Oh, the places you’ll go! (A beginners guide to visiting other towers)
Getting out to ring at other towers is good for you. Everyone says so, but how do you actually go about doing it and what should you expect? Don’t worry – this handy guide will give you the answers and get you out and about in no time.
When you first start to ring, you enter a strange new world contained in the ringing room of your local church tower. There are strange new concepts to grasp, new terminology and a friendly bunch of people to get to know. As you learn you start to settle into this new environment and make it your home. Those strange terms become commonplace and those welcoming faces become familiar friends. It all starts to become a familiar part of your routine, a place to unwind and forget about the stresses of the day.
Suddenly though, one of those friendly faces may well pull you back out of your comfort zone…
“You ought to pop along to Little Handlington” they’ll say.
“They’re a friendly bunch and they have a great practice on a Thursday night. It would really help to give you some extra practice of X.”
“Umm... Yes” you reply, “that err... sounds great.”
You’re not too sure what has just happened, but you can definitely see your comfort zone drifting away beneath you. DON’T PANIC.
The fact is that many ringers enjoy ringing at other towers and the easiest way to do this is via the regular practice nights that happen at towers throughout the country. Ringers do this both to enjoy the practice themselves and for the joy of helping another tower with an extra pair of hands.
You may not be aware, but you’ll probably find that several of the ringers at your tower, at least on occasion, ring elsewhere.
So why has somebody suggested you visit another tower? Has your conversation not been sparkling enough? Has the fact that you were late last week when your dog was in the vets been noticed? Simply – No. People suggest a visit to another tower because they know how much it will help your ringing. Indeed, they will be remembering how much it helped them and how much it still helps them to ‘get out and about’ ringing at other towers. Most likely if someone has suggested you ring at another tower, then they themselves have rung there recently, know it well and are confident you’ll be welcomed.
But what if this hasn’t happened to you? Are you not good enough to ring elsewhere? Are you not cool enough, not ‘one of the gang’? Again – No. It is simply that no one has yet thought of you and the ringers at Little Handlington as a perfect match. In this case there is only one thing for it. Grab the bull by the horns and ask your tower captain or any other experienced ringer at your regular practice night if they can suggest a tower that you might be able to go along to for extra practice. They’ll be only to pleased to support your enthusiasm with some suggestions.
Once you’ve made the decision to go into this brave new world, there are a few things you can do to make your visit enjoyable, minimise any worries and to get the most out of it and here they are:
Top tips for visiting other towers:
Get in touch first. If you’ve been invited along by another ringer then you probably don’t need to worry about this, but if you haven’t and are thinking about visiting a tower, then get in contact first. This gives you a good chance to ease your nerves, as you’ll know you are welcome before you turn up on the night. It will also help both you and the Tower Captain to know a little beforehand about what you can do and what you are looking to learn. (Contact details for each tower can be found from your local association secretary).
Take a friend, colleague, acquaintance. If you’ve been invited somewhere or someone suggests you visit another tower, then ask if they’ll come along with you. If you are contacting a tower yourself, then ask one of the other ringers from your usual practice night to some along too. It really helps to have a familiar face with you and if they are an experienced ringer, then all the better to steady your own nerves!
Arrive on time. Its only polite to arrive on time, but you also give yourself chance to scope out your surroundings before starting to ring, meet the ringers before the ringing begins and more often than not, get a little practice in before the majority of ringers arrive.
Be clear about what you can and can’t do. If you’ve been in contact already, then the Tower Captain should already know your current ringing abilities. If not, then just be clear about what you can and can’t do. It is also worthwhile being a little modest. If you say you can ring Call Changes or a particular method, expect to be asked to ring them on any bell. It is much better to say ‘I can ring call changes and I’m just learning to ring the treble to plain hunt.’ Than to say ‘I can plain hunt’ and be asked to ring the treble to a touch of Bob Doubles. Remember you’ll be ringing on unfamiliar bells, so stick with what you are confident at to start with and allow the Tower Captain to invite you to try something more complicated if they see you are doing well.
Be social. Talk about something with anyone that will listen. Good topics are anything positive; differences with your home tower, the sound of the bells, the history of ringing there or even the weather! Compliments on the bells, the ringing chamber or the church and its surroundings are all appreciated by the local ringers.
Do it in small steps. Start with a local tower with the same number of bells, or close to the same number as your own and build up from there. You will be welcome wherever you go, but doubly so in a tower where you can help the band with a steady hand at rounds, call changes or a method where they are struggling. However, don’t be put off from visiting towers with more bells, especially if you can contact them first - Many towers have separate practice nights to accommodate beginners and more experienced ringers.
If all else fails, just do it! I have often attended other towers practice nights. Sometimes invited, sometimes pre-arranged and sometimes completely out of the blue. No matter what my ringing ability, I have always been made welcome as soon as I introduce myself as a bell ringer. Do not be afraid that the band are too advanced for you, too old, too young, too fast, too slow, the bells too heavy or too light, the draught too long or the sallies too fluffy. Don’t let anything put you off. I guarantee you will learn something. Remember – just outside your comfort zone is where amazing things happen.
If you still need more help, advice or encouragement, just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org