We have a steady stream of people coming to the Bermondsey practices who want to learn to handle a bell, or who can already handle a bell and are learning to ring rounds. The problem is that that the practices are already well attended, and it can be difficult to give everyone, especially new ringers, sufficient ‘rope time’ for them to make reasonably fast progress.
For the last two Saturday mornings we have held an extra practice from 10.00am to 12.00 Noon, one at Bermondsey and one at the Isle of Dogs, specifically targeted at helping those ringers at the rounds stage. We have invited ringers from our neighbouring towers in the Docklands area to both learn and help.
We have followed the ‘Learning the Ropes’ Level 2 curriculum and have introduced them to a graded programme of exercises designed to gradually improve their bell handling and listening skills. This has included ringing not only call changes where bells go quicker or slower one handstroke at a time, but we have also practiced changing places at backstroke, as well as ‘Kaleidoscope’ place making where bells move every handstroke and dodging which involves changing place every handstroke and backstroke.
We have also tried firing the bells and videoing our beginners so that we could discuss how they could improve their handling (however, we seemed to have a problem with the record function on the camera, so this did not work this time).
Another exercise was to ring a tune (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) on the bells, which meant each ringer setting their bell at handstroke and backstroke. This really demands good bell control and after a few goes everyone seemed to get the idea.
We plan to hold another session next Saturday at Bermondsey, after which we will talk to our beginners and see whether they felt the practices worthwhile, and whether to hold more practices in the new year.
Ultimately it would be good if we could offer each beginner a course or term of targeted sessions, so that each of them can reach the Level 2 objective of becoming a competent rounds and call change ringer. They will then be able to join in on Sundays, and also be well prepared the next stage of learning to plain hunt.