PLANS are in the pipeline to create a new International Shakespeare Centre to attract even more tourists to Stratford.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) has been given a £410,000 grant by the Arts Council England to pave the way for the creation of a world-class visitor experience which Trust chiefs say will bring economic benefits not just to the Trust, but also to the town and the entire West Midlands.
The grant will be used over the next two years to develop and test plans to transform the existing grade II-listed centre, opened in 1964, at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Henley Street.
The broad plans will include the conservation of the Birthplace itself, together with a new look museum – and the chance to display more from the Trust’s extensive collection of artifacts – plus improved study facilities.
SBT Chief Executive Diana Owen said: “Robust planning for a new International Shakespeare Centre is the key which will unlock the potential of the Trust – and of Stratford – as the must-visit cultural and heritage destination in the West Midlands.
“The prospect of transforming our heritage and tourism offer with a vibrant and innovative new centre is already embedded in the region’s strategies for growth. However, we are almost entirely self-funding as a charity, and we are now operating near the limits of our facilities and capacity, so this funding is essential to enable this project to progress.
“It will enable us to create a framework for the development of a world-class museum of the future that will meet the multiple demands of the 21st century, attract new audiences and secure the long term future of Shakespeare’s Birthplace as a global heritage destination.
“We will be consulting widely on our plans as they develop and working closely with many partners, particularly in Stratford.”
The news comes as Birmingham Airport rebranded itself “Shakespeare’s airport” for the Chinese market, after the announcement of the start of charter flights between Beijing and Birmingham this summer.
Hainan Airlines will operate two flights a week between 3 July and 28 August, expected to pave the way for a regular service. The flights are expected to carry almost 4,000 Chinese tourists to the UK, many of which are likely to visit Stratford.
SBT currently welcomes 820,000 visitors a year to the five Shakespeare family homes, employs 280 staff and 100 volunteers, and contributes £43 million to the regional economy.