Thursday, 26 July 2012

A literary town - Stratford upon Avon

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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