can't do better than run the ART modules if you want to train teachers. They're very, very good. I'm sure someone else could design courses from scratch that would be equally good, but why reinvent the wheel? Whether they then want to go on down through the whole through thing of having tutors there, running their own courses in the more distant future, going down the Learning the Ropes scheme and all that.
That's for them to decide, and I I think they're still thinking about that. The main thing is having run eight modules there, in that course of that month, they probably, won't need anymore for a bit. We had, 40 or 50 people through, which is a sizable proportion. It's 10% of the whole ringing population there, so that'll keep them going for a bit Certainly, and I think this is one of the reasons I became involved. In Australia, w e do very much like those modules. We think they're by far the best way of encouraging teaching. It's not just teachers.
We, have quite a lot of new towers and quite often we find people who have learnt to ring, in one of the new towers, and they're perhaps at the sort of plain hunt stage or beginning to method ringing. They often come along on the modules, not saying we want to run practices, we want to do the teaching ourselves, but we realize we rely on other people coming in to help us still.
We want to feel that we can assist with that. If there's someone who's teaching several people, we can lend a hand more knowledgeably. if they're late for a practice or can't make a practice, we want to feel that we can run it. We don't want to run them all the whole time. But we just want to be there as a backup in case and that's fantastic.
So I dunno what they're going to do, but, it was decided in the end, I think, as they contacted Leslie Belcher, then the Chair of ART, and, David Sparling, who's the person in charge of the tutors.
David tutoring NAG because similar to ANZAB
[00:20:38] DAVID: They got me in touch, I think, because ANZAB is a bit like the North American Guild in that we're part of the ringing community, but also we're separate.
We've got a lot in common. We've got about the same number of towers, 60, 70, about 500 ringers, and we both have this ambivalent feeling that sometimes yes, we're very much part of the international ringing community, and it is a great community. Other times we think everyone in the UK has completely forgotten we exist and we feel a bit left out in the cold.
[00:21:07] CATHY: What went well or less well with the modules?
[00:21:10] DAVID: The modules themselves are good. and I think that's mostly due to Pip Penny's original genius in putting them together and other people. But I don't think she, nor ART would say that's actually very much original in them. It's more that they've gathered all the good ideas.
I certainly I learned a lot of new stuff on the M one course. That's the teaching handling, because I'd never done any of it. And I learned a lot about teaching, but I also learned a lot about my own handling. which I think is one of the reasons for going on the course, but certainly the M2 one, the various exercises that were explained, I think only one of them was one I'd not come across before.
They were all pre-existing stuff. It's more the packaging of them into a nice sort of usable container that is great and certainly the feedback. It's certainly true in Australia and New Zealand. We tend to average about nine and a half outta 10 on the feedback. The American ones are all nine out of 10 or more, which is outrageously high, but I think deserved because the courses are very good. What possibly hasn't gone as well since, and I don't mean this as a criticism of North American Guild anymore than it's a criticism of Australia.
ART modules follow up
[00:22:13] DAVID: It's the same happens here in New Zealand or of UK, which again, the same, it's when people have done the courses, they tend to disperse. There isn't the follow up that there might be. And it's not for want of trying, I mean, ART's always tried to have this you know, continue talking to each other and the mentor arrangement and that sort of thing.
But it doesn't work very well. People don't. continue to talk to each other and associate, and again, the point I made earlier, it's not a criticism of art, it's true of ringing generally, but ART is not an association of ringing teachers. It's a group that provides fantastic courses, encourages teachers, gets them going, but they don't associate it with it afterwards and we tend to find in Australia, we get quite a lot of people doing repeats. So they'll go on a course and two or three years later they'll come back and say, I really enjoyed that. I don't think I'll do it again and learn a whole lot more is usually the comment. But there isn't the continuing, group interaction. There isn't a group of teachers that interact with each other. The only thing that I've come across with that, where it really works, is in the Middlesex area. The group there, it's a very small group, but the person, who was managing it and caused the thing to happen in the first place, decided she wanted to continue to have these regular meetings, and they're still going a year and a half later, and they're very worthwhile.
But that's, the number of people attending might be a dozen at most. There are thousands of teachers and it's a pity they don't associate and I think the same is true generally,
Bell Ringers Associations
[00:23:34] DAVID: if you look at the ringing communication areas, Bellboard's probably the best. It's not exactly a communication media, but turnout at district meetings and associations isn't that good? Certainly when I started ringing the ringing chat email group, and then there's one called CR and one called RC that had a lot of people writing to it, that sort of faded away completely now. I think the central council forums that got going is a very good idea, but it isn't for everybody.
If you've got a particular niche thing, you go in and look at that, but there isn't any sort of general gathering. And I think that's a very big need in, ringing. And if we can go back to where we started, which was CRAG, the review group for central council, but for ringing generally as well.
