Avalon · Glastonbury · Summer Solstice · Tor · Town Crier

A Socially-Distanced Summer Solstice

This Lockdown has been difficult for Town Criers.

Normally at this time of year when fetes and festivals begin and visitor numbers really start to increase, I am kept pretty busy in and around town. Sadly, the self-isolating public do not have events to attend as these are currently banned. Tourism has all but died. So, with no events being staged, Town Criers throughout the land, have been silenced too. If I had gone out for a “Good old cry” in Glastonbury High Street, I would probably have received a fine from the police, shouted to a virtually empty street anyway and been understandably censured by the Town Council! Glastonbury, until a week or so ago, was a shuttered ghost town – the only signs of life in the town mainly being locals scurrying to their “essential” shops, before hurrying home again.

So, I was heartened when I was contacted by Morgana West, Director of the Glastonbury Information Centre a few weeks back. Morgy had hit upon the idea of setting up an online, “Virtual” Summer Solstice Celebration for all those people who were obeying Government regulations and thoughtfully, not visiting the town nor assembling in large groups anywhere. Additionally, it was also considered that staging an online, live event would enable us to bring our Solstice Celebrations to everyone with internet access around the world and especially to the thousands who feel a particularly strong connection with Avalon.



Morgana West – Director of the Glastonbury Information Centre


I was delighted and honoured to take part. The idea was for me to do three long blasts on my hunting horn to welcome in the sunrise behind the Tor before launching into my “Cry of Welcome” on live video. The thought of “doing my thing” in front of a potential audience of over 20,000 people from all over the world sent a tingle up my spine – like it did when I was asked to read the Royal Proclamation a few years ago. (See my “A Right Royal Proclamation” blog post of August 2017.) Make no mistake, this was going to be a unique event, being staged in quite unprecedented times. My urge to help in sharing something rather special and quite moving, for so many, was particularly strong.

The planning for the event was shrouded in secrecy. To avoid any crowds joining in, we were not told of the exact location but simply of where to meet up at 4am, before being taken there.

On the day, I rose at 3am and I could hear the rain lashing on the windows. “We’re in for a soaking”, I thought to myself as I reached for the alarm clock and the bedside light. My long green Greatcoat and all the other paraphernalia that Town Criers need (Tricorn, bell, scroll and in my case, hunting horn) were packed in the car boot the previous night to ensure a quick getaway. I wore my long black boots after a helpful email warned of sheep ticks in the long grass. After the mistakes of the last time, when I got up early for a sunrise (see my “Beltane Bliss” blog of May 2019) I grabbed a quick cup of tea and a bite to eat first – not that one feels particularly hungry at 3:20 am.

We all met and assembled at the allotted time before being taken on a short but breathtakingly steep climb to our secret location, which had a superb view of Glastonbury Tor.


Glastonbury Tor just before sunrise – not that you’d know!

Climbing a steep, wet bank in near darkness, my right foot slipped from under me and down I went. Luckily, the only casualty was a bent handle on my big brolly! Once there, we could see and hear a Solstice “party” in full swing, around St. Michael’s Tower on the top of the Tor. There were about 50 people up there – slightly outnumbered by sheep.

The cameras rolled at about 04:45,  The first online view was of our esteemed Mayor, Jon Cousins, just hanging around in the middle of a wet field with a giant blue candle.

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Jon Cousins – Mayor of Glastonbury, stood next to the celebrated Unity Candle


He moved aside at 04:55 as I did my little bit to welcome the Sun with three long blasts.

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They must have heard me on the Tor!

I then welcomed everyone, preceded with some seriously-loud bell clanging!

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This is the bit where I get to wake up the Town at 5 am!

There were thoughtful words from Jon Cousins (Mayor of Glastonbury) and Morgana West. I found the Silent Minute very moving – the only sounds that could be heard were the sound of distant drums and a little chanting on a mist-shrouded Tor.


