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Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Friday, 20 August 2010 12:30 UK
Top town crier to be crowned as Hebden Bridge hits 500
Les Cutts
Halifax town crier Les Cutts will compere the Hebden Howler

Town criers from across the UK are preparing to descend on Hebden Bridge as part of festivities to mark a very special anniversary.

Ten town criers will compete for the title of Hebden Howler 2010 as the town celebrates 500 years since the famous packhorse bridge was built.

This noisy competition will be held during the August bank holiday weekend.

Compering the event, Halifax town crier Les Cutts says: "Wherever they go, they bring a smile to people's faces."

Town criers taking part are Peter Taunton (Newport), Terry Stubbings (Gainsborough), John Stevens (Alnwick), Anthony Church (Banbury), Cyril Richardson (Walsall), John Robinson (Biddulph), David Jackson (Malton and Norton), Kevin Griffiths (Skipton), Peter Stemmer (Darlington) and Vic Watson (Huddersfield).

The Hebden Howler contest sees the ten town criers, who will be dressed in full regalia, taking part in a number of events.

The competition starts on Friday 27 August when the ten town criers will visit five of Hebden Bridge's hostelries.

They will recreate a little bit of history at the White Swan, the Hole in t'Wall, Moyles, the Shoulder of Mutton and the White Lion by testing beers to ensure they are "of fine taste and not injurious to health".

These "ale proclamations" were traditional before the time of food standards agencies when it was the job of the town crier to down a flagon of ale in each tavern.

They would nail a proclamation to the hitching post outside the hostelry, and it is thought that this post, with its "good beer" proclamation, was the origin of the pub sign.

The next day - hopefully none the worse for their beer-testing - the ten will finally get down to the serious side of the competition as they battle for the title of Hebden Howler 2010.

They will be judged on costume, volume and clarity, diction and inflection, and engaging the audience.

The bridge at Hebden Bridge
Hebden Bridge is at the centre of 500th anniversary celebrations

The two-part competition will kick-off with advertising cries for local businesses and then be followed by "about a bridge" cries.

At the end of the afternoon the mayor of Hebden Bridge, Robin Dixon, will crown the winner.

Making sure the competitors stay within the rules is trophy-winning Halifax town crier and bellman Les Cutts. He is just back from the British Championships and has won many titles including a third place in the European Championships in 2008.

Les says: "Hebden Bridge is perfect for a town crying competition, with its artistic and cultural background.

"I am so happy the town criers have been keen to get involved. It's going to be a colourful and noisy day!"

Historically, town criers were the original newsmen, bringing the news to the people and acting as spokesmen for the King.

Town criers were protected by law and "don't shoot the messenger" was a very real command. Anything that was done to a town crier was deemed to be done to the King and was seen as treason.

Surprisingly, criers were often a husband and wife team, with the wife ringing the large hand bell and the husband doing the shouting. Announcements are always preceded by the traditional "oyez oyez oyez", which is 'listen' in Flemish.

Hebden Bridge trader Kaya Howard, who has worked with the Hebden Bridge Business Association to organise this event says she wants townspeople and visitors to take part in judging part of the competition.

Hebden Bridge is perfect for a town crying competition, with its artistic and cultural background.
Les Cutts, Halifax town crier

She explains: "Postcards are available in local shops with information about the event and a scorecard on the back for everyone to take part in choosing the best.

"There will be a box at the end of the bridge on August 28 for people to post their completed judging cards and cast their vote in the People's Choice Award."

Amy Leader from the Hebden Bridge Business Association says she hopes the Hebden Howler competition will bring even more vibrancy to a town which already attracts visitors from far afield.

She says: "The town crier competition celebrates the history and vitality of the area and is a great way of letting people who haven't been here before know that we're a great place to visit."

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