The summer holidays are the perfect time to explore Stratford-upon-Avon, and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has lined up a jam-packed calendar of special events and activities for all the family. Here are our top five reasons to visit Shakespeare’s family homes this summer:
See Shakespeare’s plays in a special season of outdoor theatre performances
Enjoy poetry at its finest at the annual Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival
Get crafty in the brand new nature-themed family activity centre
Trot along to Mary Arden’s Farm to make your own hobby horse and enter the gymkhana
Have a teddy bear’s picnic in one of the most photographed gardens in the world
Celebrate the longest day of the year with the Tudors at Mary Arden’s Farm – once the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother and now a working Tudor farm, complete with rare breed animals, falconry and archery. Watch the Tudors get up to Midsummer Madness mischief (20 & 21 June) where you can join in the fairy hunt in Star Copse , listen to stories and see special performances by Castle Small Puppet Theatre. You can also make your own magical creature finger puppet to take home. Take inspiration from some of Shakespeare’s memorable characters and come along in fancy dress. Transform yourself into a mischievous sprite, like Puck, or be Titania, queen of the fairies for the day – everyone who comes in fancy dress will be rewarded with a free fairy cake.
New on the farm this summer, children can get lost in the hay bale maze and venture into the woods on a trail through to the willow tunnel – perfect for young explorers to discover over the holidays.
Outdoor Theatre Performances
Make the most of the warmer days and the lighter evenings and enjoy a special season of outdoor theatre performances in the gardens. At Mary Arden’s Farm , see A Midsummer Night’s Dream (10 & 11 July), Twelfth Night (31 July) and Much Ado About Nothing (1 August). Robin Hood the Musical (19 July & 1 August) is set in the beautiful English cottage gardens at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Henry IV (22 August) and As You Like It (23 August) will be playing at Hall’s Croft, the elegant home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna and her husband, Dr. John Hall. Visit www.shakespeare.org.uk for more details and to book tickets.
On 8 and 9 August, treat your little ones to see The Noisy Knight – an interactive puppet show suitable for all the family. Performances take place at 12.30pm and 2.30pm in the gardens at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage , and are included in admission.
If you like your Shakespeare short and snappy, catch a special performance of Twelfth Night in an hour, performed by students from Niagara University, visiting Hall’s Croft from the United States (30 June – 3 July). Performances at 2pm daily, with free admission to the gardens.
The Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival is back from 2 July – 2 August, with an exciting line up of events and special recitals taking place in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon. Enjoy the talents of poets including Ashley Hutchings, ‘The 52 project’, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, free poetry events and readings plus workshops from the poet in residence, Sally Goldsmith. For the full programme and ticket bookings, visit www.shakespeare.org.uk/poetry-festival .
The Big Picnic
Bring your picnic basket to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage on 25 July for the annual Big Picnic . With free musical entertainment and activities for all the family including a teddy bear trail and best dressed teddy competition, garden games and children’s gardening activities, face painting and balloon modelling. Stratford-upon-Avon residents (proof of address required) can enjoy free entry on the day.
Family Activity Centre
A brand new nature-themed family activity centre at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage offers everything from brass rubbing and creating Shakespearian magical creatures, to woodland scavenger hunts and knot garden designing. There are plenty of hands-on activities and games for all ages, plus nine acres of beautiful English cottage gardens and woodlands to explore. Activities are included in admission.
Games through the Ages
From 18 July – 31 August, take a trip back in time to play some of the popular games of yesteryear. At Shakespeare’s Birthplace , mark the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt and try out archery and swordplay in the garden. Have a go at Tudor favourites like quoites and loggits at Mary Arden’s Farm . Take a swing at the tin-can alley at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Enjoy games from WWI England like tiddlywinks, hopscotch and skittles at Hall’s Croft. Play Tudor parlour games like draughts and a 17th century version of Hazard at Harvard House. Activities take place from 12pm – 4pm daily, and are included in admission.
On 30 and 31 August, Crafty Beasts at Mary Arden’s Farm will celebrate rare breed animals and the skills of Tudor rural workers. Watch traditional craft demonstrations and join in with animal-themed activities, including ferret roulette, falconry, and sheep walking. Browse the craft market with stalls selling locally produced handmade products, including stained glass ornaments and gifts, handmade chocolates, and jewellery. You can also have a go at making your very own hobby horse, and enter it in the gymkhana for a chance to win prizes. Activities are included in normal admission. Stratford-upon-Avon residents (proof of address required) can come in for free on the day.
For more information and to plan your visit, see www.shakespeare.org.uk .