Clatter and Natter is a term usually reserved for goups of middle-aged women who meet up for a chat and a knit in community halls, libraries and the like. Someone has posted something on FB about the clatter and natter brigade and suggesting that perhaps bellringers should not be recruiting so many in this category, because they don’t really want to progress much beyond the simple stuff, and implying that they are really a bit of a waste of space and effort.
I have quite a lot of thoughts on this issue.
- I enjoy a clatter and natter with the best of them. I think that ringing has many facets, and the social side is very important to lots of people. Without the visit to the pub after practice or the coffee and cake after sunday ringing, the experience would be a lesser thing. Most people love social interaction and relish the feeling of being part of a team.
- So what if some people want to just clatter and natter? Once they can handle a bell and strike OK, what’s the problem? They don’t need much more teaching input, and can jog along doing what they enjoy and keep some towers ringing, albeit at a modest level. Most non-ringers can’t tell the difference between excellent ringing and ho-hum ringing anyway.
- Bell ringing should be an inclusive activity, open to all. Does it say somewhere that the bells are only available to the best ringers? I know some associations are a bit sniffy about learners joining until they attain a required level, but learners bring more to the activity than just their ringing skills. Some of us make cakes.
- We can all fund raise and recruit and generally spread the word that bellringing is something worth getting involved in. Also, the clatterers and natterers are unlikely to intimidate and scare off new people. A friendly tower is a thriving tower. We will offer newcomers a piece of cake, possibly a cake fork, and reassure them that we all miss the sally sometimes. Don’t sweat it.
- How do you know when a clatterer and natterer will morph into something more? It may be at first that they turn up, crash around a bit and share some gossip – but then the ringing bug might bite and they will be volunteering for every QP going and studiously studying method diagrams and muttering as they walk around.
- Some clatterers and natterers might decide that although Proper Peals are not for them, they rather like the idea of teaching bell handling. They may turn out to be quite talented teachers, perhaps unable to ring 12 bells successfully, but extremely patient and empathetic when it comes to new learners. Not all excellent ringers are excellent teachers and there is no reason why they should be. The C and Ns (clatterers and natterers) could release some of the PPRs (proper peal ringers) from the onerous necessity of catching wild ropes and soothing frightened recruits.
My conclusion is, we all have our roles and our strengths. Let us be more generous and less judgemental of others. It is sneering at the Clatterers and Natterers that leads to ringers leaving ringing. And then what would you be left with? A small number of excellent ringers and a plethora of silent towers. Is that what you really want?