Jon Cousins with the Unity Candle, tastefully positioned on a local decorator’s steps



Cameraman, Kevin Redpath and his assistant, filming and monitoring the internet response

Our event flowed smoothly and we were told of hundreds of messages of thanks and goodwill flooding in from people all over the world.

Now that really warms the heart.

Engagement · Glastonbury · Glastonbury Abbey · Town Crier · Uncategorized

Appearances at the Abbey

Since moving to Glastonbury in 1980, I’ve always enjoyed my visits to the Glastonbury Abbey and long before I became Town Crier of this lovely town. Actually, there isn’t a complete Abbey there now, only ruins. After the carnage and mayhem seen here in 1539, presided over by King Henry VIII, clinically referred to in the history books as “The Dissolution”, Glastonbury Abbey was targeted for state robbery and destruction, its last Abbot, Abbot Richard Whiting meeting a most miserable end. He and two others, after sham “trials”, were dragged up the Glastonbury Tor and executed on the top of it. He was later “hung, drawn and quartered”. In November every year, we remember him, usually with a short service on the Tor with the laying of flowers. The last one I attended, as Town Crier, was quite moving.
But the ruins nevertheless have a great appeal to tourists the world over.

The massive grounds are home to quite a lot of wildlife too.


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My wife and I have bought yearly membership to the Abbey. We often drop in, sometimes with our grandson, and enjoy the peace and space of this historic location.  Guides, in costume, are available to show visitors around.


As happens every year, the Mayor, Town Clerk, Macebearers, Town Councillors and myself are invited to attend two big Pilgrimages.


One is a Roman Catholic Pilgrimage the other, an Anglican one. Sometimes they occur in the same weekend. My parade associates refer to these as “Back-to-back” Pilgrimages! They are significant events in the Glastonbury Calendar and attract thousands of worshippers and spectators. Slow processions through the streets of Glastonbury also take place.

pilgrims proc

The macebearers and I often share our little joke at these times. At Pilgrimages, we either find ourselves sitting in puddles of rain (usually) or very occasionally, in puddles of sweat (as happened this time, during our exceptionally hot summer!)

But this year, I had two other Town Crier jobs in the Abbey. Firstly, I was contacted by a gentleman called Nico, who wanted me to “cry” at his engagement. His plan was to “pop the question” to his good lady in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey and then to have the local Town Crier, standing by, to shout out the glad tidings, if she said “Yes”. What an inspired decision, I might add, to utilize the Town Crier!
After the initial contact and explanation had been made, a flurry of secret text messages followed concerning the date, timing, exact location and my “choreography” before crying.

When the big day came, I parked in my usual spot that’s reserved for me when on “Civic Duties”, just behind the Town Hall, which is conveniently next door to the abbey. As I was climbing into my regalia, a lady passed by and said, “You’re hear for the engagement then?” I nodded. Clearly, Nico’s plans were not entirely top secret.
Once robed up, I flashed my yearly entrance card at the girl in the foyer, before making my way towards the outdoor café in the Abbey grounds to try and be as inconspicuous as possible – well as much as a man wearing frilly lace, white tights, buckles on shoes, triangular feathered hat, an eighteenth century great coat, yards of gold braid and shining brass buttons can be! It was a good spot with a clear view of the planned “Engagement Zone”. I stood and watched. My good friend Ali passed by -she happened to be visiting the Abbey at the same time – and she kindly agreed to take a few photos of the events as they unfolded. We took the obligatory selfie.

We watched carefully. After about ten minutes I was beginning to feel that the Vicky had decided to shun married life with Nico by replying negatively to his question.
Then suddenly, in the distance, there was a flurry of activity.

I could hear and later see a solo violin playing near some steps, joined shortly after by a lone guitarist. The melodious music wafted across the lush green grounds. Then I saw the couple. He was reaching for the ring!!
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I said to myself: “This guy will go far! He’s chosen Glastonbury Abbey, arranged some live background music and even booked a Town Crier….this chap has got it well and truly sorted!” Ali felt much the same. The big question was this. When do I advance prior to a Town Crier announcement being made? We waited and watched. Then I saw the smiles, hugs and long passionate embraces – all the clues I needed to step forward and introduce myself to the blissfully happy couple.
engagement 1

It was a delight to be the first to congratulate the newly-engaged couple and to kiss the lucky bride-to-be. I spun round, took a few paces forward, unrolled my scroll, took a deep breath and announced their good news to passing visitors and a professional photographer who had also clearly been hired, to photographically capture the event!
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As I said, this chap did it with style!

