Ilkley had never seen, or heard, anything like it! A bellow of 19 town criers from all across the country came together on Saturday in a spectacle of vibrant colour, noise, eccentricity and pure joy.
The event, organised by Ilkley BID and hosted by Isabel Ashman, Ilkley Town Crier, took place in the sunshine at Ilkley Bandstand and was watched by a large number of residents and visitors.
The day began at 10.30am when the town criers paraded from the Town Hall, down and up Brook Street and back along The Grove to the Bandstand, ringing their bells and greeting onlookers who had gathered to watch them and take photographs.
At 11am, the first round of the competition took place with a ‘benchmark’ cry from Ms Ashman to kick off the proceedings, followed by a ‘home cry’ by all the town criers, extolling the virtues of where they live.
All the proclamations were marked for diction, clarity and content by the judges; Samantha Hill, President of Ilkley Playhouse; Mark Stidworthy, Ilkley Mayor and Ian White, Chair of Ilkley BID, and the Best Dressed Town Crier was judged by Lena Gazey, Head of Wardrobe & Costume at Ilkley Playhouse.
There then followed a parade through town in a vintage open top bus with the criers again ringing their bells and waving to delighted, if slightly bemused, bystanders. They even managed a couple of verses of ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht at’, sung in perfect harmony.
A delicious lunch of hot and cold food was served by Chef Sachi and his team at Sachi’s authentic Indian restaurant at the Moors Shopping Centre which was enjoyed by everyone.
At 2.30pm, the second round of the competition took place, with the ‘themed cries’.
Prior to the day, Ilkley BID had given each of the town criers a designated Ilkley business to ‘cry’ about, including Outside the Box, Lishman’s, Mortens, Jigsaw and The Art Shop to name but a few. These themed cries were to highlight the fact that the town has a thriving community of amazing shops and businesses and to promote the important ‘support local’ message.
The town criers took it in turns to perform their proclamations with many of the businesses represented recording their respective cries for their own promotional opportunities.
Then it was the turn of the young town criers to take to the stage in the Junior Town Crier Competition.
The participating school children from All Saints’, Ashlands, Moorfields and Sacred Heart Primary Schools had been collected from their schools in the vintage open top bus and transported in style to the Bandstand, where they performed their own cries, complete with bell and tricorn hat, about why their schools are so special.
The standard of the cries was outstanding with many of the town criers praising the ‘next generation of bellmen and bellwomen who could be entrusted to keep an ancient tradition alive’ knowing that “the oral tradition of news sharing, which goes back thousands of years and is practiced in every corner of the globe, is safe in their hands.”
The overall winners of the Junior Town Crier Competition, judged by John Griffiths, Town Crier for Sleaford and Elizabeth Watson Anderson, Town Crier for Barnoldswick, were Sylvie Hills and Anna Griffin representing Ashlands Primary School who both performed a joint cry, proclaimed in perfect synchronicity.
The day was enjoyed by everyone who attended, with Carole Williams, Town Crier for Bishop’s Stortford, saying: “As participants, we would like to tell you what a wonderful event it was! We’re sure the town centre shops were impressed by the number of potential shoppers that were drawn there by it and it was great to see the very wide audience that stayed all day listening to the various proclamations. The lunch at Sachi’s looked absolutely splendid and was as delicious as it looked.
“Many, many thanks to both Isabel and the team from Ilkley BID for coming together to put on such a spectacularly successful event.”
Lisa Drake, Ilkley BID Project Coordinator, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that so many people embraced this wonderful, uplifting event. It was a perfect example of our community coming together with involvement from schools, businesses, residents and visitors. Thank you to the 18 town criers who travelled from all across the country to join us and we appreciate them also taking the time out to visit the shops and businesses personally to perform their ‘themed cries’ in their premises.
“We would also like to thank the judges who performed their judging duties with perfect attention to detail and the Ilkley Bandstand Trust for providing the perfect venue for the occasion.
“And of course special thanks to Isabel Ashman, Ilkley Town Crier, who not only helped with organising the event, but who hosted the entire day’s proceeding impeccably.
“We’ve had many of the town criers asking if Ilkley could host another competition in the future, so watch this space.”
The overall Winner of the competition was Paul Gough, Town Crier for Nuneaton and Bedford.
The Runner up was David Hinde, Town Crier for Helmsley.
The Best Dressed was Bob Kendall, Town Crier for Grassington
The Best Dressed Consort was Sandra Kettlewell, Consort to Roy Palmer, Herald for The Royal Hospital Chelsea, London.