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Shakespeare400: Parade celebrations

Thousands of people will gather in Stratford-Upon-Avon this weekend to take part in a special Shakespeare400 parade - on the exact anniversary date of the Bard's death, 400 years on.

A special Shakespeare Mask will feature heavily in the parade proceedings on Saturday 23rd April. Organisers say it gives everyone the chance to "be the face of Shakespeare" for the day.

Students from local schools will be distributing 10,000 masks in the town centre.

The final mask design comes after Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council last year jointly commissioned a portrait of Shakespeare that could be used for a novel "celebrity face mask" purpose.

The project which took several months was managed by Stratford-on-Avon District Council. They say it was a complex process, looking into things like researching suitable images, as well as finding an artist to create the final Mask image.

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10,000 Shakespeare masks will be given out on the parade morning Credit: Shakespeare's Celebrations

"This was always going to be a challenge with Shakespeare's death having been early in the 17th century, long before any form of camera.

We concluded that just as important as the accuracy of the image of the mask, it had to be publicly recognisable as that of the famous Bard of Avon.

Most importantly the chosen image had to be capable of being converted into a full frontal face mask.We knew that when 'the world' ponders on Shakespeare, it sees in its mind’s eye the famous Droeshout engraving of him.

This is the picture inside the First Folio of his collected works printed in 1623 and the accuracy of this engraving was endorsed by his contemporary Ben Jonson.

The choice was suddenly made simple. Armed with world famous picture, the search was on for an artist to produce a suitable version for conversion into a mask.”

– Councillor Mike Gittus, Chairman of Stratford District Council
Road closures for the parade Credit: ITV News Central

“I’m a meticulous kind of fellow and looked at many images of the Bard, taking countless measurements of facial features, cross referencing and overlaying them. I also studied colouring and texture of skin.

Gradually, a shape common to several portraits emerged which fitted remarkably closely to the famous Droeshout engraving.

But it views the subject at an angle, so my research helped me create a new, head-on view of the face. A typical Elizabethan ruff completed the picture and my portrait became a very convincing Bard!”

– Geoffrey Tristram, Stourbridge-based artist

Geoff has since proposed a second portrait, this time an oil on canvas, and both pieces of art can be seen on private display in the Town Hall between 20th-24th April. It will then transfer for public display to the reception area of the Stratford-on-Avon District Council in Elizabeth House in time for the Stratford Literary Festival.

The parade takes in a number of routes Credit: ITV News Central

PARADE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Main Parade goes from the Town Hall along Sheep Street, Waterside, Bridge Street, High Street, Chapel Street, Church Street and Old Town to the Church.
  • Parade participants can also be seen around the route and at town centre points including Wood Street, Meer Street and Henley Street.
  • The Quill and Flag Unfurling Ceremonies take place in Bridge Street.
  • Black flagpoles will adorn the route, and the main streets will be covered black and gold bunting.
  • Jazz Band from the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University, New Orleans, USA will take part in the parade as the Birthday procession moves off in festival mood through the streets to the Church.

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