18 July, 2014

Loose connections with Shakespeare at Stratford.

Stratford Upon Avon is a town that could hold it's own in the tourist stakes even without its most famous son, the bard of Avon. However it was home to William Shakespeare and makes the most of its heritage, even if some of the places have a rather loose connection. Anne Hathaway's Cottage has more connection than some of the places being the place where Shakespeare's future wife lived.
Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Nash's house and New Place are loosely connected in that Nash's House was where Shakespeare's Lawyer lived: New Place is simply the site converted into a garden - Shakespeare lived there.  Shakespeare's granddaughter married the man who owned Hall Place.  All these places are under the care of the Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust.  I did visit the birthplace but it was so crowded I came out again - through the inevitable gift shop.

The highlight of my visit was an unofficial tour of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  My tour included below the stage and the picture shows the old box office of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre which is now on a lifting mechanism over a doorway.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is really two theatres in one and, in spite of appearances really dates from 2010 when it was re-opened to the public with more seats and better sight lines.  The oldest theatre is the Swan theatre the shell of which is Victorian.  The interior is a completely up to date theatre with a modular stage that can be at any height or depth.  The second theatre is inside the shell of the 1932 Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, and this theatre is bigger but has the same facilities.  Most of the shared services, such as costumes, properties, wigs lighting and sound are shared.  Actors dressing rooms have a little balcony overlooking the river and actors must love coming to Stratford even if only for the facilities.  Many of the actors have signed their autographs on the wall backstage!

08 July, 2014

Lots of locks - a visit to Hatton Locks.

Just outside Stratford upon Avon there is a huge flight of locks with a cafe in the middle. there are 21 locks on the Grand Union Canal and the flight rises 45 meters in around two miles. This must be quite testing for the leisure boaters who have to get out and operate the gates manually. The Canal and Rivers Trust Website states that the locks were constructed in 1799 "to carry locally mined coal to the power stations and factories of the Black Country". I don't think there were many power stations around in 1799 personally but I am happy to be proved wrong. There are heritage buildings nearby now used for canal operational purposes such as offices etc. There is also a sculpture of a dragonfly in one of the pools. You can see Warwick church tower from the locks and the breakfast at the cafe is well worth it. With many thanks to Craig and Andy for this visit.

01 July, 2014

Library of Birmingham v the Birmingham Library

Compare and contrast two libraries with the word 'Birmingham' in the name.
The wonderful Shakespeare Room in the golden dome
Library of Birmingham "Rewriting the book"
New Dates from September 2013
Free and open to all
Beautiful building with gold dome on top 
Light airy and spacious
General public library facilities, fiction, non-fiction and reference works
Significant collection of Shakespeare's works, Boulton and Watt Archive and others
Birmingham Library memorial stone
Birmingham Library
 Old dates from 1779, and moved to its present location in 1899
Subscription- open to all subscribers - £40 PA
19th century building with co-operative hall on top
Windowless room in semi basement
Fiction, non-fiction and reference works
Significant collection of 19th and early 20th century novels