ANXIETIES were voiced this week about the “vulnerable position” of the traditional Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations less than seven months before one of the most important dates in Stratford’s history.
The date of 23rd April 2014 marks the 450th anniversary of the birth in Stratford of the greatest playwright the world has ever known, but on Tuesday Stratford Town Council was told that the sustainability of the annual event “continues to give cause for concern”.
The concern was expressed by town clerk Sarah Summers in her regular report to councillors.
Mrs Summers said that although a proposal to provide an on-going income stream through sponsorship had been welcomed by the town council, the other key stakeholders —particularly the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust—were not interested in the venture, although this had not been officially discussed by the partnership.
“This leaves the traditional Birthday Celebrations in a vulnerable position,” said Mrs Summers. She said that taking account of having to “up the ante” for 2014 and 2016— the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death—the proposed budget to stage next year’s event far exceeded what the town council contributed.
“Without the financial support of the district council and the town trust, the shortfall would be in the region of £30,000,” she said.
Mrs Summers said a meeting of the celebrations executive was scheduled for early September but three of the main stakeholders sent apologies. She responded to this by saying she would no longer “waste time” by attending important meetings when key players were absent. Decisions could not be made, and if they were, they were later challenged by partners who were absent at that meeting.
Mrs Summers added: “The 2014 celebrations are seven months away, but as yet the budget of £41,232 has yet to be approved and it would appear, rightly or wrongly, that each organisation is working more independently and is looking purely at their own activities.”
Yesterday (Wednesday) Mrs Summers told the Herald: “I’m sure 2014 and 2016 will be all right, but what about 2015 and 2017 and thereafter? To make it more affordable we have to start looking at a more commercial affair that will attract sponsors. I’m going to put a plan together to do that.”
In another development it was announced yesterday that there would be a major Birthday Lunch next year at a venue yet to be specified. Tickets would be priced at around £55. It would be organised by a newly-formed, not-for-profit organisation called the Birthday Celebrations Company.
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