Direct Membership of a National or International Body
[00:24:15] DAVID: One of the recommendations that hasn't, happened is for a direct membership organisation. If you're a cyclist or an organist or a could, be pretty much anything, there is a, a national or international organisation that you join and you feel you belong in. One of the ones that's often mentioned is CAMRA the campaign for Real Ale I wonder why? That again, is a national or indeed international organisation, it has local branches and people go along to meetings and that sort of thing. But you do feel that you are part of a community and that really doesn't exist for ringing. There was a lot of effort put in by Simon Linford and Central Council generally, and it's just proved too difficult. Again, to give an example, I was, this is going back a bit. When I was President of ANZAB, met a lot of people or got a lot of emails from people coming out, and a very common comment was, goodness me, look, this is ANZAB website. Do you know it tells you where every single church is and when the practice, there's a map how to get there. It gives you contacts and phone, and they're all right. They work that they're the right ones and yes. Isn't that obvious? that's what ought to happen, but it very seldom does, and it's in UK it's complicated by you don't know which group you're in. It's not by counties, it's by archaic ecclesiastical divisions. It's very difficult to sort out, they all work differently. It's very hard to find out where the local practices are . Personally when I go over there, I don't rely on the, websites very much cause often the details are about five years out of date anyway.
It's, you go somewhere and you get personal recommendations, which is always the best way of doing things. But the fact there isn't this, we are ringers here is where you get ringing information from one site.
Probably Dove is the best one place to get the information. That's set off more as technical repository of data about the bells and where they are. But that does have all the towers and some contact details. One feels the local associations. Some do a very good job, but some don't. And I think that's really one of the things that stymied the, the concept of a direct membership organization. Those associations that do a very good job. You don't want to tread on their toes, but a lot don't.
And what do you do about them without getting rid of the whole lot? And a lot of people feel you should get rid of the whole lot. A lot of people feel, associations are in many cases doing a good job. We want to maintain that, but bringing those two things together and somehow making progress has just proved too difficult, which I think is a pity.
[00:26:33] CATHY: Are there any other benefits of a direct membership apart from the website that you've set out there?
[00:26:39] DAVID: I just think it's the feeling of belonging to something.
I think I said earlier in this interview, the towers that are really struggling everywhere, but UK in particular are the ones that just do ringing and don't communicate much. You know, been ringing here for a hundred years. We, like it. We ring quite well. That's good. Do you go along to district practices? Well, much. Do you visit other towers? Well, no, just ring here really, . And they are the ones that are dying out. And one wants the feeling that when you learn to ring you become part of a community. And even in the associations that run better, I don't think that happens.
You become a ringer. You have a home tower. I think that's a, concept that's dying out. and you belong to that. But there isn't actually a national, let alone an international community, that you feel I am now part of the international community of Bellringers. 'cause there isn't one.
And I think it's a psychological thing as much as anything else.
And a lot of the things that 2030 business is talking about are not to do with your local tower. They're to do with the view of the public generally of what ringing's all about. globally issues as they should be, but there isn't a global body for dealing with it.
In a way, central council, is possibly as near as you can get, but it isn't actually an association of ringers. It's an association of associations.
ART does a lot of what it does very, well indeed. But again, it, notably isn't an association of even ringing teachers, let alone of ringers, Ringing World gets through to a, decent number of people, but by no means all ringers and there just isn't this means of communication.
[00:28:08] CATHY: Do you have any other anecdotes from the courses that you ran in?
[00:28:11] DAVID: Quebec, the two of the main, movers and shakers over there were, Eileen Butler, who's the. NAG, president and Quilla Roth, they were both on this REDD team I mentioned earlier. they both came along to at least two of the sets of, modules. And one of the things we wanted to do was to get Quilla passed as an assessor. We were going to assess one of the teachers who'd actually done an M1 recently in, UK and was hoping to get up to, Quebec, and we were going to tack on a test lesson.
So you, the teacher who's just done M1, a very experienced teacher, can teach one of the students from Quebec, a genuine real life student, and Quilla can, assess and I can be at one stage further above, sort down, watching the assessment, and we'll get passed as an assessor. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to make it. We did want to proceed with this.
The Benefits of Being Assess
[00:28:57] DAVID: So I said, well, I'll be the dummy, I'll be the teacher and you can assess me. So it was a bit of a funny roleplaying thing. The lesson was fantastic.
A young lady who hadn't been ringing long, she, she'd got to the stage of doing hand strokes and backstrokes separately, and she just put the whole lot together, was very confident.
I think she's gonna be a great ringer. So I, enjoyed the lesson and it wasn't role playing, it was genuine teaching. But there' s a lovely photo, I think it's one of the Ringing World articles of me and her looking at across at each other for the rope. And there's Quilla in the background with this sort of clipboard.
