PLANS to create a new charity to run parts of the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations are a step closer.
The Friends of Shakespeare’s Celebrations – an initiative spearheaded by the district and town councils respectively – was launched in October 2014.
Designed to give townspeople and businesses the chance to get involved through sponsorship opportunities, it was hoped the money would help safeguard the future of the annual event and allow it to become self-financing within four years.
Since its inception, the organisation has raised in the region of £43,000.
But with the cost of the parade reaching more than £100,000 each year, and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death set to be celebrated next year, it was decided more needed to be done.
A district council report argued the event would be likely to attract more sponsors if run by a charity.
Stratford Town Council agreed to part-fund a budget of £10,000 to turn the development panel, which runs the sponsored parade and street flag displays, into a charitable organisation last month.
And Stratford District Council’s Cabinet backed the move – agreeing this week to fund the rest of the money.
Work will now start on submitting a request to the Charities Commission.
District council enterprise spokesman, Maurice Howse said: “The celebrations play an important part in our tourism economy and are growing – attracting thousands of visitors each year.
“The cost of putting this on has also grown, and until now, has been shared by the town and district councils, but this is clearly unsustainable.
“Although the ‘Friends’ initiative has been partially successful, it served to highlight the difficulties in getting sponsors to come forward.
“As a charitable organisation, the trust can approach a wider range of organisations and seek funds from major sponsors to allow the future of the celebrations to be expanded and secured for future generations.”
The Birthday Celebrations, which date back to 1824, have always been held in Stratford on the Saturday closest to April 23 – the Bard’s believed birthday, and also the date of his death.
The focal point is the Birthday Parade, which makes its way from Shakespeare’s Birthplace to his grave at Holy Trinity Church.