STRATFORD is preparing for a big year as the world celebrates the legacy of William Shakespeare.
Festivals, exhibitions and performances will be taking place around the globe to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of the most famous writer who has ever lived.
And the organisers of the annual birthday celebrations in his home town are promising an event like none previously seen on the streets of Stratford.
Shakespeare’s Celebrations, jointly led by Stratford Town Council and Stratford District Council, on Saturday April 23 will celebrate the bard’s legacy with a unique ‘take’ on the traditional annual parade, combining birthday and commemoration.
Details are still under wraps, but Sarah Summers, town clerk and spokesperson for Shakespeare’s Celebrations said It would be a day to remember.
She told The Observer: “This year Shakespeare’s Birthday Parade will be a spectacle like nothing we have seen before in the history of these precious, traditional celebrations which we want to preserve for future generations.
“We will, of course, see all the usual participants, among them civic dignitaries, VIPs and invited guests from the worlds of literature and theatre, students of Shakespeare’s school and characters in period dress, all accompanied by marching bands and many local schoolchildren making their way through the streets towards Holy Trinity Church.
“But beyond the customary ceremonies the truly international influence of William Shakespeare will be apparent in the exciting high point of our parade – I can tell you that it will be full of music, colour and action, but we’d love you to come and see for yourselves exactly what that brings!
“Visitors from home and abroad, international and local media are warmly invited to join us to honour him and his legacy to us.”
The Birthday Celebrations will extend to a whole week of events, culminating in a weekend of festivities and family entertainment at venues throughout the town, many of them outdoors and most of them free of charge.
There will plenty of other highlights in Stratford throughout the year to mark the significant year for the town’s famous son.
They will include a re-imagination by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust of the Bard’s final home, New Place, and the opening to the public of the room at King Edward’s School where he might first have put pen to paper as a boy scholar. Both the schoolroom and the historic Guildhall have been extensively renovated.
And the Royal Shakespeare Company will lift the curtain on a major new permanent exhibition in the Swan Theatre, celebrating the magic of Shakespeare on stage and 100 years of theatre-making in Stratford.
The RSC will also offer a discovery tour at the new-look The Other Place taking visitors on a journey ‘From Page to Stage’ with a chance to look inside the RSC’s store of 30,000 costumes for the first time.
And Holy Trinity Church, where the playwright is buried will be hosting an art exhibition featuring seven specially commissioned paintings by Stratford born artist Jonathan Waller based on the famous seven ages of man speech from As You Like It. They can be seen at the church from April to August.
Mrs Summers said: “William Shakespeare’s life and literary works are his legacy to everyone, but most especially to Stratford-upon-Avon, where he spent so much of his life and where he is buried.
“This 400-year legacy of its most famous son lies at the heart of cultural, economic and social life in the town and surrounding area today.
“The Shakespeare’s Celebrations initiative was established to ensure the traditional annual Birthday Celebrations, which are recognised around the world, continue for future generations to enjoy.”