David being assessed by Quilla
[00:29:28] DAVID: But she did a very good job. And the lesson that I learned from that is it is quite invaluable having an experienced colleague critically analyse your lesson. I made a lot of comments afterwards. They were all sensible, many were favourable, some weren't. And that is such a valuable expression.
The Benefits of Being Assessed
[00:29:44] DAVID: The only thing I can compare it to is, a bit of a social no-no to criticize someone's driving. I learned to drive goodness how many years ago, but a long time after that I did a heavy goods vehicle license in Australia. And the benefit of that was having an experienced driving professional criticize not just your heavy goods vehicle driving, but your driving generally.
Again, a lot of it complimentary, but a lot of it, what did you do that for? And have you thought of this? And it, a useful experience. And as a, teacher of ringing, it's very, very good to go through that I think. One of the things, as you school teaching profession, you get a lot of help and assistance from your colleagues as you are learning to teach.
By and large for all that there are a lot of, professional development courses and what have you, but they tend to be rather theoretical. But actually in terms of getting another colleague to come into your lesson and looking and making helpful comments afterwards. It doesn't happen very much, and it doesn't happen in ringing teaching either, but, was surprised.
I really was surprised. I was expecting to go along and role play and that Quilla would do a good job, which she did. I really didn't expect to get so much out of it myself.
[00:30:47] CATHY: So it was good to be assessed
[00:30:50] DAVID: Yeah.
[00:30:51] CATHY: Yeah. Oh excellent
[00:30:53] DAVID: It was the, the process of having someone with you critically in the good sense of the word, not the nasty criticism, but the constructively criticize everything you've done is quite invaluable.
Comparing Ringing in Different Countries
[00:31:02] CATHY: So now we're just gonna move on to comparing the differences between North America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, ANZAB and NAG if you can do a, comparison of the different areas or associations.
[00:31:16] DAVID: What North America, and the North America Guild is very much USA and Canada in the same way that ANZAB is, Australia and New Zealand.
[00:31:24] CATHY: Mm-Hmm.
[00:31:25] DAVID: what they have in common is that they don't have many towers and they're very spread out.
And they don't have the long tradition of towers that have been ringing for centuries and they are therefore much better than the UK is in many areas at actually talking to each other and helping each other out and that sort of thing. So for example, when we put the new tower, Darwin is, a bit of an exception to, it's so far from anywhere that another recent tower is Bundaberg, which is about four hours north, of
Brisbane running about, probably about five years now. But when it goes in. All ringers in Australia. know, there's a new tower we all feel, I wonder how it's going. Anyone remotely in the area, particularly Queensland people, but a lot of visitors from Sydney and what have you. Do go up there from time to time, lend a hand, do some teaching assist with what have you.
We've run ART modules up there, but I think we feel that every single new tower is to some extent, everyone's not exactly responsibility, but everyone's got an interest. Everyone's prepared to go up and lend a hand. So there's much greater cooperation. I haven't done much ringing in Scotland, but I believe to some extent the same is true of the Scottish Association.
And again, it's very tempting to say that, Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealands, and the Scots are so much better than the English . I really don't think that's, I don't think that's the reason at all. It's just the demographics that being spread out, not having so many towers being comparatively recent and not quite so mainstream.
You are forced to cooperate with each other. And this whole business of going and, and visiting, helping out, is good. and I think that is also happening in UK and there are a lot of changes that there are many more clusters of towers now. There are many towers that don't, don't have enough people.
And so you don't belong to this tower. You ring here, but you do go round and help out at weddings or you ring once a month at a thing and it's, it isn't anymore the, socially isolated towers. I think that's where so many of the problems have come from. and
Looking to the future
[00:33:14] DAVID: think ringing in the UK it's going to change.
And there certainly is an age gap, but I don't think it's true anymore to say, oh, you doom and gloom nearly all ringers, at least 95 years old or anything like that. There is a, congregation. A bunching at the top of the, 60, 70 plus. But there are also a lot of youngsters coming in.
I think plenty enough to, to save the day in many areas. I think there may will be some areas that will struggle, but no, I think the situation is actually quite healthy, and will be improved by whatever comes outta the 2030 initiative.
[00:33:43] CATHY: And we'll be covering the 2030 initiative and the project looking at the future of ringing. In an episode later this year.
Thank you, David Smith
[00:33:51] CATHY: Thank you to my guest bell ringing tutor, David Smith, for telling us about his experience of tutoring in north America. Canada Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
David also told us much about ART and their course modules the way in which ringers do or don't associate. And the future of ringing.
[00:34:13] CATHY: If you've enjoyed this episode, then please share it.
This podcast was put together by a team. Special thanks go to Anne Tansley Thomas, Emily Roderick, John Gwynne, Emily Watts and the Society of Cambridge Youths for the ringing at the beginning of the show. And for the video at the end of the show of the ringing by the Lilliputter's Guild YouTuber, Simon Edwards.
[bells ringing call changes]