Celebrating in true Stratford style

A look back at last year's annual Shakespeare Celebrations in Stratford help make Warwickshire a top tourist destination.

AS a lead partner in Shakespeare’s Celebrations, the local initiative tasked with organising the annual birthday parade, Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council has been instrumental in bringing plans for a vibrant new birthday festival to fruition.

Sarah Summers, town clerk at Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council, said: “Each year we look to ensure William Shakespeare’s life is celebrated in style. This year we are excited to take the celebrations to a new level with many brand new features and activities spread over the entire weekend.”

Cllr Victoria Alcock, Mayor of Stratford, said: “There has been an enthusiastic response from local groups keen to show their creativity in our very first Community Literary Carnival Pageant.

“As one of the judges of the competition I have been looking forward to seeing the ingenious displays of literary works as they walk the parade route.”

Toby Saggers, asset manager at UK & European Investments, owners of Bell Court, said: “Shakespeare’s Birthday gives Stratford a unique opportunity to celebrate all those things that make the town so special.

“The Literary Carnival Pageant is a great way to get the community involved, whether they are taking part as their favourite character from a much-loved book or coming along to watch.

“We’re thrilled to be able to sponsor this year’s event. As part of the celebration, we’re also be offering free face painting at Bell Court, as well as having live music and dance performances for everyone to enjoy throughout the day.”

Entertainment will be in full force from early on the Saturday morning as street entertainment sets a carnival mood before the main procession of civic dignitaries, VIPs and schoolchildren makes its way to Bridge Street for the traditional flag unfurling ceremony and raising the Big Birthday Banner.

There is a big birthday cake marking 454 years since the Bard’s birth and a chance for everyone to sing ‘Happy Birthday!’ to Stratford-upon-Avon’s famous son. The Civic Parade, VIPs and invited guests will then move through the town to Holy Trinity Church to lay flowers at Shakespeare’s grave.

On Sunday, the parade to the Shakespeare Service at Holy Trinity Church will be a chance to see ‘Mr Shakespeare’ collecting the quill from Shakespeare’s Birthplace. At 10.50am from the Town Hall, the Head Boy of Shakespeare’s own King Edward VI School will carry the quill in procession to Holy Trinity Church where it will be placed in the hand of Shakespeare’s effigy above his tomb during the Shakespeare Service, which is open to all and begins at 11.15am.

Cllr George Atkinson, chairman of Stratford-on-Avon District Council, said: “Throughout the weekend there is plenty happening to interest and entertain everyone across town. Much is outdoors, mostly free of charge and available thanks to many organisations working together to ensure the festival’s success.

“Street theatre and entertainment, vintage singers, street food and craft demonstrations, market stalls and a special Saturday night entertainment will make this birthday festival a treat for everyone.”