I gaily put my hand up to volunteer as a Workshop Leader without much thought of what it might be like if I actually had to do one. So I felt a cold shock when I got a cheery email from Paul Flavell asking me to lead a ‘Listen and Strike’ workshop in Barnes, south London.
I had a quick look at the PowerPoint slides and notes produced by ART and CCCBR on the ART website, and tried to imagine myself presenting this with Nabb-like panache, but couldn’t. As I live fairly close to the successful Stretham Ringing Education Centre run by the Ely DA, which had already run one of these workshops, I decided to make this my first port of call in my preparation. Barbara Le Gallez gave me some really useful insights to her experience of running this workshop and we were able to practise some of the exercises with some students who were at Stretham that afternoon for a practice. This was really valuable.
All the workshop materials are available online and I was able to work my way through these in my own time, making notes and thinking through what would be appropriate, and possibly entertaining, exercises. The workshop notes provided lots of ideas for this. However I had a nagging worry was that all the exercises would be old-hat to everyone and I wouldn’t have anything new or original to say, because teachers are always trying to get their ringers to ‘listen’, aren’t they?
On the day, I was met by a friendly and very receptive group of students, some of whom were very new to ringing while others were very experienced (eek!). Contrary to what I had thought, nobody seemed to have ‘heard it all before’ or at least, not in a dedicated, ‘let’s really focus on listening and striking’ kind of way, and it was extremely rewarding to be able to spend a lot of time on this. It made me realise that so many practice nights probably focus far too much on getting people to learn and ‘get through’ methods and that very little time is spent on encouraging and nurturing the confidence to listen, or understanding how to achieve better striking.
So I would encourage everyone to positively incorporate striking and listening into their practices and ditch the method blinkers. All the exercises are really enjoyable and the students valued being able to step off the method treadmill for a while. Just simple things like whole pull and stand, whole pull and stand at backstroke or ringing facing out of the circle can completely shift the focus of a practice night. Or spend time just working out at what point of the pull the bell strikes – such a basic thing but it can get overlooked.
And if you think you could deliver a workshop like this, then I’d urge you to volunteer. You don’t have to be an expert but you do have to be enthusiastic, that’s all! You’ll get lots of help and you’ll have a great day out. You will very probably learn something AND you will probably make some new ringing buddies too!
ART offers a wide variety of workshops including Bell Maintenance, Conducting and Tower Leadership. Have a look at the full list here and talk to ART if you think you might be able to deliver one of these.