Going Back to the Future for Shakespeare's 453rd birthday celebrations

There is more than a nod to tradition in 2017 as work gets under way for this year’s celebrations of the Bard’s 453rd birthday, ahead of exciting changes in prospect for future festivities. The annual Birthday Parade through his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire will take place on the morning of Saturday 22nd April 2017, the closest Saturday to Shakespeare’s acknowledged birthday on 23rd April.

This year’s event, again organised by Shakespeare’s Celebrations, the initiative jointly led by Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council and Stratford-on-Avon District Council working closely with other key organisations in Stratford-upon-Avon, will include many of the features we have come to love and cherish since the first celebrations in 1824. Even more marching bands than before, the handing over of the quill and the flag unfurling ceremony at the climax of the parade will again offer a feast for the eyes to the crowds of spectators.

Civic dignitaries, invited guests from around the globe, representatives of the literary and theatrical world will walk alongside students and staff of Shakespeare’s own place of learning, King Edward’s School, as well as those of local schools in and around present day Stratford-upon-Avon. All will follow the time-honoured route from the Town Hall through streets lined with well-wishers to the great playwright and poet’s last resting place at Holy Trinity Church, where flowers will be laid in remembrance and celebration of his notable life.

Last year’s extraordinary and highly successful celebrations marking 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy since his death in 1616 introduced several novel elements which were very well received, and so this year will see the return of tickertape explosions on Bridge Street as the Parade moves off towards the Church. Shakespeare facemasks handed to the crowds last year proved popular and this year a sonnet penned by the Bard will be presented to spectators lining the route. One lucky person will be fortunate to receive the ‘Golden Sonnet’ which brings with it a great prize and there will be other winners too– more details to come!

The birthday celebrations bring thousands of visitors to the town and surrounding area, making a significant contribution to the local economy. The aim of Shakespeare’s Celebrations is to ensure the annual festivities continue to attract visitors and maintain the profile of the Bard and his legacy to the town.

Sarah Summers, Town Clerk and spokesperson for Shakespeare’s Celebrations has been consulting on plans to make even more of the opportunities in future. She said:

Such was the positive feedback from visitors, local residents and businesses following the wonderful event in 2016, it quickly became clear to us that keeping the event fresh and exciting to watch and be involved with is key to its success going forward. 
From 2018 we have great plans for a new and bigger carnival event over several days which we want the whole town to feel part of. It will be a must for families and lovers of everything Shakespeare! The Birthday Parade itself will undergo something of a transformation, with tableaux aboard floats – both wheeled and walking – depicting great works of literature. They will be processing through the streets and coming to rest in Waterside. The floats will be judged and a ‘Best in Show’ awarded for both wheeled and walking displays. We are really excited about it all and we’ll be providing more details about what will be happening and how to take part next year in the coming months.
In the meantime come and join in the festivities in 2017 – as well as the Birthday Parade, there will be entertainment and activities for all the family taking place around the town, many of them outdoors and mostly free of charge. It will be a perfect way to finish the Easter holidays.
There is also the annual Shakespeare Birthday Luncheon which will be taking place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Bridgefoot, after the Parade. Tickets priced at £45 go on sale on Friday 3rd February and may be obtained from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Box Office.”

You can find out more about the Celebrations over the coming months at www.shakespearescelebrations.com

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