Hear ye, hear ye ... If you’re a town crier there is one thing that is especially important to remember: how you say it matters.
It is advice that City of Hamilton crier Ed Christopher welcomed as a newbie.
“I’m Bermudian and I speak like a Bermudian,” he said. “But when I read I can assure you I’m not Bermudian. I had to learn to slow it down and enunciate each syllable. You’re not just reading for yourself to be heard, but also to be understood.”
He will cohost the Bermuda International Town Crier Competition this week with David Frith, the town crier of St George. Sixteen criers from the US, UK and Canada will compete for the honour of winning the event, organised in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the twinning of the Town of St George and Lyme Regis in England.
UK town crier Mark Wylie won the last competition in 2015.
“I have no illusions about how I will fare this time round,” he said. “Having seen the list of the competitors I can see that this year’s competition has attracted some of the finest town-crying talent in the world. Whenever I attend a town criers’ competition I do so with one main priority, which is to be an ambassador for my home town of Calne in Wiltshire.”
Mr Christopher was drawn into the custom about 25 years ago. Major Bob Burns, then the town crier of St George, saw him on stage and asked if he’d stand in for him when he was sick.
People took notice.
“Roger Sherratt was the Corporation of Hamilton secretary then,” Mr Christopher said. “In 1993 he asked me if I wanted to be the Hamilton town crier for the arrival of the Queen the following year.”
The Royal performance was his first official duty. The actor donned an outfit made by his wife Theresa, and took the experience in his stride.
“I am a theatre man and so for me it was just acting,” said Mr Christopher, a member of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers.
“I enjoyed it. I like a performance and every day found other things to do with it. So it was nothing I actually went out and took a course in but, after that, the rest is history.”
At the time, he was the service manager at car dealers HWP but would spend his lunch hours on Front Street, greeting cruise ship passengers in full town crier regalia.
Before he knew it, City Hall was fitting him for an official uniform.
“[They] asked if I wanted to be involved with whatever official duties the mayor had to do and I said sure. I’d do ribbon cuttings, proclamations for different things going on and other special events. I would also go away with international businesses to open functions they were having there.”
At his first town crier competition in Lyme Regis he picked up the “best dressed” prize — along with a few pointers.
“I was a rookie at a three-day competition,” laughed Mr Christopher, whose cries have since won him many awards.
“They had parties in between the actual competitions and I didn’t know how to brace myself. I was staying up until 2am dancing and singing and had to get up the next morning to cry. My voice was hoarse. But it was fun, learning about it and networking with other criers.”
In with a shout: Ed Christopher’s tips for ‘crying’ success
1, Research is key. I talked to older Bermudians about our history. I also read a lot of books about the island.
2, It’s important not only to be able to project your voice but to have sustained projection.
3, You have to be confident.
4, You have to be flamboyant; you’ve got to be out there.
5, You have to write your own cries so you must be able to research whatever you want to talk about and keep what you’re writing to between 100 and 125 words.
6, You have to express yourself through your regalia. Many of the criers have a military background so their performance is very formal. I made mine very comical, from my first competition.
7, Diction. When I read, I can assure you I’m not Bermudian. I had to learn how to slow it down and enunciate each syllable. You’re not just reading for yourself to be heard, but also to be understood.
8, Also, if you’re telling a story, inflection is important.
• The competition starts at 1.30pm in King’s Square in St George on Wednesday. It continues on the steps at City Hall on Thursday at 11am and at the same time the next day, at Ordnance Island, St George. Admission is free