Shakespeare's Birthday Celebrations 2012

On 21-22 April, Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon will celebrate the birthday of its most famous son with a weekend of exciting events, activities and the famous Birthday Procession.

09 March 2012

The celebrations also usher in the World Shakespeare Festival, which starts on Shakespeare’s birthday, 23 April.  The weekend festivities will feature the best of Stratford’s unique Birthday Celebrations traditions and an extended programme of performance, music and entertainment at venues and locations across the picturesque town.   

Stratford’s annual Birthday Celebrations bring together people from the worlds of diplomacy, literature, theatre and academia, tourists and local residents, professional troupes and community groups in a vibrant spectacle of pageantry and performance to honour the immortal memory of William Shakespeare.

The ceremonial showpiece is the grand Birthday Procession, which will start at 10.35am, led by the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers.  This year the parade will follow a new, circular route from the Town Hall via Chapel Lane and Waterside, to Bridge Street in the town centre for the unfurling of the flags ceremony.   Headed by the Royal Engineers and led by pupils and staff from King Edward VI School1 (which William Shakespeare attended), the main procession will then continue along the historic spine of Stratford to lay flowers on the poet’s grave at Holy Trinity Church.  The Community and People’s Parade will follow the main procession from Union Street to the church and on to the Bancroft Gardens on the bank of the River Avon.  Spectators are welcome to join the throng of costumed players, musicians and creative groups.

Performance troupes from as far afield as China and Spain, as well as many local community groups, will provide free entertainment on stages in the town centre and Bancroft Gardens throughout the day.  One of the highlights will be a Chinese Dragon Dance as performed at Shanghai Expo 2010 by performers from Fenghau High School. 

The dancers are part of a prestigious Chinese delegation visiting for the Birthday weekend as part of a cross-cultural performance project2 bringing together the works of William Shakespeare with those of Tang Xianzu, who is regarded as ‘the Shakespeare of the Orient’.  Highlights will include scenes from the Peony Pavilion by the Kun Opera Troupe and the magical art of Chinese face-changing.

Community and youth groups will be showcasing their talents in everything from line dancing to Tai Chi, and of course, in the home town of the world’s most famous playwright, theatre3.  Performers from Stratford arts groups including Tread The Boards, In2Theatre, Escape Community Art In Action, and the Vital Statistics dance school will mingle with madrigal singers, wind, brass and steel pan bands, folk musicians and strolling players.  Visiting groups from schools in Spain and Russia will perform alongside pupils and students from the Stratford schools and college.  The afternoon’s free entertainment will begin at 12 noon.

The Royal Shakespeare Company will welcome the World Shakespeare Festival4 to Stratford with a fantastic range of activity celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday.  Between 12 noon – 6pm the areas outside the theatres will come alive with a world music stage, featuring artists from around the globe.  The normally hidden world of the RSC will spill outdoors with activities for all the family to take part in, including stage-fighting workshops, costumes to try on, and fake scars and bruises created by the RSC Wigs and Make-Up team.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is inviting visitors to sign giant birthday cards at the five Shakespeare Houses & Gardens, and enjoy a piece of free birthday cake.

The Shakespeare Birthday Luncheon takes place on Saturday 21 April, at 12 noon, in the Levi Fox Hall of King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon.  This event is set to be a stunning affair in beautifully dressed surroundings, with top-class speakers including the Bishop of Coventry, Vikki Heywood, Executive Director of the RSC, Michael Dobson, Director of The Shakespeare Institute and Dr Carl Roberts, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda.  Tickets cost £70 each.  For further details and tickets for this special event please contact the event organiser, telephone: 0844 338 0333 or email

At 4.45pm the Corps of Royal Engineers will perform Beating Retreat in the quadrant of King Edward VI School. One of the best marching brass bands in the world, the Band regularly plays at State, Royal and military occasions.  The Band also provides medical support in combat zones.

On Sunday 22 April, the Shakespeare Service at Holy Trinity Church (11.00am-12.15pm) includes music and verse from Shakespeare’s plays, performed by members of the RSC.  The Shakespeare Sermon will be given by Rabbi the Rt Hon The Baroness Julia Nuberger DBE.  There will be a Civic Parade from the Town Hall to Holy Trinity Church led by the Coventry Drum Corp at 10.35am.

