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Intimidation in ringing


What I am talking about is "Intimidation", making folk feel timid, belittling.


In the Statement from YMSCR*: 17th December 2016.
The very first point is "No members of YMSCR have engaged in any intimidation of other ringers."
A very brave, perhaps naive statement to make.
I wonder how many other towers or Societies could do that.

I feel the YMSCR Statement is clearly wrong.
Perhaps the writer has no knowledge of incidents, but at least one has occurred.

The YACR* meeting
held in May 2011 (hosted by York ringers), I feel was organized so strictly it actually became intimidating.
I felt treated like cattle.
The incident at St Wilfrid's, some people nearly walked out when one person received personal intimidating remarks.
Were the organizers informed during feedback? I doubt it.


Intimidation is NOT restricted to the York ringers.

Some of the nicest people can say the most intimidating things.
Elsewhere I have witnessed intimidation on a scale that I would call “criminal abuse” in towers.

Me a victim

I have felt intimidation in most of my ringing career, I could say I am used to it.
I have developed coping strategies to avoid the highly skilled razor tongued wordsmiths, but now and again they pop up unexpectedly, causing a quick withdrawal.
Now these people are the most friendly and helpful folk one could ever wish to know.
However I sometimes find their remarks very cutting.


There is no complaint mechanism in the ringing community, perhaps I am to blame for not standing up and saying that I do not find those remarks acceptable.
At a local tower, I feel it would be important to inform the Clergy of the situation.
However my experience has been that involving the Clergy is a bad move.
They will simply shut down ringing.


Ringers have commented that to advance their ringing skills they need to put up with the intimidation and bullying.
Other leaders have told me that the use of intimidation may be a necessary part of getting a ringer to perform better.
There must be a better way.
All I can say is that intimidation has had a detrimental effect on my development, as I have limits to the abuse I can take.

Drop Outs

I wonder how many folk have dropped out of ringing due to intimidation.
(A massive discussion subject!).

Exciting ???

Now some people respond to intimidation, find it motivating.
Intimidating towers can be taken as a challenge, something to conquer, new skills, new progression, new excitements.
Other people have different motivations.
No two people are alike.


There can be a progression from "banter" to intimidation, to bullying.
Often a bully never knew he was a bully, no one told him.
Someone may not perceive how their remarks will be received.

One aspect of "Intimidation" is what I call "peacocking", public loud pronouncements not only belittling the receiver but enhancing the perpetrator's public standing, often accompanied by reinforcing laughter from those around.


Here other people affiliated to the original bully, jumping on the bandwagon.
They join in with the ongoing theme.

These people feel they have the right to add their own "banter" or bullying remarks.

They gain the admiration of their peers and so the feel they are doing the right thing.

This is where it becomes really hurtful, one can cope with the original bully, perhaps knowing the performance ideals of the original bully, but then personal "banter" from others in the group can become overwhelming.

A scaring

Sometimes a conductor may chose to intimidate one ringer, intending to correct a problem with another ringer who he feels cannot take criticism

One example I have heard told

While ringing Stedman, the conductor shouts "George you are dodging 5/6 with the 4th", then repeats louder, then louder and really furiously

George was actually ringing correctly, but the ringer of the 4th was completely off the method.
The conductor was aware that if he shouted at the 4th ringer, that person would have stood his bell and exited the tower.

Now I think that there has to be a better way, even if George knew what it was all about, the rest of the band heard George being abused.


So, listen out in your tower.

Do you hear unacceptable interactions?

Is it time to reject intimidation from ringing?

Forward ?

Finally where is “encouragement” in all this, a little “well done”, “great effort” or a “thank you”.


YMSCR = York Minster Society of Change Ringers

YACR = Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers

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Material Copyright © 2001 Derek C Johnstone

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Last Updated 13th August 2020