Read more…"/> Words from the Chair – March 2024 – Kent County Association of Change Ringers

I write this as we finalise the arrangements for the Association AGM on Monday 1st April at Rainham. You may have already seen the programme on the KCACR website which gives details of the towers that will be open as well as the timetable for events on that day. We have around 1300 members in the Association which makes us one of the largest ringing associations in the country, however we have not seen this reflected in the attendance at the AGM. This is your opportunity to be involved with the Association and vote, or even volunteer, for members of the General Committee whose role is to ensure the smooth running of the KCACR.

Our General Committee meet four times a year in January, April, July and November. The meetings usually take place in the Maidstone area as this is central for all districts in the Association. Kent is a large county and sometimes we forget how far it is from Ramsgate to Tunbridge Wells. They are on a Saturday morning and usually the business to be discussed can be covered within 2½ hours. There are a few vacancies that will need filling this year and, although the Agenda for the AGM has now been published, it is not too late to contact Sue Bassett, the General Secretary to register your interest in these positions. All you then need to do is to ask two more members to support your interest by nominating and seconding you. Any current practising member of the KCACR can do this so you may be able to ask for the support of other members who ring at your tower.

At the beginning of March, I travelled to Harbury in Warwickshire to attend the ART (Association of Ringing Teachers) conference. As you are aware, I am very keen on raising the profile of ART in Kent and it was definitely worth attending the event. The conference took place over one day with the opportunity to attend a variety of seminars/discussion and there were a couple of seminars which I found really useful.

The first of these was by members of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers (ODG) on setting up an ART Hub. You may well have seen the KCACR and ART M1 Learning Hubs advertised on the KCACR website. These are currently in their early stages, having been set up in late 2023 by Sue Bassett and are proving to be quite popular. At present, we do not have the resources to offer more than teaching basic bell handling but I am looking for ways in which we might be able to develop a network of towers where different levels of skills could be taught. The most successful version of this is established in the West Midlands with the Birmingham School of Bell Ringing, which has been existence for a number of years now. The ODG are a little ahead of us so it was helpful to hear about how they went about developing their ringing hubs and about some of the pitfalls that they faced.

The other seminar that I found interesting was presented by Linda Garton, the President of the Bedfordshire Association of Church Bell Ringers (BACBR). This association is about a quarter of the size of the KCACR but is was reassuring to hear that they are facing the same problems as us and have looked at ways in which the BACBR can address some of these.

One other thought that I took away with me was about bridges from Tina Stoecklin, the President of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers. Tina has had experience of ringing in North America and is currently based in Scotland. Towers in both of the areas are fairly sparse, in America the next nearest tower can be hundreds of miles away. However, in both of these areas, ringers are prepared to travel for meetings or other ringing events as it gives them an opportunity to meet up and talk to fellow ringers.

Here in Kent we are very lucky as we have over 230 towers in the Association. However, I don’t think that we are as good at travelling. Many towers are like islands, their ringers do not travel beyond that tower and very few other ringers make the journey to that tower. The towers that are more successful have built bridges to link with other towers. We can no longer rely on a single community to provide a team of ringers. I know of several towers that are struggling because they find that it has become harder to replace ringers who are no longer able to ring at that tower. Perhaps we all need to build bridges to neighbouring towers and look for ways in which we can work together. To paraphrase John Donne: No tower is an island, entire of itself.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the AGM on Easter Monday at Rainham.

Neil Jones

KCACR Chairman

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