Transcript for ‘Inside The Media Blitz: What Might Ringing be Like in 2030?’

Transcribed by Emily Watts

[00:00:00] SIMON: A week before the Ring for the King Media blitz and what that work with Yellowyoyo is to do with, it’s part of what we call the ringing 2030 vision of what do we want ringing like in 2030 and what would you ideally need to change in order to get there?

And, how do you do it?

[00:00:19] CATHY: Hello, this is the Fun with Bells podcast and my name is Cathy Booth. Whilst putting together the previous episode on engaging with radio, TV, and newspapers, I received an email from BBC Radio 5 Live asking me to be interviewed at 6:50 AM the following day about the learn to Ring for the King initiative. I referred this to Leslie Belcher and Simon Linford. Simon was all ready to be appearing there, starting off the BBC media blitz on Bell Ringing that happened recently. So in this episode, I interviewed Tim O’Callahan from BBC Radio Five Live about how this came about and Simon about his BBC appearance.

However, whilst this episode was to be about engaging with the media. Simon demonstrated his experience in it by completely throwing me off the track. He used, what I understand is, the interviewees ABC {D} method, look it up. Where B stands for bridging, where you say something like, “actually that relates to a bigger issue.”

So he told me all about the Central Council’s 2030 project which I hope you find interesting. But first, Tim O’Callahan from BBC.

[00:01:44] TIM: Hello, my name’s Tim O’Callahan and I’m a producer for 5 Live Breakfast on the BBC.

[00:01:48] CATHY: Tim, are you the one that looks for stories?

[00:01:51] TIM: So we have, like a big BBC diary that everyone in the BBC can access. So it’s got lots of different stories on it. So we have lots of different story teams within the BBC so there’ll be a health team, the foreign team, home team, education team, etc.

So they will publish what they have been working on and looking for. So a lot of the time we’ll follow that guide and decide what we want to do from that to put the program together, because it’s obviously very hard because we’re trying to do it a day in advance, with a breakfast program.

Of course, sometimes as well. Yes, we are looking for stories. We’re always looking for different angles, and different ways to tell that story.

[00:02:27] CATHY: The bell ringing story, how did that come about?

[00:02:31] TIM: On the diary, there was something about a piece being done about the coronation and the fact that, church ringers, they were looking for more church ringers to come forward to take part in that, for the special ceremony they wanted to do for the coronation.

We were looking for a bit of a light story for one of the end of one of the hours. We thought that would be quite nice. So I messaged the official campaign who were involved in that, and then obviously, yourselves as well, just trying to find someone who could come on and speak to us about that story.

Cause it’s something quite niche. It’s not something that a lot of people would do. So yeah.

[00:03:02] CATHY: One of the things that the bell ringers have found is that it’s actually quite late in the day to be teaching bell ringers to handle a bell, ready for the coronation. Do you have any insight on how we, as the bell ringers could have had that story come out earlier because we launched the campaign back in November and it’s only just hit the BBC in a big way now.

[00:03:23] TIM: I think it’s tricky because I think there’s obviously so much going on in the world at the moment that trying to get cut through is quite tricky. And I think obviously for media companies, they’re now looking forward ahead to the coronation. So those coronation stories are picking up more traction, and being seen by more journalists and more people are going, “Oh yeah, we need to do something on coronation and stuff like that. “

 This campaign will get picked up and we think, “Oh yeah, we’ll do that.” Whereas before the new year, it’s almost not on people’s radar some ways. So I think in that case, it could be hard, but I would say you just need to find journalists that you know. Or maybe work with PR companies who have contacts for journalists and start getting that stuff sent out to people in the hope that it get picked up, doesn’t mean that it will. We get so many PR emails every day, but sometimes they do have some good stuff in them. So yeah, it’s a bit of that really. I don’t think it’s anything that you are doing it sometimes it’s what the media companies are looking for.

[00:04:19] CATHY: Out of interest. How did you find me? The podcast cause you said you, you approached me as well as the central people.

[00:04:26] TIM: I think I was just googling bell ringers, fun bell ringers. I might have even googled like a bell ringing podcast, I can’t remember.

I was just looking everywhere I could, for anyone who could talk to me about bell ringing that morning.

[00:04:38] CATHY: Do you think there will be more coverage leading up to the coronation of bell ringing and learning to handle and that sort of thing?

