THE SHAKESPEARE Birthday Celebrations have been branded a ‘Comedy of Errors’ by frustrated tourist attraction owners in Stratford.
Janet and John Ford, who run the Tudor World Museum in Sheep Street, say the annual celebrations were a regular ‘disappointment’ and lacked the drama associated with the playwright.
The festivities date back some 200 years and are held on the weekend closest to the Bard’s purported birthday on April 23. Traditionally they include a flag unfurling ceremony and a ‘cradle to grave’ procession – a march from his childhood home in Henley Street to Holy Trinity Church where he is buried.
In 2018 the celebrations were vamped up to include carnival style parade, a literary-themed pageant, and even a living statue competition.
But spiralling costs have seen the event scaled back to its traditional elements with the flag unfurling ceremony also set to be scrapped this year.
In a scathing letter to the Observer the couple blasted the event.
They wrote: “Having lived in Stratford and running a business here for almost a decade and a half, we are always amazed at the disappointment it evokes. It is almost like a vanity project/ movie for the few, with a high budget, but poorly written and executed. Shakespeare would turn in his grave.
“We were vaguely aware over the years that it has always seemed to be a bit of confused mish-mash and a bit lacking on the excitement front.
“The main problem is that it is ‘shoe-horned’ around the wishes of the ‘important’ groups that manage the town, and therefore impedes a natural flow or energy.
“The parade itself – the ‘heart’ of the celebrations – seems to be unnecessarily complicated as it tries to feed in from different roads into one parade.”
And while they agreed Shakespeare was a literary figure to be celebrated, they believed it had been ‘taken over by the elite’ and to many had just become ‘rather boring’.
“The real Shakespeare who wrote about life and death for the ordinary people, as well as the elite, was also an actor and would have enjoyed a bit of high drama and fun – yet somehow the very life has been sucked out of the whole thing. Surely it does not have to be ‘as tedious as a twice-told tale’?”
A spokeswoman for Stratford Town Council, which organises the parade along with Stratford District Council, conceded the celebrations would never please everyone.
She added: “Tudor World will probably approve of the scaled down arrangements for the forthcoming birthday celebrations which will primarily focus once again on the traditional cradle to the grave pilgrimage by anyone wishing to participate.
“Civic dignitaries, officials, community groups, residents, visitors, in fact anyone and everyone, is welcome to join in the one parade.”
“Everything else is organised independently by various other organisations within the town.”
This year’s celebrations take place on Saturday April 25.