Stratford-upon-Avon: “A Town Synonymous with William Shakespeare”

By: Sydney Vollmer, ARB Intern

Ah, summer. A time for frolicking on the beaches, zipping swiftly through busy cities with bright lights, tolerating that toddler kicking your seat on the plane just because it means you’re finally getting to spend some time away from work, and appreciating the Bard? It’s true. Shakespeare’s home, Stratford-upon-Avon, has been relying on tourism to bolster its economy since 1769.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Source: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Garrick’s Jubilee, named after the famous actor David Garrick, was the spark for Shakespeare becoming a destination. The three day festival brought visitors from near and far. It was around that time people got the notion that Shakespeare might be profitable. Shakespeare festivals started cropping up in all corners of the world. By the 1960s, the tourist economy was growing more than ever. Paid holidays were becoming popular, more people owned cars, and planes were becoming mainstream travel options.

In going on vacation, people were (and still are) looking for ways to escape responsibility and have fun. So why go somewhere to learn? There’s an idea that was brought up by Dennis Kennedy, long-time Shakespeare enthusiast and author, that people vacationing look for “edutainment.” Edutainment is characterized as having no responsibility, but still learning something. Kennedy argues that visiting literary destinations such as Stratford-upon-Avon gives people a feeling that their vacation is more virtuous than others. Because they are connecting with a cultural past, the experience is still immersive and different from their day-to-day, but there is a wholeness that is not present when vacationing in some place like Disneyland.

No matter the reason people end up choosing Shakespeare as their escape, the fact remains that tourists are relied upon for the Stratford community to thrive, and it is a community dedicated to making itself better—for the sake of its heritage and the sake of those eager to learn.  Two driving forces that help make this community stronger are the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Shakespeare’s England.

Shakespeare's New Place. Source: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Shakespeare’s New Place. Source: Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is an independent charity that is dedicated to the preservation and education about Shakespeare and his world. They work closely with the town council of Stratford-upon-Avon, though they are not funded at all by government agencies. The Birthplace Trust website gives information about various events within the town, attractions, booking options, and more. Their attractions include:

  • Shakespeare’s Birthplace
  • Hall’s Croft (where Shakespeare’s daughter lived)
  • Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
  • Mary Arden’s Farm (his mother’s childhood home)
  • Shakespeare’s New Place (where he lived at the end of his life)

There are, of course, multiple shopping and dining options as well. However, the above list are authentic Shakespeare destinations.

Shakespeare’s England

Founded in 2013, Shakespeare’s England is a non-profit organization dedicated to the growth of tourism in Stratford-upon-Avon and the surrounding Warwick area. They serve as an ally to the businesses within the area. Back in 2013, they published a list of tourism facts. They are as follows:

  • 10.2 million trips taken to Shakespeare’s England that year
    • 9.3 millino day trips and 0.89 overnight trips
  • Tourists bring in £631 worth of business turnover annually
  • Tourism supports over 11,000 jobs, 8,678 of which are directly related to tourism
  • Overnight trips account for a total of 2.37 million nights in the area, generating £175 million, compared with £315 million from day trips

One of their biggest goals for the future is to increase the number of overnight stays. One effort to do that has been to launch the “Meet Shakespeare’s England” campaign (March 2017). The campaign looks to expand Stratford’s appeal to businesses as a destination for meetings and conferences. In addition to expanding out of the “day trips” market, this will aid Stratford –upon-Avon in no longer being seen as just a place of leisure.

Another decision recently made to improve the visitor experience was the implementation of a new augmented reality (AR) app. The free service is part of the England’s Heritage Cities app. It allows you to use your phone to take tours guided by Shakespeare. It is an easy, entertaining, and accessible way to engage with younger consumers who may have an interest in Shakespeare but not enough money or desire to take a paid tour.

Mary Arden's Farm. Source: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Mary Arden’s Farm. Source: Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust

To manage these new efforts, and various others, Shakespeare’s England came up with a destination management plan (DMP). The DMP began in 2015 and will run through 2025.  It serves as a guide for tracking tourism and improving in all areas within its time frame. The DMP has seven priorities:

  1. Understand the issues  and opportunities (includes testing ideas)
  2. Improving the physical destination to make it more appealing and accessible for guests
  3. Discerning which markets are valuable and should be pursued (and how to pursue them)
  4. Looking at communication strategies and figuring out how to best communicate to current and future visitors
  5. Choosing which products need to be developed more fully
  6. Improving the overall experience of each and every visitor—understanding what people want and how to give it to them
  7. Ensuring the business has the necessary skills to deliver what the consumers want

Evaluations of the plan are conducted quarterly. Businesses connected to Shakespeare’s England DMP are:

  • Royal Shakespeare Company
  • Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • Birmingham Airport
  • Bicester Village
  • Warwick Castle
  • English Heritage
  • National Trust
  • Shakespeare’s England DMO membership
  • Eden Hotel Collection
  • Warwick District Council
  • Stratford-on-Avon District Council
  • Warwickshire County Council
  • Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP)

Shakespeare and the Queen City

The hopes are that by 2025, Stratford-upon-Avon and the surrounding areas will be more fruitful than ever. Here at ARB, we’re just happy to see any improvements towards helping people better appreciate Shakespeare and his works. That’s why we hope that, even though you may not have the time or money to be a Shakespeare tourist in England, you will                 spare some time to go to the Cincinnati Museum Center’s FREE Shakespeare exhibit running from August 25th– October 29th. The exhibit will feature multiple works from your very own Archives and Rare Books Library. While you’ve been vacationing, we’ve been hard at work making sure this exhibit will be a treat for you and your family and friends. So mark it on your calendars! While you’re patiently awaiting the exhibit, make an appointment to stop by our library and see some rare editions of Shakespeare’s works. We’re located on the 8th floor of Blegen Library. Our hours are Monday through Friday, 8a-5p. To make an appointment, email us at archives@ucmail.uc.edu or call us at 513.556.1959. Enjoy the rest of your summer. We hope to see you soon!

Sources:

http://findingshakespeare.co.uk/garricks-jubilee

https://shakespeares-england.co.uk/

https://shakespeares-england.co.uk/press/new-brand-promote-business-tourism/

https://shakespeares-england.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2017/06/shakespeares-england-dmp-overview-may15-low-res-1.pdf

https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/25068517.pdf?refreqid=excelsior:b13929c54a2343d5703a0b9c4f587511

https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/about-us/

https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/about-us/news-media/press-releases/launch-new-app-brings-heritage-life-shakespeares-new-place/