A rather similar secretive stream of messages and texts between myself and my very good friend, Heidi, preceded my appearance at the Abbey to “Cry” at a 25th Wedding Anniversary party a few months later. Again, I lurked in the grounds of the Abbey until being summoned to spring a surprise on the couple and their guests with a “Proclamation”!

That’s one of the terrific things about being a Town Crier – I’m often able to share in the happiness and joy of others. It’s the best job in the world!

Glastonbury · Town Crier · Uncategorized




Town Criers, by definition, tend to be rather solitary figures. Wearing brightly-coloured regalia, white tights, yards of gold braid, frilly lace, white gloves, buckles on shoes, ringing bells and shouting their collective heads off – it has to be said, they do stand out in a crowd. Our dress is designed to do exactly that. Even though we may be surrounded by an admiring public, clicking away on their cameras, iPhones, iPads, iPods and the like, in some respects, we stand there very much alone, as pieces of bellowing, animated living history – or at least, until people come up to us and have a chat.

So, it is therefore, quite heartening, every once in a while, to meet up with other Town Criers and their escorts. Town Crier Competitions provide a means of doing just that.


Yeovil Town Criers’ Competition, April 2016


Observing how other town criers manage the whole business of “crying” can be quite illuminating and at times instructive.

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For a start, the way they ring their bells is fascinating. Some ring their bells “hell-for-leather” in what you might call “fire alarm mode”, (I probably come under that category!)


Others simply perform gentle, deliberate, measured and quite frankly, economical bell rings.
Some do all the bell-ringing first before shouting the “OYEZs” three times. Others intersperse bell ringing with the obligatory, introductory shouting.
One crier from South Gloucestershire, a most informed and jovial gentleman, showed me his bell over dinner. He owned a bell that came with a fascinating and positively romantic history, of which he was keen to impart. The bell was once used on a horse-drawn fire engine!


How’s that for a piece of history!  His pre-cry bell-ringing action was pretty engaging too.


Before his cry, he would hold the bell up and ring it from below, as you can see in the photograph. (I managed to restrain myself from shouting out: “Where’s the fire?”)

Then there’s the shouting of “OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ!” which is French for “Hear Ye!” One delightful lady Town Crier engages in a ritual of flinging her arms out, at full stretch and  follows on by actually the singing the words with full operatic abandon!


It wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a Wagnerian opera! This was quite a novelty, I thought, although perhaps an afternoon of it, on the High Street, could become a tad tedious for shopkeepers? Each crier seemed to have an idiosyncratic way of shouting out the words. That alone made the contest interesting – even before we got on to the contents of their cries!
As I mentioned before, some criers are female and very pretty they look too, but inevitably, they do not generally have the lung capacity and strength of projection possessed by their male counterparts.


The most successful of them are those who do not try to match the men, but develop their own individual style, within the limitations that evolution has bestowed upon them. If they over-shout they tend to screech.
Personally, I shout “OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ!” long and loud but without the frills or silly antics.

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I look for some spectators in the distance and imagine that I am trying to shout to the people beyond them!
I couldn’t help but notice that the “message” of a few Town Criers became very fragmented and a little hard to follow at times. This is simply because they took numerous pauses for breath and only managed a few words at a time in between huge gulps of air. I have realised that convincing and effective “crying” has to strike the correct balance between breathing to stay alive, trying to say a full sentence without breaking it up and maintaining a creditable volume throughout. Crying almost continuously for several hours (not in competitions, I hasten to add) is quite physically exhausting. I often return home from a Town Crying session, totally drained and with a deep husky voice reminiscent of Barry White!
For most competitions two cries are performed. Firstly, a “Home Cry” is made, extolling the virtues of our respective towns.

