STRATFORD resembled the Italian Riviera in more ways than one over the bank holiday weekend.
Glorious sunshine more akin to the Mediterranean shone down on the Stratford Festival of Motoring which fittingly was on the theme of classic 1969 film The Italian Job.
More than 300 cherished vehicles, from Minis to Maseratis, lined the sunny streets of the town on Sunday and Monday, and a number also took a tour of the surrounding countryside.
And the festival, organised by Stratfordward BID, provided a real boost for town businesses as some 45,000 people flocked to town.
Awards were handed out to Ian McCormack, from Neath, who won the Mayor’s Choice with his Pink Cadillac, while Graham McDonald, from Tenbury Wells, won Stratforward’s Choice award with his Cadillac Sedan Deville. Ian Draper, from Coventry, won the Listers Group Choice with a Ford Grabber Mustang, and Ian Fuller from Rugby won the Broadway Treasure Hunt in his Marcos Mantula.
The weekend saw all manner of Italian and motor themed fun, from themed menus to screenings of The Italian Job and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in town cinemas. There was also everything from go-karts to a Wacky Races workshop with community arts organisation Escape Arts.
The festival also gave people the chance to star in Stratford’s own version of popular TV show Carpool Karaoke in a competition organised in conjunction with festival sponsor Listers, a long-running supporter of the event. Wannabe singers were able to record their own rendition of classic Italian tune ‘That’s Amore’ on their mobile device inside one of Listers’ cars on display at the festival.
Stratforward director Joe Baconnet said: “It was lovely to see the town so busy so early on in the season and with such a great atmosphere. This is the reason we exist and the reason we do events – to get people into the town and through the doors of our businesses to benefit everyone in Stratford.”
Roly’s Fudge Pantry on High Street enjoyed its best three days of the year over the weekend, while Hooray’s British Gelato Kitchen had a record-breaking day on Monday.
Andy Irvine, owner of Roly’s, said: “We had our best three days certainly of the year and the last 12 months. The festival is well organised and it brings people into town – full credit to Stratforward.”
Sara Young, co-founder of Hooray’s, said: “Monday was our record-breaker, but on Sunday we had the van out as well which was great and gave us a lot of publicity. It was amazing, at one stage we had two queues going on.”
Other businesses enjoyed a busy weekend thanks to the influx of visitors to the town taking advantage of a sun-drenched Bank Holiday weekend, with shops, bars and restaurants on Sheep Street, Bridge Street and Wood Street all reporting great sales figures.
Chris Allpress, owner of Knights Fine Jewellery on Wood Street, said: “It’s been busy, footfall in Stratford has been very good and also into the shop and the festival brought a wonderful clientele.”
And Ash Baker, owner of The Steamhouse, said both their High Street shop and its stall outside did a roaring trade, selling 400 donuts across the weekend, as well as plenty of iced and cold drinks.
Businesses embraced the Italian Job theme on Wood Street, with The Townhouse offering special Italian cured boards and Prosecco and The One Elm an outdoor Peroni Bar and two-for-one on Aperol Spritz.
Mat Faulkner, General Manager at The One Elm, said: “It went fantastically well. We had our Peroni bar in the car park which was awesome – ironically, we were so busy in
the pub that we couldn’t have it open as much as we wanted, but it went down brilliantly and was a real spectacle. The whole weekend was brilliant – the fact that you literally couldn’t walk through town because there were so many people shows how great it was. The weather helped but a lot of people came for the Motoring Festival – it’s a fantastic event, any event that Stratforward does is always a winner in my eyes and great for the town.”
Stratford Picturehouse put on a showing of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Saturday followed by a Motoring Reel Big Quiz on Monday evening while Everyman Cinema showed The Italian Job on Sunday. Castle Fine Art displayed four motor-themed original paintings by contemporary artist Robert Oxley and Whitewall gallery also put on an automotive arts exhibition.