Public vote Shakespeare as England’s biggest claim to fame – and it’s his birthday

To mark St George’s Day, 23rd April, William Shakespeare goes on display alongside 18 other claims to fame in a one-off exhibition 

Shakespeare, the most quoted writer in the history of the English-speaking world, has been voted England’s ultimate claim to fame.

The nation’s bard has won The People’s Choice in England’s Hall of Fame with 50% more votes than any other claim.

Shakespeare

The news comes in a big year for Shakespeare; it marks 450 years since his birth. It is widely believed that he was born on 23rd April, St George’s Day.

Shakespeare goes on display alongside Downton Abbey, Banksy, Glastonbury and many other claims in the hotly anticipated Hall of Fame exhibition which opens to the public on St George’s Day. Running for one week until 30th April, the free open-air exhibition will take place at Observation Point on London’s Southbank.

The search to establish England’s Hall of Fame began in February when the tourist board asked the public to submit their suggestions. The Hall of Fame app received almost 1,000 submissions from Harry Potter to Harry Styles, the mini skirt to the tuxedo, The Beatles to punk music, and Earl Grey tea to the Scotch Egg.

 

A panel of experts has awarded a bronze, silver and gold across six categories, to celebrate the best of what England has brought to the world and what makes the country such a diverse and fascinating place to visit and explore. The public were also given a vote, The People’s Choice.

England’s ultimate Hall of Fame consists of:

The People’s Choice

Shakespeare. The most quoted writer in the history of the English-speaking world and truly, the nation’s bard. His plays are brought to life by Stratford-upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Company at the Royal Shakespeare and Swan theatres or at Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Family Houses in Stratford-upon-Avon too. You can soak up the atmosphere at the open-air Shakespeare’s Globe in London, whose spirited performances see interaction between actors and the audience.

History & Heritage

Bronze –The four surviving original copies of Magna Carta, sealed in 1215 at Runnymede, Surrey, and regarded by historians as the foundation of constitutional liberty in the English-speaking world

Silver –The smooth lawns and sweeping vistas of England’s landscaping master, Capability Brown, as seen at Northumberland’s Kirkharle Lake and Courtyard

Gold Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the world’s oldest industrial complex and a crucial part of England’s naval heritage

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The Great, the Good and the Notorious

Bronze –World-renowned, elusive graffiti artist Banksy, whose original murals can be spotted on a guided tour of Bristol’s street art

Silver Robin Hood, England’s lovable outlaw, whose world-famous legend is rooted in Sherwood Forest on the outskirts of Nottingham

Gold –Founder of the National Trust, Octavia Hill, whose birthplace museum in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, is dedicated to her life and social reforms

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Food & Drink

Bronze –The Bakewell Pudding, first made at a local inn in Derbyshire during the 19th century… and whose recipe was something of a happy accident!

Silver England‘s oldest working gin distillery in Plymouth, whose guided tours provide a glimpse into the centuries-old process of gin making

Gold The sandwich, an essential part of afternoon tea, which was named in honour of its ingenious inventor, John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Enjoy them cut up into dainty fingers at Woburn Abbey, where the tradition of afternoon tea was popularised around 1840.

 

Inventions & Discoveries

Bronze – England as the birthplace of the steam locomotive, whose steam train attractions can be found chugging merrily around the country. A working replica of the world’s first operational steam locomotive can be seen in action at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge, Shropshire, whilst Birmingham’s Thinktank Science Museum is worth visiting for its exciting demonstrations of the steam engine’s power.

Silver –Sir Isaac Newton’s family home at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, where the English physicist and mathematician first discovered his theory of gravity

GoldIsambard Kingdom Brunel’s engineering masterpieces in Bristol, including the magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge and SS Great Britain passenger steamship

 

Sport & Leisure

Bronze –The annual BNY Mellon Boat Race (known also as the Oxford vs Cambridge Boat Race), established in 1829 and one of the world’s oldest sporting events

Silver – The home of tennis, from Hampton Court Palace in Richmond-upon-Thames, where the sport is thought to have been invented to Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum

Gold –The incidental birth of modern rugby during a football game at Rugby School in Warwickshire

Centre Court at Wimbledon _Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum VB23069087 William Webb Ellis statue , Rugby _Rugby Borough Council

