Two town criers could be vying for their spot at Knaresborough’s Market Cross after the town’s Chamber of Trade said this week it has appointed someone to the role.
Roger Hewitt is set to begin in the voluntary unpaid role on June 1. But former town crier Simon Shaw will continue to regale the town with news on a regular basis as an ‘independent town crier’.
The town has been left without an official town crier – a tradition stretching back centuries – for two years, following a long-running dispute between Mr Shaw and his former employers, Knaresborough Town Council and Knaresborough Chamber of Trade.
In 2013 Mr Shaw took the council and the chamber to an employment tribunal after he was suspended in 2012. Despite being awarded £570 for unfair dismissal, Mr Shaw was not reinstated. A judge ruled that his relationship with his former employers had broken down irrevocably and it would be impractical for him to continue to work for them.
However, after a few months’ break, Mr Shaw returned to town crying. He claims to have attended 70 events since 2013.
Speaking this week, Mr Shaw, who was unaware of Mr Hewitt’s appointment before being contacted by the Knaresborough Post, said: “There are no rules against being an independent town crier. Anyone can turn up at the town centre and say whatever they like, wearing what they want, so I will keep going.
“The people of Knaresborough have accepted me; whether they will accept someone else, I don’t know.”
He added: “It will be great, a bit of competition at 11am on Wednesdays at the Market Cross.”
Mr Shaw has been open about his mental health problems over the past few years and his friend Gary Simmons criticised the Chamber of Trade’s decision, saying: “They should show a bit more empathy for people.”
Chamber member Paul Sigsworth has been appointed deputy town crier.
He said: “The tradition of a town crier can be traced back as far as the 1400s with a few hundred years’ gap.
“We have been without an ‘official’ town crier for two years now. We are coming up to the summer and the tourist season so it seemed the timing was right.
“As far as the chamber is concerned, Simon can carry on and we won’t interfere with him.”
Mr Hewitt, a thespian who has performed at the Frazer Theatre, said: “This is about the town of Knaresborough, not personalities. I have lived in Knaresborough since 1976, it has always been good to me and I want to give something back and involve myself more.”
Knaresborough Town Council said it had no involvement with the appointment of Mr Hewitt by the Chamber of Trade. In December 2014 the council voted unanimously to agree that it “did not intend to appoint a town crier in the very near future and does not object to anyone else doing so.”
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