‘How do we attract young ringers to bell ringing?’ The answer may well be… don’t. Young ringers it appears, want the same things as everyone else.
Listening to young ringers talk about their experiences both in our tower and in the many recent news reports and articles covering the shortage of Bell Ringers, one thing stood out - the words they used to describe their experience of Bell Ringing - welcoming, accepting, belonging, authentic, community.
This relates to my own thoughts on what attracts me to bell ringing and makes me question whether ‘young’ ringers are really any different to any other potential bell ringer?
If we accept that young ringers are really no different to the rest of us, then we can all stop worrying about whether or not bell ringing is ‘cool’ – It turns out what young people want is warm.
Now, I’m not suggesting this is a great revelation, that all our recruitment problems are solved, but we need a starting point – a cornerstone that we can all agree and build upon. I think a welcoming, accepting, authentic, community is certainly something we all want to be a part of and can all aspire to deliver.
I particularly like the term authentic. Bell ringing is certainly that. It has a rich history and an authentic feel to it that I love. ‘Traditional’ some might say, but that seems too stuffy - too old fashioned. In the ever changing, fast paced, modern world in which we live, there is definitely room in my life for something authentic.
We all realise that there are hundreds of competing interests in the life of young ringers. If we are going to attract them to bell ringing, keep them ringing or at least give them an introduction to a hobby that they can return to later, then we need a unique selling point - a U.S.P.
What could we offer… Being out of the house on a Sunday morning before noon? The lure of lots of hard work and effort to reach the standards required of a striking competition? It doesn’t sound all that appealing a does it?
What about - being part of a unique group, with a shared identity? A welcoming, authentic, community with a shared passion? Now that sounds much better to me and is a U.S.P we can all offer with ease. I know many of you will be thinking ‘We already do that!’ – I know. I want to say thank you and please keep doing it. You are the reason I ring and why I’m enthusiastic about getting more people involved in our unique hobby.
Looking back at pop culture I’d venture that belonging to a group with a unique bond is something that has always attracted young people. Mods, Rockers, Punks, Hipsters… Bell Ringers? It certainly used to be the case.
If we can offer a welcoming, accepting, authentic, community, a warm space – even in the chilliest of church towers, then we’ll have something to offer not just young ringers, but all ringers.