Culture & Entertainment

BronzeGlastonbury, the granddaddy of all festivals on Worthy Farm in Somerset

Silver–Hampshire’s elegant Highclere Castle, the real-life location of ITV’s hugely successful Downton Abbey

GoldThe Beatles, whose mop-top haircuts and irresistibly catchy tunes set fans’ hearts on fire in 1960s Liverpool

The Beatles Story, Liverpool @VisitBritain & David Lake

Shakespeare’s England celebrates the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth

William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon’s favourite son was born in the town on the 23rd April in 1564 and many of the region’s key attractions will mark the anniversary with a programme of productions, events, festivals and exhibitions

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Stratford-upon-Avon’s celebrations of the anniversary will take place on 26 & 27 April when thousands of visitors are expected in the town. The tradition of the Birthday Celebrations dates back to 1824 and brings together residents and visitors with people from the worlds of diplomacy, theatre, literature and academia in a vibrant mix of pageantry and performance. Festivities start with the grand 1,000 strong procession which parades through the town centre of Stratford-upon-Avon and finishes with the laying of flowers on Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity Church.  A community parade follows and spectators can join the throng of costumed players and musicians to celebrate the anniversary.

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Starting with a special performance on the evening of 25 April and morning of 26 April outside Shakespeare’s Birthplace, there will be an extended programme of events and activities at the five Shakespeare family homes and free entertainment in the streets and parks of Stratford-upon-Avon throughout the weekend. The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will be running a range of free activities for all the family in and around its theatres on Saturday 26 April, including storytelling sessions, stage fighting workshops and the chance to see how fake scars and bruises are created.  Visitors will also be able to enjoy music in the foyer areas, and, for 50p, cross the river on the ferry listening to RSC actors reading sonnets.

 

On Shakespeare’s actual birthday, 23 April – St Georges Day, the Royal Shakespeare Company will celebrate with a firework display from the top of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 10.30pm after that evening’s performance of Henry IV, Part I.  Taking inspiration from Ben Jonson’s “star ofpoets” description of William Shakespeare, the display will include a recreation of Shakespeare’s face, but in pyrotechnics.

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In June the RSC will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Other Place studio theatre and the extraordinary vision of its founder, Buzz Goodbody, with ‘Midsummer Mischief’, a prologue to their plans to reinstate The Other Place in 2015. ‘Midsummer Mischief’ is a month-long season of new plays running in The Other Place at The Courtyard Theatre.

 

Throughout 2014 the RSC and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will run other events and exhibitions celebrating Shakespeare’s legacy.  They will also release a newly illustrated map of Shakespeare’s hometown, with a walking route between his Birthplace, Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Holy Trinity Church, making the perfect itinerary for visitors keen to explore the playwright’s legacy in this important anniversary year.

 

A concert in Holy Trinity Church on 24 April will launch a new three year global singing project by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to mark the anniversary of the playwright’s birth and death. Singing Shakespeare will inspire choirs from all over the world to perform musical settings of Shakespeare. The concert will form part of the town’s Birthday Celebrations and will feature the world premiere of a new work by award-winning composer Gary Carpenter,as well asthe world premiere of a new arrangement of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Fear No More’.  The concert will include performances by the Stratford-upon-Avon Chamber Choir, Holy Trinity Church Choir and Cantare, a newly formed chamber choir based in Stratford.  Tickets cost £12 (adults) and concessions £9 (children 5-17, students in full time education and over 60s). Book online at www.singingshakespeare.com

 

Mary Arden’s Farm, the working Tudor farm where Shakespeare’s mother grew up, will be celebrating its 500th anniversary with an exhibition reflecting the rich history of the house and the local community.

 

The Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival celebrates its 7th successful year this year with a host of events and activities from 26 April – 4 May including a Children’s Book Day with leading authors and illustrators. The Festival is the highlight of the regional calendar and one of the most significant literary festivals in the UK, attracting thousands of people who share one passion: a love of books, writing and reading. Please visit www.stratfordliteraryfestival.co.uk

 

To celebrate the Shakespeare 450 anniversary The Carter Company have unveiled a brand new cycling trip, ‘Shakespeare’s Way’, which traces the route from the Globe Theatre in London back to Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon. The route can be taken in slowly as Shakespeare’s Way 10 night trip’, or more speedily as ‘Shakespeare’s Way 7 night trip. It travels through the beautiful countryside of the River Thames, the Cotswolds and the Chilterns and past some of England’s finest attractions. Visit www.the-carter-company.com

 

For more information on Shakespeare’s England in 2014 please visit www.shakespeares-england.co.uk/shakespeare-450

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Pancakes aplenty but what do you really know about Shrove Tuesday?