Here is my “Home Cry”, written for me by Lisa Goodwin, Glastonbury’s celebrated wordsmith:

I bring sincere salutations
from the town of Glastonbury.
A magical, mythical place
a celebrated sanctuary.

Everyone knows the famous Tor;
it won Olympic recognition,
yet there is so much more
to our history, myths and tradition.

Waters of chalk and chalice well,
rich in myth and story.
Saints and Kings, the Holy Grail,
tales of heartbreak and glory.

Our Abbey on the Isle of Glass;
still considered the holiest earth,
though many years have passed
since the mother church was birthed.

Men who walked these hills of green
rooted a tree, most auspicious,
the Holy Thorn, a bough to the queen,
presented every Christmas.

In Glastonbury we recognise
so many faiths in unity,
and from the heart we harmonise
unity through diversity.




After an interval, our “Own” cries are done. Sometimes we have a free choice and on other occasions, we’re given a theme. “Birds”, “Grandad”, “The Queen’s 90th Birthday” have been some recent topics!

The Town Crier competitions are run according to the rules of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Criers.


Anxious Town Criers and Escorts wait their turn

The rules are quite strict too. Here are a few of the more interesting ones to give you an idea of the limitations that exist:
• The length of the cry must be between 100-125 words.
• Props, including the use of animals, must NOT be used by Criers whilst a competition is in progress.
• A crier may only take one means of calling attention onto the crying platform and carry a scroll for their cry.
• The order of the cry will be decided by a draw.
• The draw will take place in the presence of a majority of the participating Criers.
• All competitors must be available within 1 minute of their name being called.
• Criers must not wear badges, awards or medals relating to previous championship wins, or any such decoration that could influence the judges.
• Any Crier encouraging crowd participation may, at the discretion of the Competition Co-ordinator, be penalised or disqualified.
• All cries must be non-political, non-religious, and in good taste.
• If, during a cry, there is an exceptional noise or distraction (for example Low Flying Jet, Helicopter, Motorcycle, Explosion, Peal of Bells etc.) the Crier may stop their cry and restart, either from the position in their cry that they had reached, or from the beginning of their cry, without loss of points.
• Town Criers will be judged on:
– Diction (The pronouncement of the words)
– Inflection (The pitch of the voice and it’s variation)
– Volume (The output of sound)
– Clarity (The ability to be understood despite the volume)


The Judges


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The all-important “Draw”

My escort or “consort” for Town Crier competitions is Councillor Denise Michell, a member of the Glastonbury Town Council.


Councillor Denise Michell (ex Mayor of Glastonbury) – a worthy prizewinner!

I’m often asked why I don’t bring my wife along to these events. I should explain that my dear wife, June, is quite a private person and prefers not to get involved in Town Crier Competitions and I totally respect her wishes. However, June is perfectly happy to see me attend these events with our very good friend Denny. Denny enjoys dressing up in historic costumes very much.


She is very successful at it too, winning the “Best Dressed Escort” prize at the recent competition in Yeovil. (We also won the “Best Dressed Town Crier and Escort” prize at the 2018 Ilminster competition, by the way).


Our recent successes have been keeping the trophy engraver busy!

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Denny and I have attended four competitions to date……we’ve been in the prize winners every time. Long may it continue!


After the competition is over, a three-course meal, alcoholic drinks, chats with fellow town criers or escorts and of course, the presentation of prizes, is a lovely way to round off  the day.

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During the course of a year, I receive numerous invitations to attend town crier competitions. Town Councils and the like tend to put them on to boost tourism. Seeing and hearing 25 town criers walking down a main street is quite a spectacle and cameras are usually out! Unfortunately, they generally occur on Saturdays in the summer months, when town criers are inevitably at their busiest, opening fetes and so forth. If I’m at a town crier competition then I cannot be available to serve Glastonbury, when called upon to do so. Clearly, there has to be a limit and so I usually support our two nearest ones every year

At the end of recent contests we were enthralled by the performance of an eight year old boy (grandson of one of the contestants!) – believed to be the youngest Town Crier in the UK. Since some of us are not in the “first flush of youth” shall we say, it was good to take a glimpse into the future!



