Town crier championsips held for Somerset Day

Town criers from six counties came together for the eighth annual town crier championships to celebrate Somerset Day.

The event was held in the historic Market House in Illminster and began with a parade of town criers from the Ilminster Arts Centre at 10:00 BST.

Twenty-two criers, accompanied by nine escorts or consorts, competed for The Somerset Trophy.

There were also four junior criers aged nine to 14 who competed against each other for the Ilminster Junior Championship.

Stuart Cumming, from Chard, won the Ilminster and Somerset Championship, whilst Mark Wylie, the Calne town crier, was crowned the first Champion of the West of England.

Mr Wylie beat contestants from Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Dorset.

Ilminster hosted the Somerset Championship for the first time, taking over from Frome where it has been held in previous years.

Principle guests of honour included Mohammed Saddiq, Lord Lieutenant of Somerset and Leanne Taylor, Mayor of Ilminster.

The competition comprised two cries - the first praising the virtues of their home town, and the second on this year's theme of cranes.

Criers were judged on their volume, clarity, diction, inflexion, regalia and content.

Andrew Fox, the event host, has been a town crier for 10 years.

“I became involved when my predecessor in Ilminster died," Mr Fox said.

"I was told by two ladies ‘you are going to be Ilminster’s next town crier’ and I had no say in the matter."

Town criers are often invited to attend official announcements, coronations, jubilees, local events and personal events such as birthdays.

When asked what the prize was for this year's competiton, Mr Fox said: "just honour".

"There’s no monetary reward. All there is is a trophy to keep for a year and the knowledge that you are Ilminster champion," he said.

“We are strictly neutral in regards to politics," Mr Fox added.

"We avoid discussing any religious matters and we try to maintain a standard of decency by saying nothing smutty. It can be amusing, but don’t trespass on the edge of the envelope of decency.”

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