This Thursday past I started a new block of beginning handbell ringers at our local primary school. They were a great group and it looks like they may progress well. I couldn't help notice, though, that a lot of the children had a pretty good idea what I was going to say. That is one indication that word is spreading.
The biggest indication is the size of the waiting list to go onto the handbell club - which is now nearly 40. This is way above the interest level any of us ever thought we would achieve. Really, I had imagined this as a little niche activity for a few children. Instead, the Club is becoming a victim of its own success.
In my imaginings, I had a plan to leave no one behind, so that once someone had completed a beginners' block, I would roll them into a further block so they could keep developing. And I would have a little core of about half a dozen good pupils just at the point where it starts to get fun again.
I tried this last term, with a four-week 'beginners only' block, followed immediately by a more advanced block for anyone who wanted to carry on. I ended up with 12 students, six of which came from the most recent block, and six returning from last year's club. I created an elaborate rota which used the six more experienced ringers as tutors and managed to sit down in an intensive lesson with each over the course of three weeks. It was a little bit too chaotic to work as well as I had hoped.
So this term, I changed tactics and have started with a longer beginners block, to get them that bit further. Also, I have reluctantly decided that I can really only offer beginners blocks, so that everyone has a chance to have a go. But with that, I need some mechanisism for those who want to carry on. Any ideas are very welcome.
It does show that, given the right opportunity, bellringing doesn't have to be something odd or out of the way. It hasn't taken much persuasion to get children to take it up with enthusiasm. I have some problems to solve, but they are the kind of problems you want to have.