Less of the bell, more of the Bluetooth – York’s new town crier is bringing an ancient tradition bang up to date.
Ben Fry, well known as the breakfast show host on Minster FM, has been appointed town crier, and he plans to revolutionise the role.
City of York Council, Make It York and the York BID (Business Improvement District) were all involved in Ben’s appointment.
Chris Bush of the BID said:
During the interview process, we were very excited by the new aspects that Ben proposed bringing to the role – evolving the tradition to embrace not only heritage, but integrating social media to help the town crier’s voice reach a wider audience than ever before.
York is a city that embraces both the past and the future, and we’re confident that Ben will bring something completely new to the role.
Celebrating the city
Ben believes that York’s town crier should be an ambassadorial role that becomes aspirational for all kinds of people:
Being a 21st century town crier does not simply require a loud voice and a bell to be heard.
When I’m not physically shouting, I will be making sure that our whole city is celebrated and highlighted whilst I continue to wear the mantle.
The role has been reintroduced at the urging of the Sheriff of York, Verna Campbell, having last been filled by John Redpath, who retired in 2007.
Ben will join the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers and the Loyal Company of Town Criers.
New livery is being made, funded by York BID, which will be ready for their first outing later in the spring.
This may be more in line with the practical apparel that predates the Georgian period, when lace and fancy adornments were added for extra spectacle when he led civic processions.
The role of York’s town crier is voluntary, with the initial set-up costs being shared between York BID and York Civic Trust. Income generated by the role will fund its on-going costs, and any out of pocket expenses.
History of the town crier
Neither will Ben be required to monitor the repair of the city walls – unlike the Bellman of 1666, when stone was regularly stolen to build their houses by locals.
In York, the town crier was traditionally called the Bellman, and before the days of newspapers, radio and TV, the role involved making civic announcements, as well as providing paid-for advertising for local businesses.
The call ‘Oyez! Oyez’ is the French for ‘listen’ or ‘hear ye’ – an instruction to separate these vocal announcements from other clamour and street noise, usually accompanied by the ringing of a bell.
Town Crier display from the Edinburgh People’s Museum. Photograph: Yuri Loginov / Pexels