Donhead St Mary Bellringers - October 2016 Report

Some of you may have the seen the recent BBC item, also picked up by the Daily Telegraph, headlined “Church bell-ringers shortage prompts concern”. In the clip, which you can find via Google, the band at Sheffield speak about why they enjoy ringing, and also say that they find it harder to recruit new ringers these days. These views mirror the results of a survey carried out earlier in the year that showed that whilst over 75% of towers find it “hard or fairly hard to recruit young ringers”, 60% of those surveyed reported that the demand for bell ringing had increased in the last 10 years. It has been my experience in this village that our youngest ringers have generally tended to have relatives who can ring bells.

It is said that people have “less time to do things” nowadays. There is more choice of hobbies, it is easier to travel (to do anything from Pilates to choirs, from hiking to golf, and so on) and people have more spare cash and spare time than they had 70 years ago, when most were limited to a walk to the pub, an evening in front of the telly or something they could go to on the bus. All societies and hobbies are reporting that it is generally harder to attract new members. It cannot all be blamed on tablets and mobile phones; even bell ringers have got an ‘app’!

Both our towers in the Donheads are affiliated to the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers, which exists to promote ringing. In August, I helped out on a Young Ringers’ Day, organised by the Guild. The 6 teenagers who went on it had a great time. We took a minibus to Zeals, where there is a colour CCTV set up so you can see the bells swinging in the belfry, and then to Motcombe for further ringing, where everyone was amused by the floor mats hand-made by the ringers, that no one may walk on! For variety, we had a midday trip to Haynes Motor Museum and then finished up at Cucklington, where the ringers ring in the porch! By the end of the day, the teenagers were confident enough to organise themselves and they benefitted hugely and had a good day out.

Christopher Sykes