Two of China’s most influential writers will give a talk at The Shakespeare Centre at 3.00pm on Sunday 22 April.  Mo Yan, the award-winning author of Frog, whose novels have been internationally translated, and Professor Lu Jiande, the leading expert on Chinese literature and the influence of Western culture and English Literature in modern China, will speak on the subject ‘Opening up the East’.5   Tickets cost £12.00.   Book on line at or call the box office on 01789 207100.

The Shakespeare Birthday Lecture this year will be delivered by novelist Salley Vickers, author of the international best-seller Miss Garnet’s Angels.   Tickets to the lecture at The Shakespeare Institute on 20 April at 3.00pm cost £10.00.  To book, call 01789 204016.


Notes to editors:

The Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations this year represent a collaborative venture by six partner organisations: Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council, Stratford-upon-Avon Town Trust, Stratford-on-Avon District Council, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Shakespeare Company and King Edward VI School. 

Updates about plans for the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations 2012 Festival Weekend will be posted on the website


For further information, please contact:

Lynn Beddoe

PR Manager

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

T: 01789 204016

M: 07887 661770



or contact the relevant organisation below:


Birthday Procession

Charles Wilson

Civic Secretary

Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council

T: 01789 269332




Community & People’s Parade

Marion Morgan

Project Manager 

S t r a t > f o r w a r d Business Improvement District

T: 01789 299011

M: 07764 752115




World Shakespeare Festival

Dean Asker

Press and Communications Officer

Royal Shakespeare Company

T: 01789 412660

M: 0778 9937759





Shakespeare  Birthday Luncheon


T: 0844 338 0333 or


The contact for King Edward VI School (non-luncheon related matters) is:

 Sarah Jervis

Office Manager

King Edward VI School

Church Street


CV37 6HB



T: 01789 293351



1.The parade was established by King Edward VI School on Shakespeare’s birthday in April 1893. The Headmaster , the Rev. Robert de Courcy Laffan, Ralph Garlick, the Captain of the School, and Robert Savage, the secretary of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, with a number of boys, initiated the parade as they  made their way down Church Street, into Old Town and on to Holy Trinity Church.

2. The Chinese delegation is visiting during the Shakespeare’s Birthday weekend as part of a project celebrating Chinese and UK cultural performance organised by The Heart of England International Academy (‘HEIA’, in partnership with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (  As well as joining in the free Birthday festivities, the Chinese troupes will perform alongside musical theatre students and professional actors from the UK in scheduled events at Stratford’s Civic Hall, Coventry’s Guild Hall, and the Sidney Stringer Academy, Coventry on 20, 21 and 23 April respectively.

The project is receiving sponsorship from the Chinese government.  The delegation comprises approximately 75 leading Chinese performers, artists, government officials, educationalists and representatives of Chinese national media.

The HEIA is the collaborative educational business partnership between Stratford-upon-Avon and City College Coventry.  Each academic year the HEIA welcomes in excess of 500 full time international learners who come to study at one of the two campuses.

For further information about this project, and related performances, please contact: - mobile 07919 299757

3. Community groups taking part in the Shakespeare Festival include:

       Escape Community Arts in Action

       Vital Statistics Dance School

       Stratford Recorder Consort

       The Stratford Air Training Corps Band

       Line Dancing Group

       Swan School of Tai Chi

       Stratford Music Centre

       The Buzz Cafe Theatre Group

       Stratford Picturehouse Kids Club

       Musyck Anon

       Alcester Academy

       Tread the Boards Theatre Company

       The Falstaff Experience

       Collegio Hernandez - Valencia

       Maria's Children – Moscow


       Chatter Matters


4. The World Shakespeare Festival (WSF) is a celebration of Shakespeare as the world’s playwright, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in an unprecedented collaboration with leading UK and international arts organizations, and with Globe to Globe, a major international programme produced by Shakespeare’s Globe. It runs from 12 April to November and forms part of London 2012 Festival which is the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, bringing leading artists from all over the world together in a UK-wide festival in the summer of 2012.

For further details

The World Shakespeare Festival is supported by BP, as founding Presenting Partner, and by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor and Arts Council England.

Social media links at and


5. This event is supported by the British Council in collaboration with the Chinese organising committee as part of the China Market Focus 2012 cultural programme at The London Book Fair.  It is the opening event of the 5th Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival, which runs from 22 April – 7 May.  Email