York has a new town crier – with a little help from the BID

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With a new set of livery now completed, and a bell that will ring out across the city streets, York’s new Town Crier, Ben Fry, formally took up the role in a ceremony outside Mansion House in St Helen’s Square on Friday 10 May 2019.

York’s civic party, comprising The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of York, Councillor Keith Orrell, Lady Mayoress, Mrs Judith Orrell, Sheriff of York, Verna Campbell – who championed the return of the town crier – and Sheriff’s Consort, Prof. Colin Campbell, presented Ben with the newly created livery and bell. Ben made his first Proclamation in St Helen’s Square.

Sheriff of York, Verna Campbell, said: “We are very much looking forward to the return of the tolling bell and traditional cry in the city centre, but also to seeing how far these messages can travel.

“Ben’s ambition is to spread the news through social media channels as well as in person, so we believe that this is the first time any city has had a Town Crier whose messages could potentially be shared contemporaneously with millions on Twitter and Facebook as well as those in the streets at the time of the proclamations!”

 

Heritage and high-tech

Following the ceremony at Mansion House, Ben will travel to the historic gateways of the city, announcing his own appointment at Micklegate Bar and Bootham Bar.

Town Crier, Ben Fry, said: “York is a city where heritage sits shoulder to shoulder with media arts and technology – we’re the UK’s first city to have ultrafast broadband connections widely available, and we’ve got free Wi-Fi throughout the city centre for visitors and resident alike, so it seems entirely fitting that this role sits across traditional and contemporary channels to reach an even wider audience.

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"I’m honoured to have been appointed to the role, and excited to see how I can take it further than any of my most respected predecessors.”

Ben has also been involved in the creation of the new livery, forgoing the frills and lace introduced in the Georgian period for a more practical outfit that he can easily change in and out of when attending events in a dual capacity as Town Crier and radio presenter.

“The stockings and breeches will be saved for special civic occasions, but the people of York should expect to see my coat, hat and hear the distinctive clanging of the bell at a host of key events around the city,” added the Town Crier.

 

Long tradition

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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.

The Town Crier will be ringing the bell used by the last bellman of York, kindly lent by Darrell Buttery for the event. It is made of bronze and in raised letters is inscribed RICHARD NAYLOR CITY BELLMAN YORK 1858 . A brand new bell is being made by Taylor’s Bell Foundry and when it is ready will be presented by them as a gift to the City.

The role of York’s Town Crier is voluntary, with the initial set-up costs being shared between York BID and York Civic Trust, and on-going coordination of the role by Make It York and City of York Council. Income generated by the role will fund its on-going costs, and any out of pocket expenses.

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