What are City Waits?

Ever wondered what ‘City Waits’ are?  Never heard of them, I hear you cry!  Well, interestingly, way back in medieval times cities across the UK, including Bristol, retained the services of four singers and musicians, known as minstrels, to provide entertainment to the nobility of the day on municipal occasions.  By 1540 they were officially known as ‘City Waits’, presumably called after the musical instrument of that name which was an early form of Oboe and it is thought they all played the same instrument.

These four ‘City Waits’ were responsible for providing the music for state and civil processions, and other rejoicings.  Their insignia of office was the common livery together with a collar and badge made of silver which can still be seen on display at the Council House.

The office was dispensed with in about 1834 as an economic measure during a particularly difficult time.  However, it was revived in 1988 by the Guild of Guardians and is now reflected in the Awards for Young Musicians, which recognises outstanding achievements in music making and reflects a commitment and involvement in music making in the city.

2016 City Waits beneficiaries were Sam MacDonald (pictured) and Carlos Rodriguez – read about their aspirations at the start of their year long title.

Applications and nominations are now open for 2017 – more info here