On Saturday 23 April students from King Edward VI School (K.E.S.) in Stratford-upon-Avon will celebrate the birthday of former student William Shakespeare as they have done since 1893. However, this year’s birthday has added poignancy because it will mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and is the day on which the world’s greatest playwright’s former schoolroom will open to visitors as a cultural attraction: ‘Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall’.
King Edward VI School will be marking 2016 by keeping alive traditions, by celebrating the occasion, by undertaking new challenges and by sharing the story of one of their former students.
Shakespeare’s Birthday Parade
For almost two centuries Stratford-upon-Avon has actively celebrated William Shakespeare’s birthday. Since 1893 this has taken the form of a Birthday Parade led by the Headmaster and students of King Edward VI School.
Stratford will come to a standstill and the rest of the world will be looking on when this year’s parade takes place on 23 April. The parade will be larger and more colourful than ever before. At the head of the main parade will be K.E.S. students, with Head Boy, George Hodson, participating in the Quill Ceremony and leading the procession as it makes its way to Holy Trinity Church to lay flowers on Shakespeare’s final resting place.
Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall
Officially opening on 23 April, and set to be an internationally significant visitor attraction, will be the 15th century, Grade 1 listed schoolroom in which William Shakespeare was educated. Still part of King Edward VI School, this building has been inspiring students for four and a half centuries, but for the first time it will also open its doors to the public to share its unique story as Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall. Visitors will not only be able to enjoy a glimpse into Shakespeare’s life as a schoolboy, they will find themselves stepping into his shoes as they embark upon a Tudor lesson worthy of the drama and excitement of a Shakespeare play.
This project has been a major undertaking for the Trustees of King Edward VI School, one on which they have been working for over 10 years and which has been made possible thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project will add an exciting new dimension to Stratford as a tourist destination and brings with it a highly interactive and atmospheric experience, evoking the building’s important role in the town’s civic society for nearly 600 years.
Trustee, Prof. Ronnie Mulryne, says, “This unique building stands for the history of Stratford, summarising as it does the town’s educational and corporate life over the centuries, and through its foundation by the Guild of the Holy Cross its religious life too. This year’s anniversary gives us the opportunity to celebrate not only the building but the inspiration the school’s most famous pupil has brought to the town and to the world.”
Headmaster of King Edward VI School, Bennet Carr, says, “We are proud that William Shakespeare attended our school and that each year we are able to play such an important role in commemorating his life and works. It is particularly exciting in this important anniversary year that we will be sharing Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall with the public for the first time, and in doing so reveal a relatively untold chapter of Shakespeare’s life for visitors to experience and explore.”
To mark this commemorative year and to celebrate the opening of Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall, over 30 students from King Edward VI School will be taking on a challenge that will see them carry a quill from the Schoolroom in Stratford-upon-Avon to Shakespeare’s Globe in London by cycling, rowing, and running. K.E.S. students will set off from the Schoolroom in the early hours of 23 April on a 125 mile route that will begin with a 75 mile cycle ride from Stratford-upon-Avon to Marlow, followed by a 15 mile row down the Thames to Windsor. From this point the Quill baton will be cycled to the Shakespeare Way on the Grand Union Canal where it will be handed to runners for the final leg of this Shakespeare Shuttle. A 24 mile run to Bankside, Southwark, will conclude with Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre, receiving the team and quill before the evening’s performance of Hamlet.
Participating students are raising money for the School’s two nominated charities; WaterAid and the Warwickshire Air Ambulance and for sports provision at the School.
Director of Sport at King Edward VI School, Richard Mahony, says, “What a great way to raise money for sport at the School and our two chosen charities, we have over 30 students taking part, 5 staff and 10 helpful parents. Regardless of the physical challenge, it is set to be a massive logistical undertaking but, knowing our students, I'm sure they are all looking forward to it. I’m so pleased that our event contributes to the launch of Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall – this Shakespeare Shuttle is an opportunity for the Sports Department to contribute to the history of the School and to raise a Quill to the Bard himself!”
For further information about King Edward VI School visit www.kes.net.
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