Oyez! Steve thinks town is worth shouting about

Steve Vernon, Sidmouths Town Crier for a day makes the first cry in the town for approximately fifty

Steve Vernon, Sidmouths Town Crier for a day makes the first cry in the town for approximately fifty years. Ref shs 8362-47-14TI Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth could get a new town crier for the first time in 70 years after an actor volunteered to fill the position – but civic leaders said the opportunity should be open to all.

Steve Vernon wrote to the town council saying his ‘stentorian’ voice had been in demand since he filled the role as a one-off for a charity event in 2014.

He this week asked to make it a permanent position once again, but the town council deferred its decision so Steve could try to win them over in person.

In his letter, regular Manor Pavilion performer Mr Vernon said: “If you choose to support my request, an official letter of appointment would enable me to apply to register myself and the town with the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers.

“[This] would enable me to represent, and be an ambassador for, Sidmouth at events and competitions all over the country.

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“I would, of course, be available to officiate at or publicise events in Sidmouth, both private and public.”

He said there would be no cost to the council, unless it chooses to make a donation to the livery, but there could be advantages to the town.

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Cllr Ian McKenzie-Edwards said: “To me, it’s part of the civic presence in the town.

“I think it’s a jolly good idea and Steve Vernon would make a good town crier.”

Cllr Kelvin Dent called for the opportunity to be offered to men or women, and not just Mr Vernon.

Cllr Louise Cole said of whoever fills the role: “What’s important is the attitude and values of what’s coming out of the mouth of the town crier, in terms of equality and diversity.”

Sidmouth had four town criers between 1886 and 1943 - Thomas Paul, a Mr Newton, Theophilus Mortimore, and his son Charles.

Cllr John Rayson welcomed the role’s revival and said the council should consider buying some impressive robes and even a tricycle – Theophilus’s preferred mode of transportation.

But Cllr Simon Pollentine opposed the ‘kitsch’ idea, arguing that the position was short-lived in Sidmouth and should not be ‘grafted’ onto its heritage.

Town clerk Christopher Holland told members it was they who should appoint a town crier - rather than an individual applying for it himself - and they could face a lot of requests for appearances if they agree to revive the role.

He will seek advice from his counterparts in Exmouth, where the role is well-established.

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