A young crier

George and Pilgrims · Glastonbury · Modelling · Photoshoot · Town Crier

On being a photographic model……

About seven weeks ago, I received a friend request via Facebook. I’m sent quite a few of these as the Town Crier of Glastonbury. I get them from people all over the world. Perhaps they have seen me “Crying” in Glastonbury, or maybe we’ve chatted in the street or in some cases, they simply wish to have some sort of connection with Glastonbury, through me. It’s all rather lovely, really.

This particular friend request was from a young lady called Kelly, who lives in Scotland. She explained in our first exchange, that she was a student photographer, carrying out an extensive photographic project on Glastonbury and Glastonbury folk. Apparently, the project was one of her submissions for her University degree. She asked if she could take a few photos of me in my regalia.


This is Kelly with her husband.  As you can see, Kelly also likes dressing up!

I responded positively, naturally. I’m always glad to help people progress in their education. After all, I’ve spent a very successful career doing exactly that! She said that she was planning to fly down from Scotland in mid-March.

During our ongoing exchange of messages, I suggested that she might also like to photograph “Billy The Celt”, the current Bard of Glastonbury, who also has a particularly fetching regalia. She liked the sound of that and after asking round a few friends, I soon had his contact details.


“Billy The Celt”

Chaired Bard of Glastonbury 2017-2018

Within what seemed like no time at all, Kelly was on a plane heading south to Bristol Airport and on to Glastonbury for her 4th visit to our lovely, magical town.

Once here, Kelly managed to bump into our Chaired Bard; she also managed to grab a few photos of him.  Synchronicity abounds in this town!

Our photoshoot was arranged for a Sunday lunchtime. We were to meet outside the George and Pilgrims Hotel in Glastonbury. The place is full of atmosphere and character, with its stone floors, murals and dark wood.  Being built in the 1400s, it was the perfect backdrop for photos of a traditional Town Crier.


The George and Pilgrims (It’s the building on the left)

I was busy “Crying” in town for a Cancer Research UK Charity Shop Bake Sale the day before. Kelly, who was on her photographic mission there, happened to hear me and came up to introduce herself. We had a brief chat about what she wanted to do the next day.

Her plan of action was to take some photographs of the local Town Crier appearing to “take a break with a little beverage, in a local hostelry” and then a few “in action” outside  on the streets.

On the Sunday, I presented myself in full attire, at the allotted time, outside of the George and Pilgrims Hotel. I decided to bring along my hunting horn, as an extra prop – I do use it for certain types of jobs in Glastonbury  –  I thought it might make an interesting snap or two.

Kelly was running a little late on her busy photographic schedule. She had just been to photograph the Mayor, directly before me. So, there I was, standing in the High Street in the bright, blazing sunshine ..…… patiently waiting. I felt rather conspicuous. I know it’s strange for me to say that. The whole idea of a Town Crier’s outfit IS to be conspicuous and attract the attention of the public! But it felt a little strange since I had no cry written down, since today was going to be all about photography. Understandably, people looked at me quizzically, expecting me to ring my bell aloft at any moment, followed by a bellowed proclamation.

So just for the hell of it, whilst waiting for Kelly, I decided to go into “Statue Mode”. I do this sometimes, for example, when I need to give my voice a rest. It causes no end of amusement to the passing public; I really should put a tray down on the pavement in front of me during the busy tourist season and raise money for charity!

Just at that point, Kelly arrived, rather flushed and slightly breathless, apologising profusely for her lateness. I reassured her that that it was not the slightest problem and that I was just having a little fun being a “Town Crier Statue”!

We adjourned to the bar. Kelly thought that she would get some good indoor shots with “His Lordship” sat in the bay window with the sunlight streaming in through a particularly beautiful stained-glass window. Perfect!

