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Ten signs that you would make a great Town Crier

1. If your close friends all seem to have gone prematurely hard of hearing.

2. If your first thought when looking at shoes in shop windows is that the buckles are too small.

3. If “polish my bell” doesn’t sound like an innuendo to you.

4. If you can order a pint on a Saturday night whilst standing ten feet from the bar.

5. If you think adding feathers improves any hat

6. Also corners.

7. If you like the idea of shouting at strangers without getting arrested.

8. If you can agree to pose for 200 selfies in a day without ever dropping your smile

9. If you always wear a pirate costume to fancy dress parties

10. If you love your hometown and want to share it with people from all over the world.

If all the above apply to you, why not contact your town hall and ask about becoming your home town’s official town crier.

Lions in Maidenhead High Street

Yesterday’s Chinese New Year was celebrated in Maidenhead with a dance by five traditional Chinese Lions. The Dancers from the local Eagle Claw Kung Fu group herded their Lions up and down Maidenhead’s high street in a loud, colourful acrobatic display that brought out a large crowd of onlookers from the local community.

Chinese New Year Lion dancers

There was a great party atmosphere in town and I was delighted to help let people know about start times and the procession route. When the event came, couldn’t resist taking a few photos of what was a great spectacle. Congratulations to all who took part and Happy New Year.

eagle claw kung fu maidenhead

Maidenhead knows how to party – Lantern Parade 2016

I had a lovely Saturday evening in Maidenhead town centre on the 10th December at the Norden Farm Lantern Parade.

norden farm lantern parade

Close to 500 people took to the streets to follow a Samba band through town. Everyone carried beautifully crafted handmade lanterns, illuminating the procession to create an ever changing glowing ribbon of light. It really did look enchanting.

Seven local schools  along with other groups from various parts of the local community made lanterns seperately but it was only when they all came together on the night that the beautiful result was revealed.

An event for everyone

The organisers from Norden Farm Arts Centre (big shout out to Robyn and the team)  pulled off another brilliant success deserving mountains of praise. On that note it was also really heartening to see both the Mayor (cllr Luxton) and the Council leader (cllr Dudley) turning up to show their support. Their attendance at the start of the event was much appreciated.

mayor and town crier at maidenhead lantern parade

The Bollywood brass band did a terrific job of warming everyone up and after some announcements from yours truly the Mayor and Council Leader officially started the event; the Samba  rhythms began to beat and off we went. Up from the Town Hall to the high street and then past Nicholsons and all the way to King Street turning left each time to take us back in a big loop toward the Town Hall again almost an hour later.

town crier with umbrella

Perfect weather for it

A bit of rain came down but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits one bit. The band never stopped beating their amazing rhythms so I never stopped dancing. Well… I say dancing, but having watched the video they were recording on the night, perhaps ‘moving in a oddly amusing manner’ was the best that could be said of the town crier.

fun at maidenhead lantern parade 2016

Thank You to Robyn for the Photos

Holyport Fair

I really enjoyed yesterday at Holyport fair. It was their 70th anniversary and the turnout felt like the biggest I’ve ever seen in the village. Activities included bowling for a pig (which was a feature of the very first Holyport fair), A coconut shy, a huge antique roundabout and a display of classic cars. The ever popular dog show, and inter-pub tug of war (Won by the Jolly Gardener team) both attracted large crowds. Then there were dancing displays and stalls from local charities. All in all, a pretty perfect English summer fair on a warm and sunny afternoon.

I got to kick off proceedings at 2.00pm, but I felt the honour of declaring the fair officially open should go to some local children, so seven very loud youngsters(one for each decade) were given the opportunity of doing the honours on my behalf. They did the job magnificently and got a big round of applause for their efforts.

HM the Queen’s 90th Birthday

On Wednesday 20th April 2016 Her Majesty came to Alexandra Park the day before her 90th birthday.

I was asked to introduce the event to the invited audience and so about half an hour before her Majesty’s arrival I ascended the bandstand, read out a cry and to help get people into a party mood.

bandstand

Then, with my duties over with I stood at the back enjoying the band and choirs final rehearsals before the guests of honour arrived.

flag waving

The crowd were happy to wave union jacks and cheer as The Queen listened to songs (including the obligatory ‘Happy Birthday’) and watched a youth theatre group perform some of  Romeo and Juliet before taking a tour of the Bandstand herself.

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The Queen unveiled a new gate plaque that follows the same design as an earlier plaque from the original opening of the gardens more than a century ago.

The next day was the big birthday proper and I arrived in the town centre about half past nine in the morning. There was already a huge crowd and so my first duty of the day was to inform everyone of the timetable for the days events.

Crier at Windsor

I delivered my proclamation from the traditional spot by the Queen Victoria Statue (close to the site of where the old town cross once stood) and the cheers when I finished with the obligatory ‘God Save the Queen’ were deafening. It was certain the crowd were excited that they were going to be seeing Her Majesty at close quarters.

