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Twinning Children Meet Town Crier

O Yez, O yez – German children came face to face with a living English tradition when they met a Town Crier at a reception hosted by Chairman of the Town Council, Chris Thomas-Atkin on Monday 23 May 2011.  The Crier, Neil Batsford, resplendent in scarlet and gold robes, met 30 young people who had travelled from Schmallenberg, Burgess Hill’s German twin town. 

The meeting with Burgess Hill’s Town Crier took place in the Council Chamber, in the Town Council offices.  Neil Batsford, who has held the role since 1996, talked to the youngsters about his job and the tradition of ‘crying’ news. The party of children and two teachers had travelled to England, partly to maintain the strong links which exist between the twin towns.

In 1996, an official Town Crier for Civic and Ceremonial duties was appointed for Burgess Hill, following the Summer Festival when Neil Batsford had been employed as an unofficial Town Crier and had proved very popular.  A competition was organised to find a Town Crier and public auditions were held at the bandstand in the town centre.  Neil was voted the winner and he became a member of the Ancient & Honourable Guild of Town Criers.

Neil, who is a member of the Burgess Hill Theatre club, ‘cries’ at Town Council events and is very popular, currently carrying out approximately 40 engagements a year, both in Burgess Hill and the surrounding area.  These include proclaiming news during town events, and acting as Master of Ceremonies at private functions.  He is also available, free of charge, to attend community events.

The use of Town Criers dates back to 1066 and beyond in England, although the tradition can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks. The tradition of ‘crying’ news across cities and towns was an important one; a way of keeping people informed before people could read. After the reports were read aloud, they were posted on an inn door, the forerunner of post offices.

Town Council Chairman, Chris Thomas-Atkin, said of the event: “We are delighted to welcome these young people to Burgess Hill and to help them explore this long-standing tradition. Neil Batsford does an excellent job as Town Crier and is a great ambassador for our town.”

To request the attendance of the Chairman of the Town Council or Town Crier at an event please contact Sara Moss on 01444 238212.

To find out further details on the Burgess Hill Twinning Association please see their web site http://www.bhtwinning.org.uk/.