[00:04:44] TIM: I suppose there might be, as different outlets are looking for, different ways to tell the story of the coronation.

It can be, cause obviously the tricky problem we have is, stories like that can become quite samey. So you can end up telling them in the same way. So I think different places will be looking for different ways of doing it. It might be that BBC locals and BBC regionals might get into that a bit more. And I would advise, people like yourselves to try and contact them, as much as possible.

[00:05:15] CATHY: Yes. Because I think the next story from our point of view is that we haven’t got enough teachers.

[00:05:19] TIM: Yeah. That was the message I got from, I can’t remember the chap’s name.

[00:05:22] CATHY: Simon Linford.

[00:05:23] TIM: He was saying, obviously we’re not gonna be able to teach people to be able to ring properly by the coronation, but if we get more people interested, you might wanna carry on doing it after the coronation, then that would be a good campaign for them.

[00:05:35] CATHY: Just one other thing. What is the demographic of BBC 5 Live? The audience, do you know?

[00:05:40] TIM: I don’t know, specifically what our demographic is. We are trying to go to more towards working class audiences and underserved audiences than you say Radio 4 might do perhaps. And I suppose our target demographic is, we always say on our program it’s parents, so people in their thirties, forties, fifties, I would say for our program, for breakfast that is anyway. Obviously the sport has slightly bigger reach, but yeah, the demographic is different than you would say for a Radio 4 or Radio 3, Radio 2. So we all serve different audiences. So yeah, maybe stories like this don’t always work on 5 live, but I think sometimes it’s good to get a good mix of them and just because we wouldn’t always do it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it.

[00:06:23] CATHY: That’s interesting cause from our point of view, we were thinking we weren’t going to get the people that we wanted from the BBC coverage because they’re all on TikTok. -Yes- But now you say it’s parents that are listening. Then maybe, we could have parents of people who push their children out to learn to ring. -Yeah- Because we are very keen at the bell ringing community to carry on the traditions and for that we need young people to be learning.

[00:06:50] TIM: Yeah and I remember speaking to Simon about this and saying, obviously with dwindling church attendances, that you’re losing part of your people coming forward then, aren’t you? So I think, yeah, like you say, trying to reach those younger people, maybe you need to get some people doing TikToks of bellringing.

[00:07:08] CATHY: I’m on the case. I’m on the case. What I’m doing at the moment is putting together little Tiktoks of the people who are learning. My husband’s coordinating 30 people learning across the Winchester area, and I’m doing little videos and audios of them, ready to put on TikTok . One other question. Have you ever thought of taking up bell ringing?

[00:07:26] TIM: I’ve not actually, no. I remember when I was younger, one of my friends’ Mums used to do it. But I was raised a Catholic and we never really had any kind of like church ringing in our kind of church. It was always, the Anglican churches.

But I think it looks, it does look interesting and it looks like it would be really hard work. My problem is I don’t have enough time to do it [laughs]. But no, it does look fun. Maybe I’ll try. My Dad’s just retired this year, maybe I’ll get him to go and have a go at it.

[00:07:54] CATHY: That would be good. Not being CofE is not a problem at all. We’ve got one of the ladies who says she used to ring for the CofE church and then hop across the road to the service at the Catholic Church, [laughs] so that’s not a problem at all!

Thank you very much, Tim.

Now Simon Linford, President of the Central Council of Bell Ringers. So first of all, I’m glad it was you, not me talking to BBC 5 live at less than 24 hours notice.

[00:08:20] SIMON: Yes. Cause the 5 live one was quite early, 6:50 AM and then what tends to happen with these media things is other media channels hear the story and then they think, “Oh, that’s quite a good one.” And then it’s snowballs and you get calls from all sorts of people. So later that morning, I’d got another call from another researcher and they wanted someone to do a media round robin, so like Liz Truss did, where they line up half a dozen local stations and they all come in. And I couldn’t quite do that, I think I was ringing a handbell peal actually. So that one got delegated to Vicky Chapman, and so she thanked me. It was fair because I’d done the 6:50 AM so she got to do the media round robin. And then you get other ones. Similarly with the BBC, it snowballs. You get another 10 people who will think, “Oh, that’s a good story. Can we do this story?” And you have to cope.

