Celebrations for Shakespeare’s 453rd Birthday in 2017 bring family entertainment and fun activities to Stratford-upon-Avon for the whole weekend around 23rd April, the Bard’s acknowledged birthday. What a finale to this year’s Easter activities in Stratford!
22nd APRIL BIRTHDAY PARADE STARTS 10:35am FROM CHAPEL LANE
On the morning of Saturday 22 April the focus is the traditional Birthday Parade as hundreds of people take to the streets in a procession full of sound and spectacle. Brass bands, people in period costume, dignitaries and VIP guests join with community groups and schoolchildren, among them students of Shakespeare’s own King Edward’s School, to make their way through the town centre to Holy Trinity Church to lay flowers on Shakespeare’s grave. Traditional ceremonies take centre stage as the procession pauses to witness the handing over of the Quill representing Shakespeare’s legacy, and the Unfurling of Flags along Bridge Street, High Street and Henley Street.
Every year, hundreds of people take part in the procession which begins shortly after 10am and continues until 12noon when it reaches Holy Trinity Church. All walks of life are represented – from local community groups and schoolchildren to civic dignitaries and famous and learned folk from literary and theatrical arenas around the world. Marching bands keep everyone moving along; the Quill representing Shakespeare’s legacy is held aloft and flags are unfurled amid cheers for the Bard on his Birthday.
This year, there will be FREE flags to wave and 10,000 scrolls bearing some of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets will be distributed to the crowds. One lucky person will be fortunate enough to be handed the ‘Golden Sonnet’ with a fabulous prize attached. Shakespeare’s England, the official destination management organisation for Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Kenilworth, Royal Leamington Spa and the surrounding towns and villages, has helped secure a great hospitality prize from its local business members which includes an overnight stay at one of Stratford-upon-Avon’s top hotels, the Welcombe Hotel, Golf Club and Spa, entrance to Shakespeare’s Family Houses, a visit to Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall and a chance to visit the RSC’s exhibition, ‘The Play’s The Thing’ at the Swan Theatre… And all the lucky winner has to do is be there, in the right place at the right time!
Central as it is to the proceedings, the Parade is not the only show in town on Shakespeare’s Birthday Weekend. The Shakespeare’s Celebrations initiative, led by Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council and Stratford-on-Avon District Council calls on the support and involvement of several key organisations working to make the Birthday festivities sustainable for future generations to enjoy. Holy Trinity Church, King Edward VI School, The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall, The Shakespeare Birthday Company, Stratforward BID and Stratford Town Trust all contribute in various ways. The result is a whole weekend of family entertainment and activities, many of them outdoors and most of them free of charge.
The annual Shakespeare Birthday Luncheon will be taking place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Bridgefoot, after the Parade. Entrance is by ticket, priced at £45 and obtained, subject to availability, from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Box Office.
ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY
In 2017, the RSC is holding events in and around its theatres, as part of the annual Birthday Celebrations on 22 April including the return of two showings of Wondrous Strange, presented by Mimbre, an outdoor acrobatic Shakespeare-themed performance, and a range of FREE activities for the family. There will also be live music, poetry reading aboard the chain ferry by RSC actors, a chance to visit two current exhibitions and enjoy the fruits of a collaborative project involving young people from Coventry and Warwickshire who have worked with theatre professionals for the past three months to bring the RSCs heritage to life with special events created by young people, for young people. The Shakespeare Birthday performance will be Julius Caesar in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at 7.15pm. For more detail visit https://www.rsc.org.uk/events/shakespeares-birthday-celebrations
SHAKESPEARE BIRTHPLACE TRUST
Also on Saturday 22 April, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will be hosting more circus fun, featuring professional entertainers from Fool’s Paradise. Spectacular rope walks, interactive hoola-hooping and spellbinding contact juggling are just some of the acts in Shakespeare’s Circus, compered by the larger-than-life American showman Barnum, who has an audacious plan to ship Shakespeare’s Birthplace to his museum of curiosities in New York. The FREE, family-friendly programme will run all day in Henley Street, outside Shakespeare’s Birthplace, with plenty of opportunities to join in and take part in circus skills workshops. There will also be song, dance and theatre performed by local community groups including Morris dancing and country dancing. Stratford-upon-Avon (CV37) residents can enjoy FREE entry to all the Shakespeare houses and a slice of birthday cake, whilst stocks last.
There will be theatrical promenade performances in the garden at Shakespeare’s New Place; the annual Knights and Nymphs Children’s Garden Party will take place at Hall’s Croft and Harvard House will open its doors to the public FREE of charge to mark the Bard’s Birthday.
Read more about the SBT birthday weekend schedule
Visitors are invited to celebrate the first anniversary of Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall, which opened its doors, exactly 400 years after the death of its former pupil, William Shakespeare. The Schoolroom will be adding an essential birthday ingredient to this year’s celebrations as it gives out hundreds of balloons throughout the day (Saturday 22 April). With each balloon there is the chance to win one of ten family tickets to visit the attraction, which will also be carrying out special tours and introducing new family focused activities. Visit www.shakespearesschoolroom.org for more information.
The U.K.’s longest serving and much-loved drama critic, Michael Billington will present The Shakespeare Birthday Lecture on 21 April, (4-5pm, tickets £10 via www.shakespeare.org.uk) in conversation with Professor Michael Dobson (University of Birmingham).
You can find out more about the Celebrations at www.shakespearescelebrations.com
For other family friendly events around Stratford-upon-Avon go to the Mumbler events calendar