Listening to Chris Mew

On Saturday 19 July, ringers from across Devon and its neighbouring counties gathered in Exeter for the Central Council regional seminar – 'Have Your Say'. These meetings have been touring the country, with Exeter providing the focal point for westcountry views, so we were delighted that sixty delegates chose to attend and helped to make the day such a success.

Cardinal Newman House was selected by the Guild as a suitable venue, and indeed with a packed lecture room plus comprehensive catering to organise, it proved an ideal base.

The day was divided between guest speakers, alongside smaller group sessions and opportunities for discussion together. This formula provoked engagement from everyone, and the perfect chance for people to share their views and concerns,as well as question the visiting speakers.

First to inform us was Elva Ainsworth, who presented an efficient and clear picture of ringing by comparing fascinating and thought provoking statistics, focussing on the age of our ringing population whilst also addressing the decline in church attendance. We were all left in no doubt that ringers need to seriously consider their ageing demographics.

Lester Yeo giving his presentation

Lester Yeo in full swing

Guild President, Lester Yeo, combined humour and knowledge as he then broadly outlined the state of ringing in Devon, tackling the relevant problems of geography and history, as well as positive steps for the future such as the potential within the DenMisch ring to be housed in Exeter Cathedral School. Following some stimulating small group sessions, where we discussed how we could improve things locally before giving our feedback to the group, Mark Regan then spoke about the truly inspirational Worcester Cathedral Teaching Centre. Everyone enjoyed his engaging and positive presentation, a real highlight of the day.

As the morning drew to a close, Leslie Boyce gave us all an informative and comprehensive talk on the benefits of ART and ITTS, explaining how these two new, ground breaking schemes will help us to teach the much needed new ringersof the future.

Lunch followed – a superb spread laid on by the now famously impressive team of ladies and helpers from the Exeter Branch. Elva Ainsworth was heard to remark that the puddings were the best of any seminar yet!

Refreshed, we returned for the afternoon sessions, ably hosted by Central Council President, Chris Mew. Following on the theme of new teaching approaches, he gave a presentation on the relatively new Birmingham School of Bell ringing, where pupils from around the city are taught on a Saturday morning at four different towers depending on their stage of ringing, whilst also being introduced to Sunday service ringing at a local tower.

Interspersed with more group discussions, Chris Mew then detailed the work of the Ringing Foundation, and highlighted the invaluably comprehensive range of services offered by the Central Council. These services are key in facilitating local help from a national source of information and funding.

At the day's close, all those attending were left energised and enthused by new possibilities, and the potential to change the future of ringing for the better. Fundamental points were to make our local towers open and welcoming; only by making ringing attractive can we attract ringers. We need to be positive, to recognise our value as stewards and practitioners, and to work with our church and community. More teachers are needed and more people need to be taught, but with a fresh look at our ringing institutions we can all still ensure that we ring in our churches on a Sunday, and this most English of traditions flourishes for years to come.

Clare Griffiths, Guild Secretary

To listen to each of the talks, click on the link of the relevant speaker's name below. If you wish to download the talk, right click and then left click on 'Save link as...' Please note that the content of the talks is the responsibiity of the speaker and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Guild.