David Greenway Glastonbury Town Crier
David Greenway, Glastonbury Town Crier, reading through his cry

I was treated to a cider and we sat down to discuss her photographic plan of action. It’s not every day I get bought cider by a charming and pretty young lady! A perk of the job, I guess.

David Greenway Glastonbury Town Crier
David Greenway, Glastonbury Town Crier,  in the George and The Pilgrims

In what seemed like no time at all, Kelly was on her feet, busy arranging me and all of  my tools of the trade in total absorption, with a look of utter determination on her face. She was a joy to watch as she crafted every single photograph. Her work caused much amusement to the various assembled drinkers. Several couples, busy tucking into their Sunday lunches, suddenly found the unexpected and quite novel lunchtime  “entertainment” an interesting talking point. Some even “piggybacked” Kelly’s carefully arranged shots by taking photographs of their own over her shoulders, on numerous cameras and mobile phones! I suddenly knew how Marilyn Monroe must have felt!

Town Crier of Glastonbury Scroll
Town Crier of Glastonbury’s  Scroll
Town Crier of Glastonbury
David Greenway, Town Crier of Glastonbury on a break in The George and Pilgrims

I was photographed enjoying my cider………reading my scroll, enjoying my cider……… writing on my scroll, enjoying my cider……..looking wistfully into space , enjoying my cider……..smiling, enjoying my cider…….. deep in thought, enjoying my cider – every time, with the label on the glass being carefully concealed. Kelly’s attention to every little detail certainly was impressive!

David Greenway Glastonbury Town Crier
David Greenway, Glastonbury Town Crier, carrying out essential vocal cord lubrication
David Greenway Glastonbury Town Crier
David Greenway,  Glastonbury Town Crier…….n.b. “Will Cry for Cider!”

Then, after a quick change of seats, another sequence of photographs, this time with the props, and myself, all being carefully arranged around an EMPTY glass. Are you following the “story” so far?

Town Crier of Glastonbury Bell and Hat
Town Crier of Glastonbury’s  Bell, Tricorn, white gloves…….with sadly, an empty glass!

While we still had the light, we proceeded outside for more pictures of me “doing my thing”. A quick change of lens and some guidance on the best backgrounds for her shots (Town Criers know all about these sorts of things!) and we were shooting again. At the Market Cross – a favourite and symbolic spot for me, there were endless shots of bells held up in the air, horns being blown and a Town Crier with his mouth wide open, catching flies!

Town Crier of Glastonbury at Market Cross
David Greenway, Town Crier of Glastonbury, at The Market Cross


Giving them a blast!

As you can see from the excellent photographs that illustrate this blog post, Kelly is a photographer of quite exceptional talent and I’m sure her university photographic assignment will pass with flying colours. I know I’m biased but I’d give her a First-class Honours degree based on these pictures alone!

She’s on Facebook: Kelly Muir Photography. Check her out! I can’t recommend her highly enough!

Just then, a couple came by and asked for a photo, which was seamlessly slipped in somewhere during the proceedings. It transpired that it was the gentleman’s birthday, so of course, he simply had to have a special Birthday Cry.  As a town crier, I love these little impromptu moments.

David Greenway Glastonbury Town Crier

He looked quite happy in the photograph, his special day in Glastonbury having been acknowledged, in a very personal way, with a Birthday Cry from The Town Crier.

Finally, just as we were finishing, a charming and immaculately-dressed young lady who was visiting from Hong Kong, requested a photograph.

Glastonbury Town Crier
Town Crier with Gie Gie, from Hong Kong,  visiting  Glastonbury

If I had still been thinking straight after all that posing, I would have given her an Official “Cry of Welcome” since she had flown half-way round the planet to visit our wonderful little town. However, in subsequent digital correspondence with her, it appears that she is planning to return to Glastonbury for one of our colourful festivals later on in the year – so we’re treating her special “Cry” as having a brief postponement.

IMG_2114                        (Photo courtesy of Gie Gie Bowler)

Still …….… she did get to hold my bell!