One TV crew (who will remain nameless) asked my opinion on the royal family’s future and whether I agreed with any of the criticisms the interviewer raised. I politely pointed out that as the official Town Crier of the Royal Borough, they might reflect that there was a big clue in my job title that I was never, ever going to answer silly questions of that nature.

nadiya Hussein with Windsor town crier Chris Brown

My next task was at the Guildhall, leading the Councillors in three cheers as Her Majesty came up to the corn exchange at the end of her walkabout. Before her arrival I enjoyed a chat with Nadiya Hussein who won the BBC’s Great British Bake Off show and had been invited to bake a Birthday Cake for the Queen.

Her Majesty chatted to a number of invited guests who were sharing their birthdays with the Queen and she cut the cake that Nadiya had baked. The deputy mayor handed over a beautifully wrapped birthday gift too.

As the Queen and Prince left the Guildhall in an open topped car…

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I stood at the railings and  (in a dreadful breach of protocol) waved with everyone else as she went past. Happy to report that we got a huge smile and friendly wave back.

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Then for me it was back to the Queen Victoria Statue to remind people of the next events on today’s schedule. I urged the crowd to join the Mayor on the long walk for the traditional 21 gun salute at 2.30pm and then went off in search of a quiet corner to eat my packed lunch (yes, its a glamourous life being town crier).

Then it was back to the Guildhall to chat with some of the nonogenerians (word of the week) who were about to enjoy a lunch with the Mayor in the beautiful surroundings of the Guildhall.

Leaving the Guildhall seemed to take forever as so many people wanted photographs and a chat, and I couldn’t say no, but I managed to get away down Park Street and on to the Long Walk with about 10 minutes to spare.

A bigger than usual crowd had gathered for the Cannon salute and many first timers were (as usual) shocked to see such small guns and as usual were equally shocked when the first was lit and a deafening boom blasted across the fields. I love this event and if you haven’t enjoyed the Windsor’s Mayor’s minature 21 gun salute on the Queen’s birthday, come next year… It’s a blast!

However, this time, with the national media in attendance we had to wait for a cue from the BBC TV crew before we could sing Happy Birthday to her Majesty live on air and fire off the guns.

Then there was another half hour of photos before I could leave the long walk and head back in to town.

It had been an absolutely wonderful day to be in Windsor and it wasn’t over yet. There was still the lighting of the beacons to come.

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The excitement is building

Spent two hours with Windsor St George Rotarians today raising awareness of their free blood pressure checks. George the friendly dragon was out with us too, and frightened far fewer passers by, than I did.

Thankfully most people weren’t scared off by either of us and I got plenty  of enquiries about the timetable for Her Majesty’s Birthday events this coming Thursday. Lots of the shops are already redoing their window displays to celebrate and now that the flags are up along the High Street, the town is looking very festive.  I am definitely looking forward to this coming week myself. It will definitely be a week to remember.

On Thursday in particular I will be out and about in Windsor town centre from early morning as we are expecting to get a lot of visitors who will turn up early but may want advice on where the best places to stand are, what other events are going on and so on. 

Why was the Town Crier important?

Or, what can town criers of the past still teach us about marketing today?

In days past (that’s a beautifully non-specific phrase) almost every town had a paid crier whose job was to let the people know about important news. The definition of ‘important’ being things they wanted to know as well as things other people wanted them to know.

Town Crier were important because they used a variety of techniques to ensure as many people as possible heard, understood and remembered what they were crying about. Variants on these same techniques are the bedrock of marketing. By watching a town crier in action we can still learn a thing or two about getting the message across,  in this or any age.

Town Criers were loud

The modern phrase ‘interuptive marketing’ doesn’t do justice to a loud bell and booming voice. The first ‘hit’ is the most important. If they don’t hear you at the beginning you have lost before you have even begun.

Town Criers were visually impressive

In the UK by the 19th century criers adopted an old fashioned manner of dressing which set them apart from the general populace who were dressing less ostentatiously than ever before. If you stand out in a crowd, you are likely to be looked at and listened to.

Town Criers spoke clearly

Town criers were famous for speaking clearly. This does not mean they spoke ‘received pronunciation’. Indeed, written records show that they used their local dialects and may well have been unintelligible to people from other parts of the country, but the point was that they made sure they were understood by their local audience. This is a lesson modern marketers should remember. Talking in a way your audience understands not only aids comprehension, but increases their empathy with you and your message.

Town Criers were concise

Modern town criers limit their proclamations to 150 words or less. This is a hangover from the lesson learned by generations of their predecessors that people have short attention spans. Sticking to the point and getting an idea across with as little padding as possible is a great skill to acquire.