If you need a sure sign that Spring is here or not far away, Shrove Tuesday – or ‘Pancake Day’, is it.

Whilst for many today means gorging out on pancakes with a multitude of fillings, here’s some bits and pieces about Shrove Tuesday which you may not know. 

  • For starters, Shrove Tuesday (also known as Shrovetide Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday and Pancake Day) is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Shrove Tuesday, a moveable feast, is determined by Easter.

Shrove Tuesday pancake tossing

It is seen as a day of penitence, to clean the soul, and a day of celebration as the last chance to feast before Lent begins.

  • The expression “Shrove Tuesday” comes from the word shrivethe ritual of shriving that Christians used to undergo in the past.

In shriving, a person confesses their sins and receives absolution for them. When a person receives absolution for their sins, they are forgiven for them and released from the guilt and pain that they have caused them.

In the Catholic or Orthodox context, the absolution is pronounced by a priest. This tradition is very old. Over 1000 years ago a monk wrote in the Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes: 

“In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him”.

 

  • ·          Shrove Tuesday is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Roman Catholics, who “make a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs they need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially need to ask God’s help in dealing with.”

Being the last day before the season of Lent, related popular practices such as indulging in food that one sacrifices for the upcoming forty days, are associated with Shrove Tuesday celebrations, before commencing the fasting and religious obligations associated with Lent.

Catholic and Protestant countries traditionally call the day before Ash Wednesday “Fat Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras”. The name predated the Reformation and referred to the common Christian tradition of eating special rich foods before the fasting season of Lent.

In Ireland the day is known as Máirt Inide (meaning, in Irish, “Shrovetide Tuesday”), and Pancake Tuesday. In Welsh it is known as “Dydd Mawrth Ynyd”.

  • Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent.
  • So that no food was wasted, families would have a feast on the shriving Tuesday, and eat up all the foods that wouldn’t last the forty days of Lent without going off.

pancakes

  • In England, as part of community celebration, many towns held traditional Shrove Tuesday “mob football” games, some dating as far back as the 12th century.

The practice mostly died out in the 19th century after the passing of the Highway Act 1835 which banned playing football on public highways.

A number of towns have maintained the tradition, including

  • Alnwick in Northumberland,
  • Ashbourne in Derbyshire (called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match),
  • Atherstone (called the Ball Game) in Warwickshire,
  • Sedgefield (called the Ball Game) in County Durham, and
  • St Columb Major in Cornwall (called Hurling the Silver Ball). 
The madness of the Atherstone 'Ball Game', Warwickshire

The madness of the Atherstone ‘Ball Game’, Warwickshire

  • Shrove Tuesday was once known as a “half-holiday” in Britain.

It started at 11:00am with the ringing of a church bell.

On Pancake Day, “pancake races” are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom.

The tradition is said to have originated when a housewife from Olney, Buckinghamshire, was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake.

The pancake race remains a relatively common festive tradition in the UK, with many now run in aid of charity.

Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan whilst running.

The most famous pancake race at Olney in Buckinghamshire has been held since 1445. The contestants carry a frying pan and race to over a 415 yard course to the finishing line. The rules are strict: contestants have to toss their pancake at both the start and the finish, as well as wear an apron and a scarf. Traditionally, when men want to participate, they must dress up as a housewife (usually an apron and a bandanna).

Scarborough celebrates by closing the foreshore to all traffic, closing schools early, and inviting all to skip. Traditionally, long ropes were used from the nearby harbour. The town crier rings the pancake bell, situated on the corner of Westborough (main street) and Huntress Row. 

  • How to make the perfect pancake

Never easy is it?!

Have a look at the guide here

 

That was the month just gone

Finally time to take stock for five minutes or so, and reflect on a busy month of November.

