I am incredibly proud to represent the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Alongside his priceless literary legacy he remains one of Stratford’s most important employers, bringing in an estimated £355 million a year in tourism.
As the Member of Parliament for Stratford I am committed to championing the Bard, his connections to the area, and Stratford’s many great culture and heritage organisations. I am also driving forward a campaign to gain official recognition of Shakespeare’s birthday in the calendar, with the ultimate aim of making April 23 a public holiday: a national day for England to celebrate the finest writer in English.
2014 was the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. To mark the occasion I organised a special performance of Henry IV at the House of Commons, featuring an ensemble cast drawn from 7 secondary schools and one college in my constituency under the direction of the RSC. Also in attendance were pupils from Bridgetown Primary School, helping the Birthplace Trust showcase some of the most precious artefacts in their collection
During a session of Prime Minister’s Questions I highlighted the importance of Shakespeare to Stratford and asked the PM what Shakespeare means to him (all in blank verse, the poetic meter of Shakespeare’s plays!)
In May 2014 I led a special debate in Westminster Hall - Parliament’s secondary debating chamber - to commemorate the birth of William Shakespeare, where I raised the issue of a public holiday. Responding, Ed Vaizey, the then Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, agreed ‘that there is no doubt that we should ensure that more attention is paid to the celebrations of the Bard’s birthday.’
2016 saw the 600th anniversary of the Bard’s death. Over the last weekend of April 2016, Stratford played host to a fantastic weekend of theatre and celebration in honour of its most famous former resident. As it so often is, Stratford was visited by the country’s finest actors and actresses for an extravaganza of some of Shakespeare’s finest work by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It even included an extraordinary appearance by Prince Charles’s giving his own interpretation of the famous ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy from Hamlet
From 20 to 26 March 2017, Shakespeare Week will be upon us. This is a national annual celebration aimed at enabling more primary school children to encounter Shakespeare. More updates will follow shortly