Championing the community as a town crier | Vicky Meets
Vicky meets... Jane Smith, town crier of Bognor Regis.
• How did you become a town crier?
I heard that Bognor Regis Town Council was looking for someone to make the regalia for whoever was to be appointed as town crier. I sent an email and a couple of people came to see me in my magic cabin at the end of the garden for a chat. Very stupidly I said that maybe I should brush off my teacher’s voice and apply to be the town crier. I was promptly sent an application form, interviewed and offered the job!
• How many town criers are there in the UK, and what are the essential qualities for the role?
I am secretary of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers and we know of 150-200 registered town criers. You need a big voice, a good sense of humour and to be a people person. I am a mother to five and have been a teaching assistant and an aerobics instructor in the past. All these roles needed a loud voice. Being able to call out instructions while exercising was especially good training!
• What is the history behind the role?
Town criers were news givers. Usually appointed because they could read and write, they proclaimed all sorts of things, including when the lord of the manor’s wife was spending too much money! One lady was carrying on with the owner of the local hostility and so the villagers were invited to the hilltop to hear all about it and to join a bonfire party where all her clothes and goods and chattels were burnt! It is a very rich history, but today my role is to proclaim anything the town council wishes me to. To be a presence in town, especially during the summer season, means that you are representing your town. Winning town crier competitions reflects well on your town too. I love the competitions. Apart from being fun they are also an amazing resource – there are guys who have been doing it for 50 years! They are all very friendly and are happy to impart their knowledge to new kids on the block like me.
• How long is your appointment?
For as long as I want it and as long as they want me. But I have to break in a new mayor every year! I’m very proud to be ambassador for Bognor Regis; it’s such a brilliant community.
• When you’re not town crying, what do you do?
As well as dressmaking and bag making I also make regalia for other town criers. Being able to make my own regalia is an added advantage. My costumes are always finished off with a few sequins! I’m self-taught; I actually trained as a hairdresser and never even did needlework at school! I go from solitary sewing to dressing up in fabulous gear and being right at the heart of town events. It’s the perfect balance.
• Find Jane on Facebook as Bognor Regis Town Crier, and also at Myrtles Bags.
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