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FOOD, DRINK, SUNSHINE AND A SPOT OF GALLIC CHARM WOW CROWDS AT FOOD FESTIVAL

27
Sep 2016

Food was scoffed and drinks were quaffed as thousands of visitors poured into Stratford for the 2016 Town Centre Food Festival at the weekend.

More than 80,000 people descended on the town for the free three-day festival, which started on Friday and finished on Sunday.

The festival, organised by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) in association with market operator Groupe Geraud, showcases Stratford as one of the region’s premier food and leisure destinations.

On the final day, celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli entertained audiences at three packed sessions at the Waterside Cookery School, as well as meeting traders from some of the 100-plus stalls that lined Waterside, Bridge Street and Henley Street.

He said the day was “a beautiful experience”,

adding: “You can see clearly why this festival is successful
and lasts three days because there’s a lot to do, there’s a lot to see.

“It’s very family-orientated which I like and there are all different types of cuisine. I’ve got to say, well done.”

Chef Novelli was just one of the highlights at the cookery theatre, which also saw demonstrations from Stratford’s own food fraternity across the three days, including: a ‘luscious lamb’ dish from Phil Bailey, head chef at The Falcon Hotel; sushi from Bamboodle’s head chef Elio Alonso; and a butchery masterclass from Barry the Butcher’s Adam Lucock.

Elsewhere, workshops on Rother Street market on Sunday included hands-on classes for children, fudge-making with Roly’s Fudge Pantry and a gin-tasting adventure with Vin Neuf, while a new local producers’ area on Waterside gave visitors the chance to take home some of the best the area has to offer.

The festival’s popular Taste and Ale Trails were another hit this year, with 760 tickets snapped up by visitors keen to take opportunity of the chance to try tasty treats from more than 30 restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs across the town.

And with the weather smiling on Stratford for most of the weekend, crowds enjoyed al fresco dining, live music and the chance to look around many of the town’s historic sights.

Stratforward Events Manager Ruth Wood said: “The town centre food festival is a huge event for Stratford and this year certainly didn’t disappoint, with more visitors than ever from near and far across the three days.

“Hopefully all those visitors got a real taste of what Stratford has to offer and will be back over the year for a return visit.”

The weekend culminated with a charity dinner on Sunday night at festival sponsor Loxleys Restaurant, attended by celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, in aid of local charity the Shakespeare Hospice.

MASTER BUTCHER CAN’T WAIT TO ‘MEAT’ YOU AT STRATFORD TOWN CENTRE FOOD FESTIVAL

23
Sep 2016

Ever wanted to see how to turn a whole lamb into the cuts of meat that land on your dinner plate?

You could get your chance this weekend if you head down to the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival.

Local master butcher Adam Lucock, from Stratford’s own Barry the Butcher, will be teaching crowds ‘How to Prepare a Whole Lamb’ as he takes to the stage at the festival’s Waterside Cookery Theatre on Saturday.

His demonstration is just one of the highlights of the three-day festival, which returns to Stratford-upon-Avon this Friday, running until Sunday (September 23-25).

The festival, organised by the award-winning events team at Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID), attracts thousands of visitors to the town and showcases Stratford as one of the region’s premier food and leisure destinations.

This year’s food-filled extravaganza features top-flight chef Jean-Christophe Novelli who will  take to the stage on Sunday, plus as a host of Stratford’s own culinary talent showing off their skills from fudge-making to gin-tasting in a range of demonstrations and workshops.

Adam Lucock’s session at midday on Saturday will see him show how to transform a whole lamb into 14 cuts of meat suitable for roasts, barbecues, grills and casseroles.

Adam, who set up Barry the Butcher 32 years ago with his late father Barry, said: “We’re a traditional butchers with a modern view of meat preparation. We pride ourselves on the quality and the increasingly different cuts of meat we offer to our customers both in the shop and the many pubs, restaurants and hotels we supply.

“We’re fortunate enough to have excellent meat right on our doorstep, from local Cotswold lamb, prime Hereford beef and free range pork. Our team of highly-skilled butchers ensure we continue to provide the very best quality and service that our customers have come to expect.

“The town centre food festival is a great opportunity to let people see what goes on behind the scenes in preparing their lamb chops or Sunday roast.”

As well as a range of demonstrations and workshops, visitors can take part in the festival’s popular Taste and Ale Trails, which allow lucky ticket holders to sample tasty treats from more than 30 restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs across the town. 800 tickets have already been reserved for the Taste Trail and only a few Ale Trail tickets are available.