Here’s an insight into what I’ve been up to… in no particular order

1. Thrilled to have and be working with a new client: Emizon Networks, also based in Rugby and also with offices worldwide.

2. a visit to the very elegant Lamport Hall & Gardens in Northamptonshire, as part of a county-wide focus feature on Northants for Discover Britain’s Gardens, Historic Homes & Castles feature. (look out for my extended review of my visit to Lamport coming shortly on this very blog)

IMG_3707 Lamport Hall in the 1890s

3. With Christmas in mind, social media and e-mail marketing of Crazy Catch Rebound Nets.

Crazy_Catch_Xmas_Banner_3

4. After-schools cricket coaching for Twenty20 Cricket Company at Paddox Primary School in Rugby

5. A series of Q & A articles for Twenty20 International, per their sponsorship of Germany’s 50-over Bundesliga [cricket] in 2014

6. A very enjoyable – if not too short, stay at Bovey Castle in Devon, as guest of Mrs Q’s employers, T(n)S Catering, to celebrate their 10th anniversary

7. Running around ‘on set’ of a soon-to-be-aired pilot show, set at a country house residence on the Warwickshire/Leicestershire border. Said residence was transformed into a hotel, with said ‘pilot’ to be aired on one of the major British TV networks in the New Year (that is all I can say at this present time)

8. PR work for Twenty20 International, per their sponsorship of Germany’s 50-over Bundesliga [cricket].

9. Pushing one’s running and general fitness work a little bit further, with this and this tentatively in mind for 2014 (recommend you check out tribesports.com)

10. A pre-Halloween visit to Kenilworth Castle. Having been there once in 30 odd years, I seem to have managed to get their annually for whatever reason in the last six! Nevertheless, a good day out

11. Couple of articles related to Halloween here and here

12. Article on very local connections to Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night

13. editorial for Discover Britain for Groups magazine

14. editorial and feature development for Discover Britain’s Gardens, Historic Homes & Castles magazine (including point 2. above)

So…onto December!

 

Everything is changing

Autumn, that time of year which is neither here nor there; with the summer gone and darker colder days of winter seemingly not far away.

However Autumn for writers, photographers and general outdoor enthusiasts is a positive boon. The change in colours of our landscapes, the flora and fauna around us, the sunsets as the stretch of daylight hours begins to creep in; they all add to a change of focus and perspective (at least where this writer – and other outdoor types I am in touch and connect, with are concerned)

A recent visit to Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire proved my points to the above. The fact we were there for pre-Halloween events added extra seasonal atmosphere it has to be said, however it was every bit an autumnal canvas. Lengthening shadows of varying shades against ancient ruins, trees beginning to shed their loads, all of which I hope some of the images below will reflect and do justice to.

Warwick-20131029-00747 Warwick-20131029-00744 Warwick-20131029-00735 Warwick-20131029-00742 Kenilworth Castle - Autumn 2013 Kenilworth Castle - Autumn 2013 Kenilworth Castle - Autumn 2013 Kenilworth Castle - Autumn 2013 Kenilworth Castle - Autumn 2013 Kenilworth Castle - Autumn 2013 Kenilworth Castle - Autumn 2013 Kenilworth Castle - Autumn 2013 Kenilworth Castle - Autumn 2013 Blogger on site!

Stay safe – Follow the Firework Code

As much as I enjoy Bonfire Night, I am not one for fireworks.

A bonfire, yes, but rockets, Catherine wheels et al, no thank you. Never have been either, purely I think because of the safety element more than anything – I just don’t feel safe with or around fireworks.

So if you are letting off a few fireworks tonight, stay safe, and follow these rules as set out by the RoSPA.

Remember, only adults should deal with firework  displays and the lighting of fireworks. They should also take care of the safe  disposal of fireworks once they have been used.

Young people should watch and enjoy fireworks at a safe distance and follow the safety rules for using sparklers.

 

  1. FireworksPlan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable.
  2. Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time.
  3. Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary.
  4. Light the firework at arm’s length with a taper and stand well back.
  5. Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks.
  6. Never return to a firework once it has been lit.
  7. Don’t put fireworks in pockets and never throw them.
  8. Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators.
  9. Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire.
  10. Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.

For further details, go to http://www.saferfireworks.com/firework_code/

Rugby links to the Gunpowder Plot

Up and down the UK this evening bonfires will be lit and firework displays will light up the night sky for Bonfire Night.

