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  • Matt Baker leading the Reading of the Banns in 2013 during the last cycle of Chester Mystery Plays
  • The shepherds rejoice in 2013 when the Lord Mayor of Chester grants permission to perform the Chester Mystery Plays
  • The shepherds perform at the Reading of the Banns ceremony in 2013

Ancient Banns ceremony to take place in Chester city centre

Actors from the region’s largest community production will reenact an ancient tradition in Chester next weekend (Saturday, May 12).

Shepherds and singers from the Chester Mystery Plays will seek permission from the Lord Mayor to perform at Chester Cathedral this summer.

The Reading of the Banns ceremony, which dates back to medieval times, will take place at the Town Hall between 1.30-2.30pm on Saturday, May 12.

A procession of shepherds, led by Chester Town Crier David Mitchell and accompanied by members of the Freemen and Guilds, begins at the Eastgate clock at 1.30pm.  Singing while they process up Eastgate Street and Northgate Street, the performers will arrive at the Town Hall at approximately 2pm.

Lord Mayor of Chester Razia Daniels will then hear their plea to perform the medieval plays before granting permission for the production to go ahead. The event will culminate with a choir singing original music from the production.

The Banns ceremony dates back to the 14th century when the Chester Mystery Plays were first written by Benedictine monks at the Abbey of St Werburgh.  Based on iconic Bible stories like The Creation, Noah’s Ark and The Nativity, they were originally presented by the freemen and guilds of the city on wagons dotted around the city centre streets.

The Freemen and Guilds of the City of Chester continue to support the Plays today and president David Starbuck-Edwards recently presented chairman of the Chester Mystery Plays Company Jo Sykes with a cheque for £500.

Jo said: “We would like to thank the Freemen and Guilds for their continued support of the Chester Mystery Plays.  They were responsible for putting on the very first plays more than 700 years ago and were instrumental in mounting the first revival in 1951.

“We are delighted that they will be part of our Reading of the Banns ceremony, which was the method used in the 1300s to tell the masses the Plays were on.  In these days of social media it still feels right to proclaim to the people of Chester as they are only performed once every five years.”

The 2018 production is written by award-winning writer Deborah McAndrew and directed by Peter Leslie Wild, who also directed the highly acclaimed 2013 cycle.  Original music is composed by Matt Baker and design by Dawn Allsopp.

Tickets are available from www.chestermysteryplays.com, telephone 01244 500959 or direct from the Chester Cathedral Box Office.


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