[00:09:06] CATHY: I understand that the Central Council has been working with Yellowyoyo on a branding and marketing strategy, which came up with messaging for the media. Is that right? you had a workshop that you were doing. Can you tell us about that?

[00:09:19] SIMON: Yes, that’s right. it’s actually part of a much bigger program and not really specifically to do with the coverage that’s come across in the last week or so.

It’s just coincidental, it was a week before the Ring for the King media blitz. And what that work with Yellowyoyo is to do with, it’s part of what we call the ringing 2030, vision of what do we want ringing like in 2030 and what would you ideally need to change in order to get there? And, how do you do it?

So really across the piece, and that is aimed at just getting more people involved in ringing and especially people who we think would be good at it. Ringing has for a very long time, done its recruitment often just by saying, “Oh, we’re short, so we’ll teach anybody, you can be any age. You don’t need any skill. Don’t worry.” And actually if we could change the messages slightly. So we said, “What sort of people, get the sort of people who’d be good at it? The sort of people who’d like it?”

Cause we all know what makes good bellringers and the definition of good bellringers is different for different towers. Cause a good bellringer in one place is a bellringer who rings the tenor behind perfectly well and comes every Sunday morning without fail.

A good bellringer in another place might be somebody who can ring Bristol Maximus. A good bellringer in another place is someone who’s had seven kids and they all want to learn to ring. So good, you’ve got to be careful with the word good when you describe, bellringers, but it’s basically people who will stick at it and enjoy it and be valued bell ringers. And if we can refine our messaging, first of all so people actually understand what’s involved. That’s a good start. And then target the sorts of areas and the sorts of, markets where the people who we know would be good at bell ringing are. Then we can attract better recruits.

And it’s also about, not overloading teachers cause certainly one of the experiences we find in Birmingham, with the Birmingham School of Bell Ringing. Where we are, not short of students, but people who have a high level of aptitude for ringing, you can teach very quickly and people who do not, take far longer.

And if you’re gonna maximize using our scarce resource of teachers, then teaching people who are easy to teach means we get people through quicker, and that we get less teacher burnout. so it’s all about targeting. So that’s why we’re doing the Yellowyoyo work, is about coming up with and getting external advice on exactly how we describe and position bell ringing, so that we can understand what sort of activities we’re competing against. How we differentiate, ringing as a great thing. And then exactly what channels and media channels we use to get to people.

And so the first part of that work, was a, and we actually started a little bit before in the first part of that work, because the first part of that work from Yellowyoyo’s point of view was a workshop where we worked with them, and they have a standard formula for using these workshops where they get to understand an organization or an activity.

And half a dozen of us sat there for a day and we brainstormed all sorts of things with, different questions they asked us. But in advance of that, we wanted to be very clear ourselves what we wanted to get from it. How we wanted to describe ringing. How other people describe ringing. What makes a good bellringer?

So we’d had a number of sessions with about 30 other ringers who we thought had got a good range of experience and expertise, geographically as well as of age and ability. And we had those over the course of the last couple of months, and then six people from those took part in this workshop with Yellowyoyo.

And that has now given Yellowyoyo a very clear idea of what ringing is, how to position it, and how they’re gonna take it forward. And one of the outputs of that session was working on a set of values. They asked some complicated questions, some quite searching questions. One of which for instance was, “What makes people give up.”

So what is it that puts people off? And we came up with a big list on that one, and we all had to come up with half a dozen things on our own Post-it notes. And then we went up in turn and talked about them. And we all got the church as one of our six. Not that any of us don’t like the church or whatever, but we all recognize that the association of bell ringing with the church, is an issue in recruitment.

The fact that we keep calling it church bell ringing, for instance they took on board. Another one that came for multiple people was the quality of the environment we ring in. So cold ringing chambers, cold, dirty ringing chambers was a multiple score.

Another one was grumpy old men. Which I thought was quite funny, but yeah, it’s the sort of grumpiness of people who’ve been there for 50 years and haven’t moved on. And, I said, “That’s a bit sexist saying grumpy old men.” And then a couple of people said, “But yeah, but it usually is men.” Okay. But anyway, grumpy old men went on the list.

Another one that went on the list, was it turning out to be harder than people thought it was going to be. So we thought, you need to get across to people that this is not easy because, that is not obvious to people. And that’s something we find in this recruitment for Ring for the King.