The festival, organised in association with Geraud Markets and sponsored again by local restaurant Loxleys, will see the town centre packed with at least 100 stalls showcasing the best of local food and produce, as well as live music and al fresco dining.

And new for this year, there will be a Local Producers Area on Waterside on Friday and Saturday.

Stratforward Events Manager Ruth Wood said: “Tickets are selling fast for all of our events, from the Taste and Ale Trails to Jean-Christophe Novelli’s workshops on Sunday, so if you’re interested, sign up now.

“Months of preparation have gone into the event - the chefs are warmed up, the knives are sharpened, the produce is prepared and the weather forecast is looking good so it’s going to be a fabulous weekend all round!”

For more information and to reserve places on any of the workshops or to get Taste and Ale Trail tickets, please visit the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival website at http://www.stratforward.co.uk/events/stratford-town-centre-food-festival/

TASTEBUDS ARE TINGLING FOR FOOD FESTIVAL’S TASTE AND ALE TRAILS

31
Aug 2016

Tasty treats from more than 30 restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs will make up one of the highlights of this year’s Stratford Town Centre Food Festival.

Eateries and watering holes across the town are taking part in the popular Taste and Ale Trails at the festival, which returns on Friday September 23 until Sunday September 25.

The event, which attracts thousands of visitors from across the country, will this year feature world-famous chef Jean-Christophe Novelli who will be showcasing his award-winning skills at the Waterside Cookery School on the final day of the festival.

But to get a taste of Stratford’s own culinary talent and local pubs and bars, visitors can take part in the Taste and Ale Trails, which allow 200 daily ticketholders to try free samples from businesses across the town.

As part of the Taste Trail, which runs from noon to 4pm on the Saturday and Sunday, food fans can visit local eateries including Boston Tea Party, Wildwood Restaurant, Carluccio’s, Huffkins Bakery, La Marina Café and Paxton & Whitfield for a free mini taster.

For just £3 a ticket, visitors will be given a Taste Trail Map with a list of places to visit then can enjoy a stroll around town to sample a selection of tastebud-tickling treats.

Jen Julian, manager of Carluccio’s, said: “We are really excited to be part of the taste trial this year. It's a fantastic platform to showcase our fresh, high quality, authentic Italian food in turn giving us the opportunity to discuss our love for food with a few sneak peeks of our new menu launching October 2016!”

The Ale Trail, which runs from 2pm-8pm on the Saturday and Sunday, will give thirsty punters the chance to visit town centre hostelries such as The Bear Freehouse, Church Street Townhouse, the Keys & Kitchen, The Dirty Duck, The Lamplighter, The Pen & Parchment and The White Swan Hotel where they can swig a sample of selected tipples.

With tickets priced at £5, visitors will be given a free commemorative Festival Ale Trail ⅓ pint glass along with a map of the Real Ale Trail with a list of beers and descriptions. 

Marilyn Herdman, landlady of the Keys & Kitchen, said: “The amazing Ale Trail brings in people from all over the world to drink in our side street pub, to see our quirky back garden, savour our unusual ales and lagers from around the world - without this they would never find this little gem.”

Taste and Ale Trail tickets can be reserved on the Stratforward website (http://www.stratforward.co.uk/events/stratford-town-centre-food-festival/) then will be available for collection and cash only payment between 12pm and 2pm from the Stratforward Site Office on Waterside on Friday 23rd, Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September.

The festival, organised by Stratforward in association with Geraud Markets, is sponsored by local restaurant Loxleys for the second year running.

Alongside the Taste and Ale Trails, it will include chef demonstrations from Stratford’s own culinary talent, workshops for adults and children, and a new Local Producers Area on Waterside on the Friday and Saturday.

STRATFORD RESTAURANT TAKES SECOND BITE OF FOOD FESTIVAL CHERRY

16
Aug 2016

Stratford restaurant Loxleys is back for another taste of the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival – sponsoring the food-filled extravaganza for a second year running.

The three-day festival, organised by the award-winning events team at Stratforward BID in association with Geraud Markets, returns to the town centre from Friday, September 23 to Sunday, September 25.

Not only will Stratford’s streets be packed with stalls showcasing the finest food and drink the region has to offer, but world-famous chef Jean-Christophe Novelli will take to the stage in the Waterside Cookery School on the festival’s final day.

