LOYAL COMPANY OF TOWN CRIERS – BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS.
RULES OF COMPETITION
Competitors are judged in six categories:
Sustained Volume and Clarity
Diction and Inflection
Confidence and Bearing
Engaging the Audience
Content of Cry
- There is a separate judge for each of these categories. Their marks are amalgamated to give first, second and third place.
- Separate judges are responsible for choosing Best Dressed Crier/ Best Dressed Consort/ Best Dressed Couple/ Best Content of Cry/ Best Ambassador (or Conviviality).
- No person under the age of 16 shall be eligible to be judged or to be awarded a prize.
- Competitors shall be permitted the use of only one attention-seeking device per round.
The competition will begin with a “benchmark” cry (or cries) to be given by the Host Crier and/or any Guest Crier he has invited for this purpose. (Traditionally the Host Crier does not compete in his own competition, but instead acts as compere).
- The benchmark having been set, each judge will award up to a maximum of 10 points for each cry. Decimal points should be used. Judges will normally operate within the range 6.0 to 10.0, thus allowing a possible range of 40 different scores.
- Each judge will be seated at a table with an unobstructed view of the podium. Judges are asked not to move from their assigned position during the competition.
- Competitors are not allowed to approach a judge prior to, or during, the competition. This applies until the final results have been awarded. If a competitor were to approach you in ignorance, please inform him/her that you are a judge and may not enter into conversation. If the competitor persists, or has clearly approached you in full knowledge that you are a judge (e.g. to dispute, or to draw your attention to a matter), please notify the Host Crier or the Adjudicator.
- Judges are asked not to confer with one another during the competition.
- Each cry should be minimum of 75 words and a maximum of 125 words. Each cry will begin with “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” and conclude with “God Save the Queen!” (Variations are occasionally allowed, e.g. an historical cry might conclude with “God Save the King” or “God Save the Lord Protector!” If it is inappropriate for an overseas Crier to conclude with “God Save the Queen!” an appropriate variant is allowed.)
0.1 of a point shall be deducted for late submission of cries after midnight on the day of the deadline set by the Host Crier, and that a further 0.1 of a point be deducted for every further 24 hours of late submission thereafter.
- Each round of the competition will begin with a “benchmark” cry to be given by the Host Crier and/or any Guest Crier invited for this purpose.
- Judges are asked to give the benchmark cry a score of 8.0. Thereafter all cries will score in the range 7.0 to 10.0, with 10.0 being ‘outstanding’. Decimal points must be used, this will enable a range of 30 scores to be available, minimising the likelihood of ties. The same score can be used for more than one competitor.
- Experience shows that Judges will easily assess whether the first competitor’s cry is better or not as good as the benchmark cry. The difficulty is knowing how far up or down the scale to go without at first having a sense of the range of possibility. A provisional score should therefore be given which the Judges may, at their discretion, change in the light of subsequent cries. Again, experience teaches that after five or six cries, Judges settle confidently into their task without further difficulty. Scores will not be collected until the end of the round, or at least until four cries have been completed.
- If the Host Crier, acting as compere, begins to introduce the next competitor before a Judge is ready, that Judge should please stand to attract the Host Crier’s attention.
- In the event of a tie there shall be a tie-break employed. This shall take the form of analysing the scores from each category, with the Crier with the lesser score being moved down a place. The categories shall be taken in the following order: Accuracy, Engaging the Audience, Content, Sustained Volume and Clarity, Diction and Inflection, Confidence and Bearing.
SUSTAINED VOLUME AND CLARITY.
Just like his historic predecessor, a modern-day Crier needs to make himself heard in the open air, often amidst the hustle and bustle of the town square or marketplace. The ability to generate sufficient volume to be heard, and to sustain that volume throughout the cry, is therefore a basic requirement. This category assesses the Crier’s ability to make himself heard at the back of the crowd. However the judge is asked not to be impressed by sheer volume alone, since a Crier could be very loud without necessarily being clear. In fact too much volume could even detract from the clarity of the cry. The judge is listening for words that are clearly audible throughout the proclamation. Marks should be deducted for any words that cannot be heard. The judge will also penalise any signs of strain, the most common of which is a voice that cracks, or sounds painful. The judge for this category is asked not to look at the Crier during his proclamation so as to avoid being influenced by visual factors.
DICTION AND INFLECTION.
In an attempt to generate volume, a Crier may be tempted to stay on his strongest note, and to cry on a monotone. To the hearers such a cry soon becomes, literally, monotonous. A good Crier will avoid this by varying his tone, so that the rise and fall of his voice is appropriately matched to the meaning. This is what we mean by inflection. The judge will credit a Crier who produces this variety of tone matched to meaning.
At the same time the judge is listening for good diction, such that no words are slurred or run together in a way that beginnings and endings (and therefore meanings) are lost.
The judge will credit a Crier who doesn’t emphasise one of these criteria at the expense of the other. It is possible, for example, so to accentuate every consonant that all sense of flow and rhythm is lost. The judge is listening for a Crier who can integrate clear diction with varied and natural inflection to produce a cry that is interesting to listen to, and ‘easy on the ear’.
