No shame in crying


Town criers from around the country gathered in Hastings on Saturday, October 15 to compete in the prestigious national crying championships. Hosted by Jon Bartholomew, the Hastings crier, who is the reigning British champion, 14 criers from around the country proclaimed and declaimed, supported by a delighted crowd, first thing in the morning in Priory Meadow shopping centre.

Dev Hobson, the quiet retiring crier from Middlewich
Dev Hobson, the quiet retiring crier from Middlewich

This was the 64th National Town Crying Competition, always held in Hastings and starting in the 1920s. I had the impression that only a few people had come deliberately to see the event, but after it kicked off, spectators gathered organically, drawn to a fascinating, historic and very enjoyable piece of entertainment. Broad grins, applause and loud “huzzahs” were the order of the day.

In the first round, the criers were asked to spend a minute or so describing their home town. They rose to the occasion, welcoming the rapt spectators, sometimes in rhyme. All were appealing and evocative. In the second round, the theme was 1066 and all that – it was the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings after all. Not having studied this period at school,  I learned a lot and in an infinitely more enjoyable way than I am used to.

Rye's own Paul Goring, the new kid on the block
Rye’s own Paul Goring, the new kid on the block

All of the contestants were excellent and you could see why they had been appointed. They clearly relished their roles and responsibilities. Special respect is due to Jacquie Hall, the Wareham crier and the only lady in the competition. What she lacked in volume compared to some of the men, she more than made up for in style, charm and chutzpah. I also liked Dev Hobson’s pink beard which set off his purple costume nicely (Middlewich).

But of course there could be only one winner and this year the laurels, in this, the world’s oldest town crying competition, were taken by Mr Dorchester, Alistair Chisholm, a very worthy winner.

Rye’s deputy town crier, Paul Goring, attended as an observer this year, though was allowed to make a special guest cry. Judging from his ebullience, volume and clear enjoyment of the whole occasion, he is clearly one to watch for the future.






Photos: Seana Lanigan

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