THE SPIRALLING costs of the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations has prompted calls for more cash contributions to help organise the event.
The cost of staging it has doubled in the past three years. This year’s extended celebrations saw Stratford Town Council pay in £25,000, while Stratford District Council contributed more than £53,000 – including £25,000 for extra security measures.
And the cost of staging the living statue championships, one of the highlights of this year’s celebrations, was £15,000 alone.
Town councillor and former mayor Charles Bates wants organisations such as The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) and the Church Street-based Shakespeare Institute – part of Birmingham University – to contribute financially.
He told The Observer: “I am annoyed organisations, whose reason for being is Shakespeare himself, do not contribute to the costly celebrations.
“It is increasingly evident the celebrations stretch council staff to their limits, and are also a drain on the council’s financial resources.
“The additional security measures now required from a safety perspective have significantly increased the financial burden which is borne by the town and district councils. We have to remember that the majority of this expenditure comes out of the income paid by the town residents.”
Town council clerk Sarah Summers pointed out how successful the new-look celebrations had proved but said much of the organising cash was swallowed up by ‘the non-sexy bits’ such as publicity and security, leaving little in the actual pot for the festive and creative side of the celebrations.
SBT operations director Philippa Rawlinson said: “The trust were involved in the organising of the annual birthday celebrations by committee, which was based at the trust. The committee organised the parade, the birthday luncheon, associated events and all attendance throughout the course of the weekend.
“As an independent charity it was felt inappropriate to continue to use charitable funds to organise the celebrations, and therefore the committee decided to approach local town stakeholders and partners with the suggestion of working together to spread the responsibility in organising what is a town-wide event in celebration of Shakespeare’s legacy.
“The trust are proud to continue to support the celebrations by organising and financially contributing to a programme of free events and activities for residents and visitors to enjoy, alongside hosting international diplomats throughout the weekend.
“We are very happy to be part of the conversation about how all partners in the town can work together to ensure that we continue to mark Shakespeare’s birthday with a celebration that everyone can enjoy.”
A spokesperson for the University of Birmingham said the institute’s director, Professor Michael Dobson, was a published authority on the history and importance of the celebrations and the institute took a central part in the festivities.
They added: “The Shakespeare Institute makes a major contribution to the Shakespeare celebrations each year, co-hosting the annual Shakespeare Birthday Lecture.
“In 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Shakespeare Institute joined with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Ex Cathedra Choir to revive the original 1769 Garrick Shakespeare Ode and premiere a co-commissioned Shakespeare Masque by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and the composer, Sally Beamish.
“The performance of this involved the participation of children from diverse schools from Birmingham and Warwickshire and was broadcast around the world.”
Stratford Town Trust has contributed some £200,000 to the celebrations since 2004, and this year granted funds to organisations taking part in the first Community Literary Pageant which brought added colour to the parade.
Chief executive Justin Williams said he would be happy to consider a funding application for next year’s event.
He added: “We have contributed to the parade for many years. It is the focal pint of the celebrations and Shakespeare and we understand it is of great local importance.”