The town crying season runs from June until August, because “people will not stand around if its cold, wet and windy.” But what does the popular Crier, David Mitchell do for the rest of the year? Does he hibernate, or spend his time polishing his bell, or ironing his tights? SC chatted to David about his activities and reflections on the season gone by.
“Its very varied.” says David, who has been Chester Town crier for over 18 years. “That’s the great plus of the job, you never know what you’re going to be doing next…I do after dinner speaking to groups like Rotary, Ladies luncheon clubs, Societies, golf clubs and so on. That means that I still get to be a town crier, but dont have to be out on the streets!
“Each season has its own blessings and charms. I switch on Christmas lights, I’m doing them in Frodsham and Mickle Trafford. I’m involved in the “search for Santa” prior to the switching on of the lights in Chester. I also do things like Degree day ceremonies. I was officiating the degree day ceremony in St Helens.. it was preceded by a parade of students, academic staff plus parents. I had to lead the parade. I was the only person there who didn’t know where we were going!”
David speaks fondly of the variety of his job: “You can find yourself walking the high wire when the Moscow state circus come to visit.. This was about two years ago. My shoes weren’t so good, so they gave me a pair of ballet shoes so I could grip… Jumping off St peters church on a zip-wire for charity, rolling cheeses down Eastgate st , I do that.. I’ve welcomed guests to a function at the Houses of Parliament .. I’ve done the weather forecast from the Cross with Carol Kirkwood. Jingles for local radio stations” he continues “never a dull day.. One of the strangest things I did was , someone rang me up and asked if I’d have breakfast with them, a total stranger. What she wanted to do was get some publicity for a charity!” he smiles. David also does costumed after dinner speaking, travelling all over the UK talking about his personal experiences as a town crier. Announcements for birthdays, engagement parties or anniversaries are all part of David’s repertoire.
“I’ve even done a proposal on Valentine’s day… this guy had booked a table in the Grosvenor, and I was coming after the sweet, and announced that he wanted to get engaged. I was hiding behind the scenes.. There were several couples there, so I didn’t go straight to their table. The first part of the proclamation didn’t say what particular girl it was…I could see her smiling out of the corner of her eye, not realising I was talking about her” he recalls.
This year he has announced the birth of the new royal baby, opened several shops, and “cried” at the full and half marathons. He attended Hoole’s community barbecue : “The interesting thing about doing the event in Hoole was I got to use the Hoole bell. The community centre used to be a school, and they still have the hand bell, and its been restored, and they let me use it. Hoole is the perfect place to live, I’ve lived there for 25 years now and it’s good to see it getting the recognition it deserves.” Another highlight was when David auctioned a special consignment of Australian cricket bats “hardly used” he jokes.
David has been spending time on his MA about the history of oral announcements in the 17th century . David has researched it extensively, travelling across the country and studying local archives. In the Chester records he found details of the town crier announcing that thatched roofs were to be outlawed due to their vulnerability to fire, following the events of the Great fire of London. “You couldn’t put it in the Chronicle because it didn’t exist.. and you couldn’t tell @ShitChester because he hadn’t been born yet!”
“One of the most impressive things that happened this year was the Civil war event, I thought the parade was even more impressive than what they did at the racecourse.” David took part in a special parade to mark The Queen becoming the longest serving monarch in September. “I did that along with my wife. I represented Victoria. Julie represented Elizabeth. We had the TV cameras down for that. It was another case of doing something that had never been done before. Doing the unusual , and the unique, becomes normal. That is the outstanding delight of the job..”