During one of my first visits to Chester I discovered that the city has a town crier. Very entertaining he was, too.
I was in the city centre this morning and just happened to be at The Cross (the intersection of the city’s four main streets) when I heard the familiar bell ring. I’ve witnessed the midday Proclamation several times before and I was just going to walk on. But a thought struck me. Instead, I stopped. I watched. I listened.
As the Town Crier David Mitchell went through his routine for the circled group of tourists and shoppers, my admiration grew.
I realised that this guy could teach businesses a thing or two about marketing, positioning and creating different offerings.
What’s unique about this attraction? I discovered that Chester is the ONLY place in Britain to have retained the tradition of a regular midday Proclamation. So, if you’re at The Cross in the city centre for noon on a Tuesday to Saturday during May to August, you can be entertained in the knowledge you’re also watching a rare bit of history.
So, what did I notice about David Mitchell?
For a start, he looked the part. He looked like a Town Crier. He wore a red frock coat, lacy cuffs, black trousers, a lacy thing around his neck (I think they call it a a jabot, it’s French-sounding for sure) and the tri-corn (a three-cornered hat). He easily stood out in his colours of red, black and gold.
He sounded the part. He had a loud, clear voice that seemed to travel the length of the street.
The crier made people feel welcome. He smiled. He had a an authoritative yet friendly demeanour. I wondered how many sales assistants in the nearby shops could manage the same that day.
David knows the art of connection and rapport building. He understood his audience. He knew that most people were from countries overseas. So, what did he do?
He greeted them all – in their own language. “Welcome” spoken in French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and so on. Even a humorous spin on it when it came to the Americans or the Australians. (Not surprisingly) the audience loved it.
The Proclamation was delivered with humour.
There was an ancient law, we were told, that Anyone from Wales would have to make sure they were outside of the city walls by sundown (a tongue in cheek reference to the historical rivalry between Chester and its rivals just across the national border). I think it was a joke but I haven’t checked the bylaws.
Today was race day at Chester. David set out some of the city’s “rules” for race days… No Americans allowed to shout loudly in the streets, Japanese tourists to gather in groups of no more than 600. All gentle teasing fun.
The Town Crier offered prizes. To people who successfully answered a quiz question, he was giving away “miniature paintings” (that’s postcards to you and me).
It was all delivered with charm.
You could see how it made the people in the audience feel. They felt welcomed. They were entertained. It had set them up feeling good to face the rest of the day.
David Mitchell has found a formula and it works. Each day is different because he adds in some topicality (from the news or sport of the day or week) and his audience is always different.
I discovered later that there’s even a website for Chester’s Town Crier.
And the offerings don’t stop at the midday Proclamations.
David is available for conferences, event openings and product launches.
David can be the Master of Ceremonies at your special event.
David can be there for the opening of your new pub for a unique ale-tasting ceremony (based on how it was done in the past).
David can offer couples or groups a personalised one-hour tour of Chester.
David can be your after-dinner speaker.
David can even provide a “Criergram” (a good-taste alternative to a stripagram).
And there’s more…
David, an award-winning town crier, also has his own one-man show, “For Crying Out Loud”.
And if you cannot make it to Chester, you might just catch a glimpse of him in the movies Moll Flanders (with Alex Kingston) and 24 Hour Party People (with Steve Coogan).
This Town Crier definitely stands out in a crowd.
I wonder how many businesses in Chester and across the country can say the same?