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2016 commemorates the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon. He was born, raised and is buried in Stratford-Upon-Avon on the banks of the River Avon and the town attracts millions of visitors each year. This weekend was particularly popular with the annual street festival to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday being held on St George’s day and promising to be a special event. With codpieces aplenty, handkerchief wielding Morris dancers and royal appearances all set in the beautiful English town of Stratford-Upon-Avon we set out to join in the festivities.
Stratford’s Shakespeare Street Festival
A 10000 strong crowd turned out to watch the parade, all wearing unnerving lifelike Shakespeare masks and clutching springs of rosemary for remembrance. A funeral bier was pushed through the streets, followed by a New Orleans funeral jazz band, local dignitaries and plenty of characters from Shakespeare’s plays.
The crowd followed the procession to the Holy Trinity church to pay their respects at the bard’s final resting place. There was no mention of the recent news that the grave doesn’t contain the skull of the bard. As the headstone’s inscription reads that whoever disturbs the bones will be cursed, the culprit has probably had their comeuppance by now. I’ve no idea where the skull is now, or indeed why it’s not with the rest of his remains! It’ll probably turn up one day, somewhere in need of an influx of tourism. Call me a cynic!
With the parade over, time to wander the pretty town’s streets. We’d thought we might visit a few of the Shakespeare attractions here, his birthplace, classroom or his final residence perhaps.
They will have to wait for another time. There’s a very British approach to queues: we see one and have an inner desire that cannot be resisted to join the back of it. Only after a while, might we consider asking what we are queuing for! Today, we resisted the urge and instead left the orderly lines to those who could be bothered or the foreign tourists who couldn’t help but experience a very British pastime. We opted instead to be entertained by the street performances.
Morris dancing is an ancient English tradition, yet it is frequently mocked, even by the Brits. Sticks and handkerchiefs are wielded by a troupe of chaps and chapesses, clad in all white attire, waistcoats and with bells around their ankles. Morris dancing is quite fashionable to loathe, yet it was rather enjoyable to watch and the crowd certainly thought so too.
The Elizabethan singing group pitched up and sang about a sweet Suffolk owl! WTF you may well ask. Well I don’t know but it was rather pleasant and I resisted the urge to twit-twoo along with them!
Strolling around the town, we turned onto a street, closed to traffic and hectic with a huge crowd herded behind barriers, clearly waiting for something special to occur. Having no idea what was going on, we asked a policeman (as we Brits do) who told us it was probably something to do with the chap behind us! Our timing couldn’t have been better and we’re totally chuffed to have snapped Prince Charles. Chuffed is an understatement – we’re considering rebranding to Royal Mowgli Adventures.
Ridiculously excited and feeling like we’d just received the royal seal of approval (I did say we were ridiculously excited), we headed towards the restaurant we were planning to have dinner at. Passing the Royal Shakespeare Company, again there were large crowds gathered. To cut a long story short, the upshot is we now think we’re press photographers to the royals and stars!
Prince Charles, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellan, Dame Helen Mirren, the Kumars and the list went on. I’ve never really been one to get excited about seeing anyone famous, but standing in company all eagerly anticipating a glimpse of royals and iconic British stars, the enthusiasm is nothing short of contagious! We’ve not turned into groupies just yet though.
We had such a great day at Stratford’s Shakespeare Street Festival that no sooner than we arrived home, we booked tickets to see Hamlet at the RSC later this summer. We’re already excited and will undoubtedly spend the day visiting the sights, hopefully without the queues!