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Have you ever thought how ringing looks from the outside? Those of us inside the ringing bubble can easily forget that to most people (on the outside ) it looks very different. Or rather it doesn’t ‘look’ like anything, because although the sound we make is very public, we are normally hidden from view. Most non-ringers know virtually nothing about ringing, and some even think the bells are rung by a machine. The only images many people see of ringing are grossly distorted cartoons and advertisements. Is it any wonder that if they think of us at all, they think we are odd?
We put a lot of emphasis on good teaching as a means to secure the future of ringing, but that is only part of the picture. The recruits that we teach come from the non-ringing public – outside our bubble. They are influenced by the views of those with whom they spend their social and working lives. If ringing is seen as a weird minority activity, fewer people (and maybe not the most suitable ones) will want to enter our bubble. But if ringing is seen as a high status, high skill activity, then far more people will want to join us.
After starting to ring, people who feel they can share their experience and achievements with their friends and colleagues are more likely to stick with it if the going gets tough, than those who feel it best to keep quiet about their ringing. That might not be true for loners who like weird activities, but do we wish to limit our recruitment to them?
In short, we need to do a lot more than teach those we can get through the door. We also need to help members of our communities to understand what ringing is about – its rich heritage, and the challenges and rewards it offers.
Who is responsible for this important activity in your tower or local society? Is anyone doing anything? Can you do anything to ensure that more is done? We aren’t all PR experts, but we don’t need to be. A lot of what we need is quite basic, and advice is available. The Central Council PR Committee has provided a wealth of ideas on its website to help us all to improve the public visibility and understanding of ringing. It includes advice for engaging with the community at all levels (church, neighbours, town/village and the wider community).
One important form of ringing PR is personal contact. If 40,000 ringers each spoke about some aspect of ringing to one non-ringer per week, we could reach up to 2 million people in a year. When did you last talk enthusiastically to a non-ringer about ringing?
For more information, see: cccbr.org.uk/services/pr/advice/
John Harrison, January 2013
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