My mission

I am committed to encouraging  people to try change ringing on handbells. I find it mystifying that others, particular other ringers, do not enjoy them because they are such delightful things.  I can only suppose that any introduction was mishandled because many people confess, “yes, I have tried them but I did not enjoy them. I can probably just about plain hunt…” How can that be? If you have got that far along the path, why no further?  What barrier did you come up against that made you put the little bells down and decide “no, not for me.”? If you can plain hunt, it is a short step to plain bob (supposing you are already a ringer and understand what  a lead is, and how to dodge) and, if you can manage on 6, then 8 is even more fun.

What went wrong? Did someone shout too many instructions at you?  Make you feel small and stupid?  Did you find yourself in trouble because you clashed the bells together when learning to handle and their owner visibly winced or even scowled and tutted?  Were the bells provided too big and heavy for your ladylike wrists or perhaps ridiculously dainty for your large hands? Were there no other interested people to play alongside? Were the bells set up for tunes with clappers that annoyingly struck on one side only? Did you long for the trebles, but they were already taken? Were the acoustics all wrong and the shrillness made your ears bleed? Was the supply of cake somehow inadequate?  Did you feel intimidated because many handbell ringers are very good ringers indeed (I am a clear exception) and you picked up the impression that, in general, they are way out of your league?

There must be a reason why someone who is introduced to anything new decides that the new thing is not for them.  It seems that many ringers over their ringing careers experience a taste of handbells and reject them, which is such a wasted opportunity because there is nothing like the weaving of two bells in and out, a mesmerising trickle of sound that can be recreated anywhere, as long as there are at 3 people gathered together and there are six glasses, a jug of water and six spoons available. You do not need towers. You do not need to climb stairs nor navigate roofs. You do not need to get too cold nor too hot.  What is there not to enjoy about handbells?

So I am on a mission to make sure that as many people as possible can have a go – without intimidation, without scowling (an inward wince only),  without awkward or difficult bells. A chance to experience their possibilities and, if an individual still doesn’t like them, then fair enough, but at least give them a try. This means that I have to volunteer to help with the gentle introduction because often people that are very good and very experienced at things, can be a bit clueless when it comes to someone else not grasping the same activity immediately. For the experienced it is so second nature and so obvious, that they cannot see the problems.

 Earlier this month, I was attempting to demonstrate the association ebells at our AGM.  I am in no position to intimidate anyone because most of them know what a rubbish ringer I am, so I felt fairly sanguine about the session, but the technology was less than co-operative which always makes things tricky. However, there was a faint flame of interest from a few people that requires fanning. Encouraged, I sent out a group e-mail to members suggesting establishing an association-wide handbell group, to meet regularly on-line and once a month or so in person. Not a group to necessarily ring quarters together, although we might, but a group organised along the lines of a tower practice where anyone can turn up and ring at their level, whether that be learning to plain hunt or something more ambitious. It makes sense for there to be a forum where ringers can try out handbells, and those that are already “hooked” can support and encourage ringers new to the genre but also increase their own opportunities to ring different methods with as wide a range of people as possible.

But now I have been asked to introduce handbells  at an upcoming national ringing festival. This begins to push it a bit, because someone might actually be expecting one of those whizzy handbell ringers to be running the session and, having turned down an alternative tempting opportunity, be greatly disappointed when it is only me.

At least I can promise not to shout in frustration nor roll my eyes at anyone, because I have only recently grasped the basics myself.

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