8th Dec, 2016

Town shines in its role on world stage for Shakespeare 400 celebrations

Stratford Editorial 29th Apr, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

STRATFORD did its famous son proud.

The eyes of the world were focused on the town as it marked the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare – and Stradfordians gave them a weekend to remember.

It included everything from a parade complete with a New Orleans jazz band to Prince Charles taking to the RST stage to give his version of Hamlet.

Stratford Town Council clerk Sarah Summers said: “We set out to devise a celebration of William Shakespeare which would put Stratford-upon-Avon firmly centre stage among the hundreds of tributes taking place to mark his legacy.

“If the words and images in the world’s media since Saturday are a measure of our success, we can be delighted with our achievement.

“It has also been a richly rewarding experience, as our collaborative approach brought us into contact with some really extraordinary people we would never have met – from many countries and walks of life.

“The parade was a momentous occasion, not without its difficulties, but then organising a procession of over 1,600 people without a rehearsal is bound to have a few glitches. “Nevertheless, there was genuine feeling of ‘joie de vivre’ among participants and the crowds lining the streets, so if there was any downside we hope people can overlook it.

“The big question now is, ‘How do we follow that?’”

Stratford District Council chairman Mike Gittus said it had been a chance to show the world what Stratford had to offer.

He added: “It gives us the chance to tell everyone not only about Shakespeare but also to say if you want to have a great time, if you want to immerse yourself in culture, then come to Stratford – it’s an exciting place to visit, live and shop.

“This is the biggest celebration the town has seen and I don’t know how we’ll be able to top it because this year has been such a special one.”

Sara Aspley, chair of Stratforward, conceded the celebrations had attracted an unprecedented amount of attention with well over 50,000 people visiting the town on Saturday, 1.3million people tuning in to enjoy Shakespeare Live! on BBC Two and a further 30,000 watching at cinemas across the UK.

She told The Observer: “We are aware the celebrations and other big events in Stratford can present significant challenges for businesses trading in a relatively small market town with an international reputation.

“We know everyone put considerable time and effort into making sure people visiting Stratford at the weekend had a fantastic experience and we hope all the associated media coverage will serve to bring visitors to the town again and again over the coming months and years.

“A huge thank you must go to everyone who made such a valuable contribution in making the town look and feel its best while the eyes of the world were upon us.”

RSC Executive Director Catherine Mallyon was also delighted to have been involved.

She said: “From waking up to the glorious sunny morning until the peace of Holy Trinity at midnight, Saturday truly was a wonderful day.

“The RSC was proud to be part of the exuberance and togetherness of the town.

“We were so pleased that everyone enjoyed taking part in all the activity in and around our theatres.”

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