The Stratford Town centre Food Festival attracts thousands of visitors from across the country and is keenly supported by the town and local businesses.

They include Loxleys, which returns as sponsor of the festival after the stellar success of last year’s event.

General Manager Jonathan Lea said: "Loxleys is delighted to once again be sponsoring the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival.

“Last year's event was a huge success and we're sure this year's will be even better.

“Food and drink is such a key part of what Stratford offers, not just to locals but to our international visitors, and the festival is the perfect chance to showcase our thriving food and drink scene."

Highlights of the 2016 Stratford Town Centre Food Festival will include the popular Food and Ale Trails, which allow 200 daily ticketholders to get free samples from selected businesses across the town.

Local chefs will be cooking to impress on stage in the Waterside Cookery Theatre, while hands-on workshops will provide fun for all the family.

And new for this year, the Friday and Saturday will see a Local Producers Area on Waterside showcasing the best of local produce.

Stratforward events manager Ruth Wood said: "This event has grown hugely over recent years, attracting tens of thousands of foodies from all over the country and further afield to sample what's on offer, all set against the backdrop of our beautiful town.

"We're thrilled to have Loxleys on board again for what is guaranteed to be a brilliant weekend of food and drink."

FOOD FESTIVAL GOES FRENCH WITH JEAN-CHRISTOPHE NOVELLI

10
Aug 2016

OOH LA LA – FOOD FESTIVAL GOES FRENCH WITH JEAN-CHRISTOPHE NOVELLI SET TO READY STEADY COOK

A touch of gallic charm is descending on this year’s Stratford Town Centre Food Festival in the form of French culinary sensation Jean-Christophe Novelli.

The award-winning chef will take to the stage on Sunday, September 25 - the final day of the three-day food-filled extravaganza.  Purchase Jean-Christope Novelli tickets by clicking here 

The popular festival, organised by the award-winning events team at Stratforward BID (Business Improvement District) in association with Geraud Markets, returns from Friday, September 23 to Sunday, September 25.

Each year the festival, which attracts thousands of visitors to the town, features a big name and this year’s is the acclaimed Jean-Christophe Novelli.

The Michelin chef started his career at the age of 14 in his home town of Arras in northern France becoming private Head Chef to Elie de Rothschild at the age of 19.

He arrived in Britain in 1983, working as head chef at Keith Floyd’s pub The Maltsters before going on to open four restaurants in London. He now has his own world culinary empire and runs popular cookery courses at his Novelli Academy in the village of Tea Green, Hertfordshire.

Chef Novelli said: “It has been great working in partnership with Stratforward and Groupe Geraud to deliver an event of this scale, especially to a town as historic as Stratford-upon-Avon.

“I'm excited to meet the locals and give them a few demonstrations, hopefully they will pick up some new tricks to take home to the kitchen!”

The festival will see Stratford town centre packed with at least 100 stalls showcasing the best of local food and produce. Highlights will include chef demonstrations, workshops and the popular Food and Ale Trails, which allow 200 daily ticketholders to pop into selected businesses across the town for tasty free samples.

The Local Producers Area on Waterside is a new feature on the Friday and Saturday. Local chefs will showcase the town’s own culinary talent at The Waterside Cookery Theatre, and there will be some hands-on workshops for both children and adults.

Stratforward events manager Ruth Wood said: “We’re all really excited to welcome Jean-Christophe Novelli to this year’s Stratford Town Centre Food Festival.

“We have a queue of volunteers eager to look after him for the day and the Stratforward team have all become fanatical foodies since his arrival was announced. It must be that winning combination of culinary skills and Gallic charm.”

NEW BID BOSS

13
Jul 2016

NEW BID BOSS MEANS BUSINESS

The new Director of Stratforward - Stratford’s Business Improvement District (BID) - took up his post this week, pledging to work closely with businesses and organisations to benrfit the town.

Forty-six year-old Joseph Baconnet - a specialist in economic development, town centre management, tourism and planning - started work on Monday.

He said he now plans to “get to grips with the town”, meeting as many partners and organisations as possible and understanding the issues facing Stratford-upon-Avon - starting with an invitation to all Stratforward members to attend a "meet and greet" event at the Falcon Hotel in Stratford at 12.30pm on Tuesday (19 July).

Mr Baconnet, who until recently was Economic Development and Regeneration Manager at Warwick District Council, described the town as “unique” and said many other destinations would “kill for what Stratford has got”.

