Christmas Carole: Town crier couple plan to guide Santa to Bishop's Stortford on Christmas Eve
A town crier couple are hoping to concoct some Christmas magic by guiding Santa to Bishop's Stortford.
On Christmas Eve at 6pm, residents around the town are asked to ring bells and shine torches into the sky to help Father Christmas find his way in the dark.
Carole Williams has been Stortford's town crier since February 1996 and has held the title of the world's highest-ranking female crier since 2007. She and partner Paul Gough – town crier of Nuneaton and Bedworth in Warwickshire and the reigning British champion – are orchestrating the spectacle locally.
The couple live in Brookhouse Place, off Barrells Down Road, and have been together for 20 years. They first met at the Millennium town crier competition in Ghent, Belgium, and are members of the Loyal Company of Town Criers.
Operation 'Ring a Bell' is being spearheaded by the Loyal Company's Peter Taunton. Town criers all over the world are taking part by proclaiming a special cry that has been written by Peter and Paul.
"It's just a bit of frivolity, but there's a certain magic at Christmas that's difficult to capture this year, but we've just got to work at it," said Carole.
"We hope to create some magical moments for children and some marvellous memories for the adults. We'd like to encourage everyone in the town to join in by either ringing a bell or shining a torch to light up the sky."
On December 24, Carole and Paul will stand outside their home, in all their town crier finery, and lead the festivities for their neighbours. "Everyone is welcome to join in. We'll compete with the moon and the stars and guide Santa to us," she said.
Carole, 70, moved to Sawbridgeworth from London when she was 11 and attended the former Margaret Dane School, now Birchwood. Before retirement, she worked at Jackson Square as personal assistant to the shopping precinct's manager, Grace Bagster.
Paul moved in with Carole in 2006, and the couple do town crier work in each other's designated towns. "Both places get two for one," Carole said.
They take part in competitions all over the world, which gives Carole an opportunity to sing Stortford's praises across the globe.
"The nicest thing about my job is that I like to think of myself as a purveyor of smiles," she said. "If it brings joy to one person's day, it's done the trick."