Oyez, Oyez, Oyez: Lytham’s first female town crier reflects on joyous new role

Around since the Doomsday Book, only now has Lytham appointed its first female town crier.

Kila Redfearn, 53, was inducted on March 12 at a ceremony held at the town’s manor hall, taking over from previous crier, Colin Ballard.

With Women’s History Month drawing to a close, Kila told UCLan Live about what the historic appointment means to her.

She said: “I’m all about pushing women and to be the first women is quite special. There are about 140 town criers up and down the country and only 20 of them are women.

“I’m really proud and hoping to be a good role model; part of my contract is to spread joy and happiness to the visitors and residents of Lytham.”

Town Criers are usually appointed by town councils, but since Lytham doesn’t have one, it is up to the Lord of the Manor, currently Hugo Bryan, to appoint the crier – a process which all felt ‘very regal’.

She said: “The inauguration felt a little bit like a mini-Coronation – it was an amazing day.”

Mr Bryan said: “I am delighted to have Kila as the new town crier. She is an excellent fit for the role both in terms of her personality and also the strength of her cry.

“I do hope her appointment will offer some encouragement to any other women who are hesitant to put themselves forward in other towns because they consider it to be a male role.”

Colin Ballard and Kila Redfearn celebrate her inauguration at Lytham Hall (credit: Roger Moore Photography)

Town crier is a voluntary position, one Kila balances with her job as Head of Charity at Blue Skies, part of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Trust.

The role also has a charitable aspect, with the previous crier setting up the Town Crier Fund for which people could donate money to help local young people with mental health crises.

Mr Ballard became crier in 2011, ahead of events like the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee, he now lives in Spain. 

Reflecting on his legacy, he said: “I’m proud to have been part of history – I will enjoy my bit of life out the limelight doing entirely different things – but I will look back with great fondness.” 

Town Criers are a long-established tradition in Britain – with a reference to the profession seen in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

“You can find instances of it in the old testament,” David Mitchell, a historian and the town crier of Chester, said.

He is the only crier in Britain to still give regular midday proclamations at a fixed place and time. 

Traditional town criers are known for announcing the phrase ‘oyez oyez’ and using bells as part of their declarations.

Facts about Town Criers:

  • ‘Oyez’ roughly translates to ‘listen’ in old French.
  • Town criers were relied upon to hear laws, and proclamations because much of the population was unable to read.
  • After reading a proclamation, the crier would nail the paper to an inn doorpost – this is thought to be why some newspapers are called ‘The Post’.
  • Harming the Town crier was (and still is) an act of treason as they work in the name of the monarch.
  • Many modern-day criers compete in competitions and are judged for their volume, clarity and content. There is a separate judge responsible for choosing best dressed.

(Source: The Loyal Company of Town Criers)

Mr Mitchell said: “Everyone associates us with the bell, but that’s only an English tradition, in Scotland you might well find them using the drum and in Holland they use a gong.”

While Kila may only be a small part of town crier history, she hopes her legacy will be equally great. 

“Everybody needs a town crier – we were the journalists of the day – it’s such a niche thing – it’s great isn’t it,” she said.