CONFIDENCE AND BEARING.
This category recognises that non-verbal elements will inevitably enhance or detract from the sound of the words proclaimed. The preservation of town crying, despite the development of more ‘efficient’ information technologies, celebrates this ‘human touch’.
The judge will therefore assess every aspect of the Crier’s non-verbal presentation, including such factors which may variously be termed ‘presence’, ‘personality’, ‘style’, ‘body language’, ‘visual interpretation’, or ‘showmanship’.
A balance is to be struck here: the Crier’s non-verbal presentation should support and complement the meaning of the cry; it should not become excessive or so prominent as to divert attention away from the cry to the Crier himself.
The judge will begin to assess the Crier from the moment his name is called, and all of the following will be observed: approach to the podium, stance, use of attention-gaining device, use of scroll, deportment throughout the cry, leaving of the podium,
The judge will credit a Crier who conveys a sense of being at ease in his role, one who exudes confidence and authority, and who commands attention.
NOTES FOR CONFIDENCE AND BEARING JUDGE:
1 Most British Criers use a hand-bell as their attention-gaining device, but other devices with an historical precedent are acceptable (e.g. drum, horn, rattle, gong).
2 A Crier may use visual aids to illustrate the themed (i.e. second round) cry. Some Criers intersperse their three Oyez with ringing of the bell; others ring prior to their Oyez and not in between. Either approach is acceptable; there is no ‘correct’ procedure.
3 Costumed escorts, and costumed children, add colour to competitions and their participation is to be welcomed. However, if they accompany the Crier to the podium they may influence a judge’s perception. Therefore the Consort will accompany the Crier only as far as the start position at the foot of the podium/stage steps. The Escort will then remain there throughout the Cry, and may not enter into the competition in any vocal manner. After the cry, the Crier should return to the Escort and accompany him/her from the stage/arena. Judges will not consider the Escort in marking the Crier’s performance.
4 Apprentices (costumed children) are welcome to attend but may not accompany the Crier to the podium/stage.
5 In the case of couples who are both competing Criers, they may not both act as Consort to the other. Only one may act as Consort to the other during the course of the Competition. Couples who are both Criers are not eligible for the Best Dressed Couple prize, or Best Dressed Consort prize.
6 The use of a scroll is not obligatory. It is equally acceptable for a Crier to read from a parchment, broadsheet or handbill, or even to use no script at all but instead proclaim from memory.”
ENGAGING THE AUDIENCE.
It is possible for a Crier to be loud and clear, with good diction and inflection, displaying abundant confidence and appropriate bearing, and yet fail to hold the listeners’ attention. The judge in this category will therefore assess the Crier’s ability to capture and sustain the interest of the audience. He /she will credit a Crier who has prepared and delivers an effective cry, one which responds to the set theme, which holds the attention and informs, interests, moves or entertains the listeners.
Criers are not obliged to be humorous, but a good Crier, like any skilled communicator, will understand that humour is one of the many tools which may be used to hold an audience’s attention and to convey a message effectively. Therefore, if the Crier uses humour in this way, he will be credited accordingly.
Whereas Criers may employ humour, it is necessary at the same time to preserve the traditional function of a Crier as a public announcer. The Crier may use humour to convey his message, and as a result be entertaining, but the demeanour and behaviour of the Crier should be in keeping with the role of a Crier, and not become indistinguishable from that of a street entertainer or a clown. Specifically the following behaviours are inappropriate and should be marked down: the use of theatrical make-up/face paint; clown paraphernalia; the excessive use of props (e.g. when the prop becomes more prominent than the message it should support); staggering or mock drunkenness; swearing or the insinuation of swearing (e.g. where a rhyme suggests that a swearword is coming, even if another word is then substituted).
CONTENT OF CRY.
Historically, when a proclamation was of great importance, the Crier would be given the exact wording to proclaim by the relevant authority, usually the Sheriff or City Assembly. However, for local, everyday announcements, the Crier would be given latitude to frame his own cries, and each Crier would in time develop his own distinctive style. For example, writing cries in rhyme has a definite historical precedent, and one that several modern-day criers emulate.
The judge of this category will credit a Crier who has prepared an effective cry, one which responds to the set theme, which holds the attention and informs, interests, moves or entertains the listeners.
Many competitions require the competitors to deliver a “hometown cry”, extolling the virtues of their hometown and inviting the hearers to come and see it for themselves. A cry which describes a place in dry facts, dates and statistics would not be credited as highly as one which paints a living word picture, employing wit, imagination and creativity. The judge will also credit the use of appropriate historical phraseology.
The judge for this category will be positioned close to the podium, such that volume does not play a major part in the judging.
Historically, until well into the reign of Elizabeth I, proclamations issued by the reigning monarch had the force of law.
In such circumstances it would be of crucial importance that the proclaimer faithfully proclaimed the text given, without addition or omission of a single word.
