Performers from Britain’s biggest regularly held community theatre production will soon re-enact a centuries-old tradition in the city centre of Chester.
An upcoming ceremony called “The Reading of the Banns” will see players from the latest Chester Mystery Plays cycle request official permission from the Lord Mayor of Chester to perform at Chester Cathedral over the summer.
The ceremony will involve John Leather, the Lord Mayor of Chester, hearing a plea from the players before granting them permission for the Chester Mystery Plays to go ahead. While in 2023 the event is a fun formality that makes part of the festivities, the act of Mayoral permission was not always a smooth process in the past. In 1572, the plays were forbidden by the English Church, which summoned the Mayor of Chester to London when he allowed the works to be performed within the city.
Ian Sanderson, Chairman of Chester Mystery Plays Company, commented on the relevance of the event:
“The Banns ceremony was the method used to tell the masses the Plays were going to be put on – a bit like the social media of its time. It still feels right to uphold tradition and proclaim to the people of Chester.”
The medieval ceremony will be held this Saturday, May 13, and dates to the Middle Ages. It will begin at Chester Cross led by a proclamation from the Town Crier at 10:30 am before heading over to the Town Hall Square at 11:00 am.