“It’s got a city attitude but it’s a small Warwickshire market town. It punches well above its weight in retail terms from its resident population, it has a lot of visitors. So it’s fair to say it’s unique.”

He admitted that there is a “high level of expectation” surrounding his role, but said: “I’ve got a strong background in town centres, town development, business support as well as tourism.
“So I think it’s trying to bring all those elements together and work for the benefit of the levy payers and ultimately for the benefit of Stratford.”
“For me it’s working with all the partners, all the organisations, to build on what’s already here.
“You can pretty much go anywhere in the world and say you work in Stratford-on-Avon and they know what you’re talking about.
“You’ve got a brilliant product - the town - in an accessible area. And it’s about all of the partners working together to get the incremental benefits.
“I’m just keen to work with as many people as possible and to increase the offer to increase what people see about the town.”

A key group Mr Baconnet plans to work with are BID members, who he said are “critical” to Stratforward.
“The relationship is critical - Stratforward doesn’t exist without the support of its levy payers. They voted for it to happen so their support is vital.”

He admitted there are issues affecting the town that people would like to see addressed by Stratforward and other organisations, but added: “What Stratford is managing is success and that’s the other side of the coin - that actually despite all the individual difficulties that people have there are plenty of other towns, and possibly cities, that would kill for what Stratford has got.”

And while the country may be facing uncertain times economically and politically, Mr Baconnet insisted these are exciting times for Stratford and his role is an exciting challenge: “regardless of what the times are”.

Rugby-born Mr Baconnet, who now lives in Kenilworth, was appointed after a three-month nationwide search after former BID boss Karen Wild left at Easter to take up a new post in Basingstoke.

He specialised in economic development, town planning and tourism at university in Staffordshire and Oxford, then worked in research and economic development in Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire for six years before taking up the post of Town Centre Manager for Warwick and Kenilworth in 1998. When the role was split in 2004 he took on the Kenilworth remit.

In 2010 he was made Economic Development and Regeneration Manager at Warwick District Council and in recent times played a key role in the development of Shakespeare’s England.

People wishing to attend the "Meet and Greet" event on Tuesday 19th July are asked to call Sandi at Stratforward on 01789 292718 or email her on sandi@stratforward.co.uk

New Director

05
Jul 2016


STRATFORWARD APPOINTS NEW DIRECTOR TO TAKE ON HIGH STREET CHALLENGE

One of the regions’ top experts has been appointed as the new Director of Stratforward – Stratford’s Business Improvement District.

Joseph Baconnet – a specialist in economic development, town centre management, tourism and planning - was announced as the new boss of the BID at a major regional business and tourism conference yesterday (Monday). Forty-six-year-old Mr Baconnet will take up his appointment on Monday 11 July. 

News of his appointment has already been welcomed by business leaders in Stratford and beyond.

Sara Aspley, Chairman of Stratforward and Director of Commercial Services at the Royal Shakespeare Company said:

“This is a real coup for Stratforward and Stratford upon Avon. To have someone with the experience and expertise that Mr Baconnet brings to the table will be a massive boost for the town and the region.”

She added: 

“Stratford is unique.  In essence, it is a working Warwickshire market town with all the issues that such towns face in these challenging economic times, but with the added demands and opportunities that its international status and resulting tourist trade brings. Getting the balance right for local residents, business owners and visitors is no simple task.

“To understand the complexities and nature of this trading environment takes someone special, and I am confident that Mr Baconnet with his in-depth understanding of economic development, planning, management and tourism, coupled with his knowledge of the region and existing relationships with key partners in the patch, makes him perfectly positioned to take on this unique role.”

Mr Baconnet was appointed after a three-month nationwide search for the right person to take on the job after former BID boss Karen Wild left at Easter to take up a new post in Basingstoke.

Speaking yesterday Mr Baconnet said:

“This is such an exciting opportunity during what are truly exciting times. Stratford has been important in history and globally for so long and it is going to be a privilege to help shape its future for generations to come.”

Mr Baconnet was born in Rugby.  After school in Northamptonshire he went onto university in Staffordshire and Oxford where he specialised in economic development, town planning and tourism.

He worked in research and economic development in Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire for six years before taking up the post of Town Centre Manager for Warwick and Kenilworth in 1998.  When the role was split in 2004 he took on the Kenilworth remit. 

In 2010 he was made Economic Development and Regeneration Manager at Warwick District Council and has in recent times played a key role in the development of Shakespeare’s England – the highly regarded Destination Management Organisation for the region.

