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
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.
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.
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