Wednesday April 23, 2014
This weekend, England celebrates it's patron saint, St George (actually a Turkish bloke who didn't, as it happens, slay any dragons). Nevermind. In the past few years, St George's Day has become a respectable reason to wave the English flag and hold parades and festivals all over the country. The day, like Shakespeare's birthday and the anniversary of his death, is really April 23, but what kind of a celebration would it be if you couldn't have a weekend to party?
This year also marks the 300th anniversary of King George I's accession to the throne, so English Heritage (who throw some of the best St George's Day special events) have added something extra. If your name is George or Georgina, bring proof of identity and you'll be given free entry to all the English Heritage St George's Day festivities and pageantry at their historic attractions this Saturday and Sunday. You can watch St George slay the dragon, take part in medieval fayres, see knightly jousts and falconry displays at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, Bolsolver Castle in Derbyshire, Kenilworth in Warwickshire, Beeston Castle in Cheshire, Belsay Hall in Northumberland and Dover Castle in Kent. Click here for full details.
What a coincidence - St George's Day, the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and his death all on the same day. Hmmm.
Neil Holmes/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Tuesday April 22, 2014
Shakespeare's hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, always makes a big to-do over Shakespeare's Birthday, with parades, celebrities, international visitors, Morris dancers and street entertainers. It's the only local event that the American Ambassador attends every year - and has since the festivities began more than a hundred years ago.
This year, on the occasion of the Bard's 450th birthday, the festivities on Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27, will be bigger and better than ever. Bigger parades, more floats, more music, more people and even more birthday cake.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is really rolling out the red carpet for visitors all day Saturday with free events in and around the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Expect music, stage fighting and make-up workshops, a chance to handle famous props, to tell Shakespeare's stories yourself, to learn how to speak "Shakespearean", to dress up and more. And for the price of the 50p ride on the tiny, River Avon chain ferry, you can enjoy a sonnet, up close and personal, with one of the RSC's actors. Discover the full schedule.
Some rights reserved by Richard Towell
Sunday April 20, 2014
It's a mega week in the UK ending with big weekend for two national heroes. But before we get to those, we wouldn't want these great events to get lost amid the hoopla:
- Tulip Time at Pashley - The annual tulip festival at Pashley Manor Gardens, Ticehurst, East Sussex, is in full swing and on through next Monday. Now in its 20th year, the festival originated as a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the tulip in Europe from Persia. Thousands flowers and hundreds of varieties - many of the Chelsea Flower Show winners - mesmerize visitors. Admission is £10 and the garden is open from 11am to 5pm.
- The Hexham Book Festival opens Thursday and runs until May 9 at the Queens Hall Arts Center and other venues around this Northumberland town. Ian Rankin and Kirsty Wark are among dozens of writers who will read from and discuss their work. Don't miss Janette Jenkins who'll be talking about her wonderful short novel about Noel Coward's last days, Firefly, at the festivals newest venue, The Yurt in the Abbey Gardens.
- Vikings Live from the British Museum Don't forget to book your tickets for Vikings Live from the British Museum a live satellite broadcast, showing at 7pm on Thursday at cinemas all over the country. It's an exclusive guided tour of the museum's blockbuster exhibition, with tv history presenters Michael Wood and Bettany Hughes.
- Sundance London, runs from Friday through Sunday, with great new independent films straight from the Sundance Festival, panel discussions, music and special events. It all centers around Brooklyn Bowl London, the newest venue at London's O2 Arena.
- Wray Scarecrow Festival and Fair sees this Lancashire village celebrate its weirdest and wackiest creations, alongside road races, bike races, bake sales, car boot sales and other festivities - opening Satuday and running until May 5. This is an old fashioned village fête with bells on.
And, about those national heroes - Shakespeare's 450th birthday and St George's Day will be marked with festivities this weekend. Come back later this week for all the latest details.
David Dixon/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Friday April 18, 2014
What can you expect when two of the three hotels in a scenic seaside village are both under the same ownership? That's the situation in Aldeburgh, the former fishing village on the Suffolk Heritage Coast that Benjamin Britten made famous. Both the 3-star White Lion Hotel and the 4-star Brudenell, which bracket Aldeburgh's half mile long beach, are owned by the same small, Suffolk-based group. I recently stayed in both. Differences? Similarities? Read my reviews and see what you think.