O Yay! Town Crier Proclaims About Art & Life In The North East

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 18 July 2007
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photo of a bearded town crier in cloak and tricorn hat standing on a beach

Town Crier John Stevens. © Mark Pinder

There will be some interesting ‘O-yaying’ in the North East over the next couple of weeks as a renowned town crier tours Newcastle and other towns in the area with stories of what life is like for inhabitants there.

John Stevens, Alnwick’s official town crier and winner of a recent international town crying tournament, will be proclaiming to bus queues, museums visitors and market shoppers as part of the DOTT 07 (Designs of the Time 2007) festival.

His commentaries have been produced by performance artists Lone Twin, based on locals’ personal stories about the places where they live, work and spend time.

“They came up for a ‘research tour’,” explained Sara Harrison of the events’ producers Forma, “going round to the areas where the town cries will go on and asking people there various questions about their memories of the area, how they like to live and what they want for the area.”

“They then wrote the town crier’s scripts based on the answers.”

The unique series of free public events is designed to provoke discussion about how the designed environment affects everyday life and how places, products and experiences could be improved.

Cries will take place at different times of the day over a period of four hours in each location. The first cry will start at Old Eldon Square, Newcastle upon Tyne (4-8pm, July 19), taking in bus queues and cafés, then Stevens will take his cries on to the city’s Metro system (2-6pm, July 20) and liven up the rush hour.

photo of a town crier in cloak and tricorn hat holding a bell

© Mark Pinder

Visitors to Teesdale Food and Craft Festival at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, will enjoy a performance on July 22 (12-4pm), and the crier’s tour of his hometown will begin at Alnwick Castle and end up in his local, The Fleece (4-8pm, July 26).

Newcastle’s Chinatown will resound with cries on July 27 (6-10pm), Tynemouth Market and beach on July 28 (10am-2pm), and Gateshead Quays on Saturday night (6-10pm, July 28).

Junk sellers and bargain hunters can haggle for a piece of the town cry at Hexham car boot sale on Sunday July 29.

“We’ll be at Hexham car boot this Sunday [July 22] to hand out information and ask people if they’d like a mention in the town cry,” said Sara, “which they can write on a blank script. There will be a prize for the best one!”

Limited edition scripts will be handed out at each town cry.

Town Crying is part of an art project called Vital Signs. The next part of the programme, Landscape Portraits, will take place in October 2007. For more information about Vital Signs and other Dott projects, visit the Dott 07 website.

Forma is a creative production agency for contemporary, interdisciplinary art, supported by Arts Council England. Town Crying has also been supported by funding from the Design Council and One North East.

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