Northwest Residential Course - August 2023
Article by Ali Devine

A Residential Helper’s Point of View.

Since learning to ring in the 1980s I have always enjoyed residential ringing courses. During the mid to late 80s I was a regular as either a student or helper on both the Hereford Course and the Central Council Course, which moved around the various territorial associations every two years.

Having had quite a substantial break from ringing, I was delighted when last year a new residential course launched in the North-West. I was fortunate enough to be accepted as a student on the inaugural North-West Ringing Course, based at Myerscough College near Preston Lancashire. I am a great believer in paying forward all the time, patience and encouragement I have received from other ringers to help my progression and promised that I would return as a helper in 2023.

I have just returned home from the 2023 NWRC where I was a residential helper on the ‘Learn it Ring it’ course – a new course and the brainchild of one of the organisers, it aims to develop core skills for those just starting out in method ringing to provide a strong foundation for progression. I found myself helping on one of four groups for this course.

As well as a core of residential helpers, we were fortunate to have day helpers, usually those that were opening the towers for us, helping with our group. This was much appreciated especially by the core helpers as it meant we could have a rest, without the day helpers the residential helpers on the course would have had to ring all the time, to ensure the students had the steadiest of bands around them. As a helper I found the course quite a workout mentally, ringing call changes by place, ringing facing outwards to develop listening skills and pulling off in Queens before ringing Plain Hunt were just a few of the exercises used. In the weeks leading up to the course I had seen, several appeals for more helpers across social media pages. I had also seen comments questioning why anyone would want to help when helpers had to pay to attend. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard this question it was being asked when I was an active helper on residential courses in the late 1980s.

The cost of being a residential helper, covers the accommodation, breakfast and most meals during the course at a much more reasonable rate than even the most budget hotel. This cost is far outweighed by the benefits.

As a residential helper I was able to attend all the theory sessions for the group and gain an understanding of the aims of the course and to bond with the rest of the group making for a friendly and encouraging atmosphere in the towers. This also meant that I was able to pick up on tips and techniques that I can employ in future when helping other learners.

I was able to attend optional theory and practical sessions, which are open to helpers as well as the students, I enjoyed attending sessions on ringing up and down in peal something I don’t get anywhere near enough practice at.
Being resident at the college also meant that, I could socialise in the onsite pub after the practical sessions. Just because the practical sessions had finished for the day it did not mean the learning stopped. I was given some excellent advice about keeping track of calls during a quarter peal, something I hope to be putting into practice soon. It was also an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones, as well as to continue to encourage students and help build their confidence.

Day helpers will always be necessary on residential ringing courses but if you can attend as a residential helper, I would recommend it. I found it such a satisfying experience helping with a small group of students and seeing their progression during the weekend. I am still buzzing from the thrill of seeing what our students had achieved by Sunday afternoon. I’ll be back at the NWRC next year. I may apply as a student depending on my own progression in the meantime but if not, I will be applying as a residential helper.

Ali Devine