In competition there is a different reason to insist upon accuracy. Criers are set word limits for the proclamations (75-125 words); if the limit is not scrutinised, it will eventually be disregarded. The accuracy judge will therefore compare the crier’s actual delivery with the typed version submitted in advance. 0.1 of a point will be deducted for every addition to or omission from the typed version, and 0.1 of a point deducted for every word by which the cry falls short of 75 words or exceeds 125 words.
NOTES FOR ACCURACY JUDGE:
A town name of more than one word shall count as one word, thus London, Appleby Magna, Barton-under-Needwood and Ashby-de-la-Zouch would each be counted as one word.
Dates should be written as they will be spoken, i.e. use words not figures (ten sixty-six, not 1066)
However if the Crier chooses to embellish e.g. “City of London”, this will count as three words.
Criers are asked not to talk continuously to other Criers and Consorts or spectators while their fellow Criers are delivering their competition cries. If a member of the public approaches a Crier or Consort, then a polite and quiet answer to their question or a request for them to wait until the present Crier has finished his/her proclamation (whichever should be shorter) is requested. This is to be done out of courtesy to your fellow Criers. If the need to converse with a spectator or fellow Crier arises, this should be done out of sight and hearing of those enjoying the competition.
BEST DRESSED CRIER/CONSORT/COUPLE.
Criers can choose any period of history for their dress. In practice the majority prefer the livery of a late 18th/ early 19th century coachman, and sport buckled shoes, breeches, waistcoat, caped greatcoat and Tricorne. It should be emphasised that this period is no more correct than any other. The judge of Best Dressed is looking for historical authenticity, whatever the period chosen.
In addition to authenticity, the judges will also take into account practical considerations such as fit, colour co-ordination and state of repair. For example, missing buttons, grubbiness, signs of excess wear, etc. will be penalised.
The judge will therefore strike a balance between historical authenticity and smart turnout. This is a difficult balancing act. The verdict will inevitably be subjective, but subjective isn’t the same as arbitrary; it will be a subjective assessment by a person with specialist expertise.
No person under the age of 16 shall be eligible to be judged or to be awarded a prize.
No-one under the age of 16 may be deemed to be an escort, and therefore cannot be judged by the best dressed judge either as a couple with the Crier as best dressed couple, or as an escort separately within the best dressed escort category.
The judge for Best Dressed Couple will, in addition to historical authenticity and smart turnout, credit a couple who complement one another effectively in the style, period and colour of their dress.
This category recognises that a Crier is a goodwill ambassador for his/her hometown, and this applies as much if not more to the Crier’s “off-duty” moments as to when he/she is on the podium. The judge for this category will therefore be unidentified, and will observe the Criers throughout the competition. A good ambassador is likely to be articulate, diplomatic, temperate, gracious, dignified and approachable. The judge may well be given a role that enables him/her to interact with the Criers throughout the day.
The following notes are not part of the LCTC British Championship Rules, but are appended here as they will be helpful to the Host Crier/Organiser of the British Championship.
NOTES TO HOST CRIER/ORGANISER ON CHOICE OF JUDGES:
It is important that competitors have confidence in the standard of the judging and the impartiality of the judges. The temptation to appoint as judge someone who has supported the Host Crier, or who is a sponsor of the competition, should be avoided, unless they also possess relevant specialist knowledge. The judges should have demonstrable expertise relevant to the category they are judging.
Competitions are often organised to coincide with other local events, such as the annual carnival, fair or festival. It would therefore be prudent to consider whether any other attractions will generate excessive noise which would interfere with the competitions. For example Criers cannot be expected to compete with amplified sound, electrical generators, fairground rides, brass bands or helicopters.
The Host Crier will have prayed for favourable weather for the day/s of the competition. Competitors wearing several layers of period clothing need to be provided with shade/shelter, bottled water and seating.
The Host Crier will need to use a public address system to act as compere. The system should have been tested on site prior to the competition.
Judges should be provided with patio-style tables with an umbrella to shelter them (and their paperwork) in the event of a shower.
Judges need to have an unrestricted view of the podium. A cordoned off area will achieve this.
A plant-stand provided on the podium could serve as a bell-rest, avoiding an ungainly bending down to the ground.
To retain spectators for any length of time, the provision of seating is essential.
The Host Crier is responsible for supplying judges and adjudicator with score sheets, and for arranging for a runner to collect scores from the judges and deliver them to the adjudicator.
Competitors are always interested in their scores and hope to learn from them. Competition organisers are asked to supply each competitor with a copy of the completed score sheet before the competitors depart.
It would be helpful to less agile Criers if a secure set of steps were provided to allow safe access to the podium.
In order that judges’ perceptions should not be in danger of being swayed, the compere should make no reference to previous competition successes, nor should they appear in any advertising literature. If any Crier’s photograph is to be given prominence in any leaflets or posters, this should be the Host Crier and not one of the competitors.
ã LOYAL COMPANY OF TOWN CRIERS APRIL 1999
LAST REVISED OCTOBER 19th 2013