Thursday, 26 July 2012

A literary town - Stratford upon Avon


I have recently spent a week in Stratford upon Avon which is... Shakespeare town.

There is no other place of its size in Britain which derives its character from a single person. Britain produced many eminent men and women, but only one of them has a whole town devoted to their memory.


I found it worked very well. Of course, Stratford is very crowded indeed in some parts at certain times of day; but the fact that the place teems with visitors from all over the world means that its facilities are excellent (more like a city than a town).

And it is encouraging to know that what brings everybody to Stratford is Shakespeare; and remarkable that Shakespeare apparently speaks to so many people of so many types.


Although there are plenty of (more or less speculative) pictures and statues of Shakespeare and characters from the plays, having a writer as its focus means that the celebration is very word-focused.

There were many quotations scattered about the place, and these were extremely effective: again and again I found myself stopped and my emotions aroused by reading a phrase set into stone or brass, or quoted in a multitude of ways and places.


The situation of Stratford is itself extremely pretty - with lovely riverside walks lined by willow trees and many water birds, especially swans (symbolic of The Bard).

Strolling down the canal and along the banks on a sunny summer morning to attend the 8 am Eucharist at Shakespeare's own church (Holy Trinity) where he is buried, was one of those perfect times.


Although of course many people are in Stratford just to pass the time or because dragged-there by teachers, and there is the usual trashy tourist stuff; it was a generally encouraging experience to know that this place exists purely because of the mass of folk who flock from all over the world, brought by a great writer from hundreds of years ago.

And when celebration is necessarily focused on great words; the words do their work.


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