Top 5 places and new attractions for a silver traveller to celebrate Shakespeare in his anniversary year

William Shakespeare is hot news this year as the world commemorates the 400th Anniversary of his death. Here’s our guide to the top new attractions a Silver Traveller should visit to celebrate the lasting legacy of the world’s greatest playwright.

Shakespeare’s New Place

Knot Garden at New PlaceShakespeare’s New Place (due to open in July) is the jewel in the crown of the 400th Anniversary celebrations. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will open a fresh chapter in the story of William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon by reinventing Shakespeare’s New Place, the ground where he had his family home for 19 years through the prime of his life. A series of gardens will tell the story of Shakespeare’s former home and its surrounding land, as well as showcasing specially commissioned artworks. A major new exhibition will be displayed in the Grade 1 Tudor Nash’s House, adjacent to New Place.

Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall

On 23rd April, following a £1.8 million restoration, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall will give visitors a chance to discover how and where Shakespeare spent his school years and first experienced theatre. Built in 1420, The Guildhall, described by historian and broadcaster, Michael Wood, as ‘one of the most atmospheric, magical and important buildings in the whole of Britain’ is one of only a dozen surviving examples of a late medieval provincial Guildhall. Both Shakespeare’s New Place and Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall are within easy walking distance of one another and a short walk from Shakespeare’s birthplace. Guildhall from the streetAll have wheelchair access, and we suggest seeing all three to see all the chapters in the story of William Shakespeare’s life in Stratford. A lift will be available in the Guildhall, but access to the upper floor of Shakespeare’s birthplace and the room in which he was born is only available by a set of stairs. However, a useful iPad with photos and written descriptions of the bedrooms is given to visitors unable to use the stairs.  The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust offers a concessionary rate for visitors with disabilities and carers are admitted free.

Shakespear’s Celebrations

The annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations on 23rd and 24th April include plenty of pageantry, pomp and performance. Shakespeare was born and died on the same day, 23rd April and in celebration a 1,000 strong grand Birthday Procession starts at the Town Hall winding its way through the town centre to Shakespeare’s birthplace in Henley Street and returns passing Shakespeare’s school to his final resting place at Holy Trinity Church. The town is planning an extra special celebration for this anniversary year, one of the highlights will be a traditional New Orleans jazz procession. 

Royal Shakespeare Company in 2016

Royal Shakespearte Theatre and river Avon © RSCAlso, on Saturday 23rd April, a fun-packed day of free outdoor activities will take place outside the RSC theatres including a show by acrobatic company, Mimbre, inspired by Shakespeare’s stories and a free firework display. The Play’s The Thing will be a major new exhibition opening this autumn in the Swan Wing. Celebrating the magic of Shakespeare on stage and revealing the secrets and stories from 100 years of theatre-making in Stratford-upon-Avon, the exhibition will be full of treasures from the RSC’s archive and museum collection, including rarely-seen props, costumes and original set designs. Plus of course RSC productions will run throughout the year. Paapa Essiedu has been receiving rave reviews as the first black Hamlet, on until 13th August, also don’t miss Gillian Bevan in the title role of Cymbeline and the ever popular A Midsummer Night’s Dream, playing from 15th June – 16th July. Holy Trinity ChurchThe Royal Shakespeare Company actively encourages less mobile visitors and Silver Travellers, providing a range of specialised facilities. An “Access to the Arts” programme has been in action since 1991 including the provision of sign language interpretation and audio described performances. Induction Loop Amplification systems are available in the theatres along with infra-red headsets. Half price tickets are available for customers with disabilities whilst Orange Badge holders may reserve car parking spaces in front of the RSC Theatre and the car park adjacent to The Other Place.

The Other Place

Shakespeare shaped cookieThe Other Place is the RSC’s research and development hub, home to the Company’s new studio theatre, rehearsal rooms, costume store and cafe bar. The latter is a welcome addition for a well-earned cup of tea and a Shakespeare shaped cookie. A new tour takes visitors on a journey from Page to Stage, from the first day of rehearsals to the first performance, with an opportunity to look inside the RSC’s store of 30,000 costumes for the very first time (essentially the world’s greatest dressing up box!)

For more details on Shakespeare’s England visit website.

Petra stayed at The Arden Hotel and travelled from London with ChilternRailways.

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Petra Shepherd

Editor of Silver Travel Book Club & Cook Club

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