Town Criers were reputable

A town crier was not necessarily someone of high social status, but they had to have a reputation for honesty. Nobody believes a crier who lies so

Town Criers were Repetitive

Starting with the three rings of the bell and  ‘Oyez’ repeated three times at the start of each proclamation, criers understand the value of repetition. A crier will often repeat an important cry a number of times in the same place on the same day to make sure as many people hear it. Advertisers are usually away that it takes at least three interactions with a brand before a potential customer will buy something from the brand owners.

A Right Royal Event

“Chris, The Queen is on the phone!”

I was astounded, then quickly a little disappointed to realise it was the Queen Charlotte Pub calling. However I quickly cheered up when I learned that John the Landlord wanted to know if I might be able to turn up for their launch night.

I knew that John has had a pretty hectic few months getting the half million pound refit of the Church Street pub ( formerly The Blarney Stone, formerly The Highlander and formerly The Jolly Roger) sorted and had recently hit the headlines for the wrong reasons when his opening was delayed because 41 skeletons were discovered beneath the pubs back wall.

So, naturally I said yes and last Thursday, went to see what the new pub looked like.

As soon as I walked in I was welcomed and invited behind the bar to pull a celebratory pint. John and I posed for photos and then he showed me what they had done to the old place. I think it looks totally terrific, but this blog isn’t for advertising, so I simply urge you all to go and take a look for yourself; I am sure you will be very, very impressed.

We were also asked to step outside for a photo and the photographer did a terrific job as you can see.

back inside the pub they asked me to ring he bell and probably regretted it as I used the opportunity to try out a little verse I had concocted for the evening.

The Bandstand

Last week I suffered from a bout of tonsillitis. Not the greatest thing for the Town crier. However by the weekend the penicillin was starting to take effect and on Sunday afternoon I went to Windsor’s Alexandra Park to help out as master of ceremonies for the opening of the new bandstand.

It was a beautifully warm late summer afternoon with the sun shining down and a large crowd of what looked like close to 1000 people had turned out. The Windsor boys school swing band did Stirling work in the role of a “warm up act” for the onlookers who arrived early. I do hope and expect we will see them headlining at the bandstand in the future.

At 2.30 the band of the household cavalry took to the new stage and struck up “god save the queen” just as their predecessors did 113 years ago when the gardens were first opened to the public back in July 1902.

A few numbers later they  smartly marched off stage to huge applause from a very appreciative crowd.

I went to the front of the bandstand and read the short script that had been agreed, using a microphone, (which is not something I am used to using) . I introduced the next act, which was the Windsor Military wives choir. They sang five songs starting appropriately with “Sing” by Gary Barlow and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and finishing with “The rhythm of life”.

We now had a good flow of the previous act leaving the bandstand stage left while I came on from stage right and made announcements as the following act set up behind me. In this case the next act were a group of very young musicians from Langley Hall Primary Academy. They were all starting to learn about music and  were accompanied by a few players from the Household Cavalry Band who helped them to keep time.

After just one tune (well, they were VERY young) they left the stage and I invited the Mayor up on to the Bandstand to say a few words. We then had a five minute break while the dignitaries posed for photographs. 

With the tonsils now feeling a bit raw I took the opportunity find a bit of relief for my throat, but was slightly alarmed to be told by a passing friend that they were asking for £5 for a little pot of ice cream.  I made do with a cup of tea. 

All too soon I was back onto the Bandstand to introduce “Voci”, a chamber choir who managed some pretty spectacular harmonies on three songs. I was asked to also promote their upcoming concert, but at the same time was being asked by the event coordinator Martin Denny, to keep to script to avoid overrunning.  In the good spirit of the day we all compromised with a very short plug and everyone seemed happy with the result.

Next came Maidenhead Operatic Society who loudly and cleanly performed some classic light opera songs which were very warmly received by the crowd. 

My final duty was to thank them, and welcome The Band Of The Household Cavalry back to the stage. This time we corrected an earlier error in miss-naming the band’s Director of Music,  Major Craig Hallett.  

The band played a number of First World War songs. These were then repeated with the accompaniment of the Voci and MOS choirs and finally the audience were invited to join in too. With little union jacks all over the place and everyone singing “land of hope and glory” it was a terrific finale to what (from where I stood) looked and sounded a huge success.

Princes and Piglets at the WAHGA show 2015

This year’s allotment association show  was opened by former professional sprinter Marlon Devonish MBE who is himself a Windsor Allotment gardener.  The Olympic gold medal winner who is soon to become a father joked with the crowd about the state of his allotment and his being unlikely to win any further trophies on this occasion.

After cutting the ribbon to declare the event open, Marlon entertained the crowd by crashing through the doorway chest first as if it were the end of the race. He then spent time looking around at the prizes winning exhibits for a good half hour. 

Meanwhile around the back of the hall there were stands offering food and drink for sale as well as entertaining games and raffle prices. A brass band and Morris dancers were also on hand to entertain.