On Saturday, the students in Balliol College made the journey to Stratford-upon-Avon, a small town located on a bend of the River Avon, and a town which would probably have passed a largely unremarkable existence were it not for its being the birthplace of one of history’s greatest wordsmiths: William Shakespeare, the world’s most-performed playwright.
Stratford-upon-Avon is a town devoted to him. A pilgrimage site of sorts for those who love to read or to watch theatrical performances, its inhabitants have recognised that they are onto a good thing: almost every shop, pub and restaurant is Shakespeare-themed. Students were given the chance to explore the town, wandering up and down the streets of wood-beamed old houses.
There were visits to the New Place, the family home that he commissioned when he became richer in his successful mid-career, and to a garden filled with Shakespeare-themed artwork including a bronze boat modelled on the themes of The Tempest, formerly the garden of his daughter’s house. This house was Hall’s Croft, a beautifully-preserved early-seventeenth-century building, and now a museum to Shakespeare and his legacy.
In the afternoon, the students were given time to roam the town themselves. They went into the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre, one of the most illustrious performance spaces in the UK and indeed the world, and bought themselves ice-creams.
In the evening, tired out after a day of history and culture, students relaxed in Balliol College with a showing of the Dreamworks film How to Train Your Dragon, accompanied by plenty of popcorn and sweets.