The fifth of November is a reminder of the failed attempt to kill King James back in 1605. On that date over four centuries ago, a solitary figure is arrested in the cellars of Parliament House. Although he first gives his name as John Johnson, Guy Fawkes, as he is really called, is one of thirteen who have conspired to blow up Parliament, the King, and his Lords.

The Gunpowder Plot conspirators

The Gunpowder Plot conspirators

By doing so, they were looking to throw the whole country into turmoil, out of which these traitors hoped to raise a new monarch who was sympathetic to their cause, and return England to its Catholic past.

Here in central England, a town more familiar and associated with the birthplace of a worldwide sport has several locations with extra significance from playing a part in events up to and on the 5th November (1605)

Here then is Rugby’s claim to fame with the ill-fated Gunpowder Plot.

The Manor, Ashby St Ledgers, Warwickshire

The Manor at Ashby St Ledgers is set in the beautiful village of Ashby St Ledgers, based on the Warwickshire/Northamptonshire border.

It is this central location that made Ashby St. Ledgers a type of ‘Command Centre’ during the planning of the Gunpowder Plot. In the room above the Gatehouse, with its privacy from the main house and clear view of the surrounding area, Robert Catesby and the other conspirators planned a great deal of the Gunpowder Plot.

Manor House Ashby St Ledgers

Manor House Ashby St Ledgers

Ashby St. Ledgers also became a repository for the arms, munitions and gunpowder that the plotters were amassing. Catesby claimed that he was organising a regiment, of which he was the captain, to fight in the Low Countries.

Manor House ASL

Unfortunately The Manor today is not open for public visits, but most of the buildings that stood way back in 1605 are still visible from the roadside. The Manor is in desperate need of restoration, which has been ongoing for several years. It has been commented that it would take many years of investment and restoration to save The Manor at Ashby St. Ledgers, thus preserving it for future generations.

Guy Fawkes House, Dunchurch, nr Rugby, Warwickshire

The Gunpowder Plotters stayed at the Red Lion Inn in Dunchurch awaiting news of Guy Fawkes’s attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

The Red lion aka 'Guy Fawkes House', Dunchurch

The Red lion aka ‘Guy Fawkes House’, Dunchurch

If successful they planned to kidnap the King’s daughter, Elizabeth of Bohemia from nearby Coombe Abbey.

Plaque at Guy Fawkes House, Dunchurch

Plaque at Guy Fawkes House, Dunchurch

The property is now a private residence in the centre of the village called ‘Guy Fawkes House’.

Coombe Abbey, nr Rugby/Coventry

The Cistercian Abbey of Cumbe was founded in the 12th century and was the largest and most powerful Abbey in Warwickshire. Primarily used for the grazing of sheep and the growing of cereals, the Abbey and its lands remained in the hands of the monks until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539

Coombe Abbey

Coombe Abbey

The estate passed through several hands including the Earl of Warwick, until it was purchased in 1581 by Sir John Harrington of Exton in Rutland. The elder Sir John Harrington was descended from Robert Bruce, and used this Scottish ancestry to win favour with James VI of Scotland when it was apparent he would succeed Elizabeth.

Harrington later used this influence to become the guardian of the Princess Elizabeth, daughter to James I.  At Coombe Abbey, Elizabeth came under the tutor and chaplain John Tovey. Harrington was invited to join the hunting party that met at the Red Lion Inn in Dunchurch, but refused, probably because of his Protestant sympathies.

In the morning of 5th November he received word that a plot to kill the King had been discovered and sent the Princess to Coventry under the guardianship of Sir Thomas Holcroft. Had the Gunpowder Plot succeeded she was to have been abducted from Coombe Abbey and proclaimed as Queen Elizabeth II.

Coombe Abbey gardens

With its rich links to the Gunpowder Plot, Coombe Abbey today is a four star country house hotel nestling within the historical heartland of Warwickshire. Set in 500 acres of parkland, and overlooking formal gardens and a tranquil lake, Coombe Abbey has been lovingly restored to its former glory, and is well-known for its award winning Mediaeval Banquets which have been running for 40 years and provide a very entertaining and fun night out.

Website:          www.coombeabbey.com