His appointment was welcomed by Shakespeare’s England at their quarterly Tourism Forum at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon yesterday.

Speaking to an audience that included representatives of key regional tourist attractions, transport providers, accommodation providers, leisure industry experts - as well as representatives from Visit Britain and TripAdvisor - Helen Peters, Chief Executive said:

“Stratford is key to the tourism offer we have in this region, so it is vital that we have the strongest team possible to help build the brand nationally and internationally.

“Inbound Tourism like most industries is extremely competitive. Stratford, Warwickshire and the Midlands are fighting not just on a national stage but an international one to drive visitors to the area. 

“Mr Baconnet has been involved with Shakespeare's England since its conception and has also been a lead on the on-going delivery of the Destination Management Plan, a vital component in the future economic planning for the region. As such he has a true understanding of tourism and the value it brings to the regional and national economy. “

Mr Baconnet is married with two young children and lives in Kenilworth

Stratford District Council have also welcomed the appointment

Cllr Dave Riches, Enterprise & Revenues Portfolio for Stratford-on-Avon District Council said:

“He brings a significant amount of experience to the role including an appreciation of the importance of an effective partnership with the local authority.  We look forward to working with Joe and the Stratforward team in the future.”

Busiest River Festival Ever!

05
Jul 2016

Stratford packed as 60,000 people enjoy River Festival

Traders report busiest ever year

THE HOT dogs were sizzling and the Pimms flowing as 60,000 people flocked to Stratford over the weekend for the busiest River Festival yet.

It was the eighth annual event, organised by Stratforward – Stratford’s Business Improvement District – pulling in the crowds to enjoy live music, food and drink, a huge selection of stalls and plenty of fun and games celebrating all things riverside on the Recreation Ground.

This year’s River Festival matched last year’s record breaker, a massive 60,000 people attending over the weekend with more than 100 boats moored up on the Avon.

Stratford was packed throughout the two days as visitors from home and abroad soaked up the atmosphere at what has rapidly become one of the region’s leading free festivals.

Since it started in 2008 the River Festival has grown and grown. Back then there were six stalls – this year there were more than 100; a unique opportunity for local businesses to showcase their town.

The event has become one of the biggest in the town’s calendar – winning the Tourism Initiative of the Year Award 2016 in the Touch FM Pride of Stratford Awards.

Traders have reported 2016 as their best year yet, thousands of people browsing and buying at the craft market and sampling the huge variety of foods on offer, from the traditional barbecue to wood-fired pizzas or thai cuisine.

Amongst those sizzling up supplies was Adam Lucock from Stratford’s Barry the Butcher. Adam was prepped to sell 1,000 hot dogs and 1,000 burgers over the weekend – but by 9pm on Saturday he had sold out.

“It was just fantastic – the atmosphere was wonderful and we’ll definitely be back next year,” he said.

In total, Barry the Butcher sold 2,000 hot dogs, 2,000 burgers, 100 kilos of barbeque chicken wings – and around impromptu 100 bacon butties.

“I was cooking bacon for our staff on the Sunday morning and everyone kept asking for one so we ended up selling loads,” Mr Lucock added.

“We also supplied other meat – 100 shoulders of lamb, two pigs for the spit roast and 20 legs of pork, so it was a great weekend for us. My shop in town was packed too – there were queues out of the door.”

At the One Elm’s pop-up bars, the drinks were flowing.

“We sold an unreal amount,” Mat Faulkner said.

“Around 100 barrels of beers, ales and ciders, 2,000 bottles of prosecco and 1,000 pints of Pimms.”

There was a strong charity presence at the festival too; everything from Shakespeare Hospice scratch cards to a Lions tombola, with a family area for fairy face-painting, swing boat rides and a chance to scale the climbing wall.

World-class live music played throughout the weekend, on the Bandstand and Acoustic Stage, with Stratford lit-up on Saturday night by a fireworks extravaganza and illuminated boats.

Another highlight was the successful launch of a very unique gondola made entirely of cardboard. The 6.5m gondola made its maiden voyage over the weekend -  before heading off to the canals of Venice.

It had been made specially for the event by renowned ‘cardboard’ artist Will Alexander. He took to Avon at the festival to practice his gondoliering skills before heading off to Venice, where he plans to show it at international exhibition.

The BBC were also in Stratford over the weekend to film the festival for Midlands Today.