So that was one of the questions was one of what are the barriers, what are we up against? Another one of the questions was what is the competition? And we were thinking particularly here in terms of youngsters, what is it that a potential young bell ringer gets distracted by?

And things they can do on their phone basically is the big one. A big discussion about a certain level of geekiness, whether geeky is good or whether geeky is bad. So that was quite interesting. And then the final thing we worked on was what we’d like the values of ringing to be, that you’d want to underpin, ringing as an activity.

And there were half a dozen of those. I’ll remember what they are, and the first one was again, we wrote them all down ourselves and then put them on the board. And they coalesced into groups and then we focus in on what exactly, what is actually the word.

Now.the first word we had on there was commitment. So we want to get across that, this is not a come along every so often. But being a member of a bellringing team requires commitment to learning, commitment to your group, commitment to your band, and hopefully a long-term commitment.

So commitment went on the list. Teamwork was another one. Obviously you don’t do this on your own, although it is interesting that, when we talked about how ringing does look after people who are quite alone. And it does actually look after people who don’t really want to talk too much or are not that sociable.

So it’s interesting how you can look after people who don’t want to be sociable, but in a team activity. And actually it’s interesting that you can be a ringer with other people but not feel you have to participate socially. And I thought that was really quite interesting and I think that looks after a lot of people.

So teamwork, without you necessarily having to be sociable, but obviously many people are. Another one, and I care about this one quite passionately is quality. And I think it’s important that people realize that we are trying to do something to a high standard.

I know not everybody does, and not everybody tries, but I think it’ll be easier to attract people who think they’re coming into something where you’re trying to do something well, and it’s quality. It’s not just about quality of the performance. It’s quality of everything.

You want to have quality ringing environments. You want to have quality teaching, you want to have quality publications. You want to have quality in infrastructure. Everything that makes the fact that we make very loud noise and some members of the public can tell if it’s good or not. So it is a quality activity as opposed to just something a bit slap dash.

And then we also had a couple of words came up, and one of them was adventure and one of them was discovery. And this was when we were talking about wanting to get across that you are always learning something new. There’s always things to discover and we talked about a sense of adventure. And you can go to different places. You ring different methods. You can continue to learn for the rest of your life if you want to. There’s always things to do, different people see. And the word discovery was one, that we picked. And I think that’s one which will surprise people. But I’m beginning to live with that I really am.

And the final one was in the whole area of people being nice to each other and not only being nice to each other. But people believing that ringing is a place where you can go where it’s good socially and you are looked after and people care about each other. And that’s not universally true by any stretch of the imagination.

And the word we settled on with empathy, and empathy is actually a word they said. That’s quite a common word when you do these exercises with companies. That people have empathy in their values, so we put empathy in there. So those are the words we came up with. And what they said was, you wanna live with those for a couple of weeks and see if they work?

And then it so happened that the Ring for the King BBC interviews came up the following week and I thought I’d try a couple of those words in the interviews, I think I got discovery in one of them, and adventure in the other.

But I said that “Ringing for the King would be the first step on a voyage of discovery of becoming a bellringer.” I think I said. I thought, “Oh yes, got it in.” And I did then report back to Brian at Yellowyoyo that I managed to use one of our words. I was quite pleased. Anyway, that’s the background to the work with yellowyoyo.

[00:18:31] CATHY: I think that was really interesting, but I’m just going to go back to something that you said really near the beginning. Which was about the fact that you want people who are good bell ringers. And what I’m wondering is how somebody who’s struggling with learning to handle right at the beginning, knows whether or not they’re going to be a good bell ringer that you want?

[00:18:50] SIMON: I’ll answer that by way of anecdote I think. I’m teaching someone at the moment, my church and I would put him in the category of slow learner and actually he’s the only person I’m teaching in that particular environment. He’s not gone to the Birmingham School and it’s taken a very long time and he’s nervous about catching the sally.

I can’t remember exactly what it was, but he asked me after about three months, he said, “Would you say I’m a good learner or a slow learner.” I said, “Well to be fair, you are slightly on the slow side.” But I wasn’t gonna give up on him because I happened to know he was really interested in learning to ring. He’s not gonna be a method ringer par excelence, but he’s gonna be loyal. He’s sociable. He’s got the time and it was worth the investment. And actually he’s now able to ring in rounds and call changes and he knows what he’s doing. And I would say from the point of view of this particular band, he’s a good ringer. He’s taken a long time to teach.

