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Town criers from all over the UK compete for the title of the Hebden Howler 2010

Oyez, oyez, oyez! Ten town criers from around the UK will be booming poetically around Hebden Bridge at the weekend as they compete for the title of Hebden Howler 2010.

They will also be making ale proclamations at five local pubs and bars, recreating history by testing beers to ensure they are "of fine taste and not injurious to health".

Hebden Howl

Part of the 500th anniversary of Hebden Bridge's packhorse crossing, the event begins on Friday, August 27, when the criers, dressed in full regalia, quieten down for a fish and chip supper in AJ's with the mayor. They'll then make their proclamations at Moyles, The White Swan, The Hole in t' Wall, The Shoulder of Mutton and The White Lion.

On Saturday, the competition will kick off with a procession from the White Lion to the packhorse bridge in time for the 'advertising cry' section of the contest, starting at 11am. Then, from 2pm to 4pm, the criers will wax lyrical with their 'about a bridge' cries, being judged on costume, volume and clarity, diction and inflection, and engaging the audience. At 4pm, the mayor, Robin Dixon, will crown the winner

The advertising cries, sponsored by Watergate Tearooms, Ribbon Circus, The Shoulder of Mutton, The Hole in t' Wall, Hedgehogs, Holts greengrocers, AJ's fish and chip restaurant, Lamberts printers, Helen Granton Lingerie and The White Swan will be made first from the bridge and then outside each business.

"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," says Kaya Howard of Watergate Tearooms, who has worked with organisers, the Hebden Bridge Business Association, to bring the event to the town. "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."

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 constituted treason.

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 'harken' in Flemish.

The style of uniforms dates back to the 17th century, and the ceremonial tricorn hat is adorned with curling feathers to represent the quills used by earlier town criers to write their proclamations.

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 compere is trophy-winning town crier and bellman Les Cutts. Les, just back from the British Championships, has won many titles in his time, including a third place in the European Championships in 2008.

"Hebden Bridge is perfect for a town crying competition, with its artistic and cultural background," says Les. "I am so happy the town criers have been keen to get involved. Wherever they go, they bring a smile to people's faces. It's going to be a colourful and noisy day!"

Full details of all HB500 events are at www.hebden500.co.uk

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