And then there are others who you can teach in a tenth of the time, but they might give up. You will find people, who after however many hours of tuition are not quite getting it, and you have to have a conversation is this really for you?

And that’s just being fair to both parties. And we get that at the Birmingham School every now and again. If someone, it’s probably bellringing is not for them. And you may have to be cruel to be kind, but I think that’s relatively rare. I think you also have to be further down the learning process. I think there’s a change in thinking, is that you don’t have to be a method ringer to be a good ringer and I think in many places and many people think that call changes is only a stepping stone to be becoming a method ringer.

And actually the learn the ropes scheme where it goes level one, level two, level three, level four, there is the implication that you follow all of them. But actually once you’ve passed level two and you can ring the tenor behind and you can ring in call changes, you are a perfectly good ringer for 80, 90% of the towers in the country who would love to have an extra person who can do that really well. Thank you very much. And actually, at that point you might decide you don’t have to pursue method ringing. You don’t have to. It’s gonna take up a lot of your effort. It might not be quite what you’re good at, but it should be a choice actually.

No, of course you can stay doing call changes. Obviously in the Southwest call changes is what you do. Call changes are not looked down on in the Devon Association. So I don’t think we should make people feel they’re a failure because they decide to, either they decide not to pursue method ringing, or they can’t.

Another thing we did, because the Ring for the King, the BBC didn’t pick it up until later than we’d wanted them to.

We changed what we were saying to make sure we were clearer about the fact that it took quite a long time to learn. So saying that it took 10 to 12 hours, we made sure we got that in because people were inquiring and say, “Can I just turn up on the day?” And clearly it was not getting across. No, this is quite hard. And that does make, that is important for locals. Tell people it’s gonna take a long time and you won’t be able to ring by coronation now probably, but you can still do something.

[00:21:57] CATHY: So following all the BBC appearances, I understand that it was a very successful campaign recruiting about a thousand people in a week. But if you were to do it again, what would you do differently?

[00:22:10] SIMON: What would we do differently? We would spread the message over a longer period of time, so that not so many people came in at once. In the perfect world, you would have a different range of media and that’s because, lots of people say, “Oh, we need to recruit youngsters and we need to recruit this, that.” And this campaign will not have recruited many youngsters.

And that’s because it went out on 5 Live, Radio 4 six o’clock news and BBC breakfast. So that is not what a young audience is watching, so we will not be surprised that the demographics of people responding to this campaign will match the demographics of the viewers and listeners of those shows.

And that is one of the reasons we are talking to Yellowyoyo is, What mechanisms do we use to get the different audience? And interestingly, Charlie my daughter, who was one of the interviewees on the BBC stuff, she was a bit nervous about us telling her school that she’d done it. And the following day I said to Charlie, “Did anyone at school see it?”

The answer was no. So not a single person, she knows lots of people at a girls’ school, which would’ve been a good target audience. Girls’ senior school, and no one had seen that. So it’s not hitting that audience, so what would we do differently? Yes. If we had more time and I guess more budget, we’d have a broader range of medias because the demographic of your recruits will match the demographic of how you say it. And that I think that’s just what any marketer would say.

I did say to Charlie, “So how would you have seen that message?” And she just said, “It would need to have been on TikTok.” And I said, “And how would we have done that?” She said, “You’d have to pay.”

[00:23:45] CATHY: That’s interesting because we’re going to have an episode on social media later in the year. But for this episode, if you do get put on the spot and are going to be interviewed by the media, what would your tips be?

[00:23:57] SIMON: It’s to think in advance, I go into these things with a load of sentences or points that I’ve written down, and I’ve memorized.

Questions might not come up, but even if you get a couple of your sentences out, you’ll have some nice, coherent sentences that you’ve already thought about. Cause you can pretty much guess what they’re gonna ask you. So at least have the answers to the top 10 questions they might ask you.

[00:24:18] CATHY: Thank you to my guest, Tim O’Callahan and Simon Linford for telling me all about appearing on the media. Maybe I’ll do it next time.

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, Leslie Belcher and the Society of the Cambridge Youths for the recording of their ringing.

[Bells ringing rounds]