Event Organiser Ruth Wood said the Stratforward team were once again immensely proud:

“We were absolutely delighted with the support that the River Festival got in its eight year – with bad weather expected we were staggered at the attendance figures – and rewarded with an incredible day of sunshine on Sunday. Even in the downpours on Saturday, it was amazing to see people simply putting up their brollies and getting on with the party.

“Our traders within the festival have reported it was their best ever year – and footfall across Stratford was very high too. The hotels and b&bs were all full – and so were the restaurants and bars, especially on Saturday night when the rain encouraged people indoors.

“And what’s important is the long-lasting impact this event has too – it showcases Stratford far and wide and encourages visitors to come back again and again.”

Enquiries about next year’s River Festival are already coming in. It will be held on July 1st and 2nd 2017.

River Festival 2016

30
Jun 2016

Stratford Gears Up For Bumper Festival Weekend

Stratford is gearing up for a bumper weekend with thousands expected to descend on the town for the eighth annual River Festival taking place on Saturday and Sunday.

With just days to go hotels and guest houses are reporting huge levels of bookings.  Food and drink outlets are stocking shelves to be ready for the onslaught of picnickers heading to the Recreation Ground for a two-day packed programme of fun-filled family entertainment. And dozens of local shops, pubs and restaurants who are running stalls at the award-winning event are preparing for the crowds.  Nobody will have to worry about being hungry or thirsty, with​ thousands of gallons of drink and tonnes of food on standby.   

Stratford pub The One Elm won the tender to run the cider and lager tent, the Pimm’s and prosecco tent and the ale tent. And after the record-breaking number of visitors last year lite rally drank the bars dry, general manager Mat Faulkner said there’s no chance of that happening this year.

“We’ve ordered something like 12,000 pints of ale,” he said. “We’ve got 46 11-gallon containers of lager, 30 11-gallons of cider, 15 11-gallon containers of draught Pimm’s, and 15 barrels of fruit cider. We’ve also got 2,000 bottles of Prosecco and 3,500 pieces of meat for the barbecue.”  

The One Elm, owned by Peach Pubs, has been involved in previous River Festivals, including last year when Mr Faulkner was left gobsmacked by how much beer they sold.

“We were completely overwhelmed. We thought we’d ordered in enough beer to last through to Sunday night with maybe some to take back with us. We sold out of the beer on the Saturday night by 7pm.  

“I remember we had one ale left on the rack and there was a queue that reached all the way round the beer and lager tent. There was the last guy and he ordered three beers - I poured two-and-a-half and then it ran out. I literally had to tip the barrel up for him to get the very last drop out to make it up to the third point. I’ll take that moment to the grave with me, it was brilliant.”  

And hungry visitors will have plenty of choices including a barbecue from ​long-running town business Barry the Butcher, whose owner has come up with a novel idea to make sure his stall doesn’t run out of hotdogs. Adam Lucock is preparing a thousand sausages for each day of the festival and only has room in his cool boxes for 150 at a time, so has had to come up with a cunning plan to get the food from his fridges in Chapel Street to the stall on Waterside - take to the water!

“I thought, how am I going to get them from my fridge on Chapel Street?” he said. “And jokingly I thought I can use the chain ferry, but actually it is probably going to be the best way. It’s pointless trying to get the our van through town, so we have to find other ways and as many of my loyal customers know we do like a challenge."

Since it was established the Stratford River Festival has become one of the region’s leading free festivals. Last year’s event, which brought a record-breaking 60,000 revellers into Stratford, scooped the Tourism Initiative of the Year Award 2016 in the Touch FM Pride of Stratford Awards.

This year’s festival will see up to 100 narrow boats moor up along the banks of the Avon for the weekend. Another highlight will be the maiden voyage of a unique cardboard gondola, made specially for the festival by renowned ‘cardboard’ artist Will Alexander who will take to the helm before he takes his creation to Venice.

Visitors will be able to browse nearly 100 charity, craft and food and drinks stalls and be entertained by world-class acts on two stages, as well as a fantastic firework display  at 10.15pm on the Saturday. Bands will include six-piece party band Mister Shakes, featuring Brian Ferry’s sax player, who will headline on the Saturday and the event will close on the Sunday with one of the UK’s leading Glenn Miller tribute groups, the Ashby Big Band.

  

World First - Unique Gondola to make maiden voyage at Stratford River Festival - before heading to Venice!

14
Jun 2016

A unique gondola will make its maiden voyage at this year’s Stratford upon Avon River Festival before heading off to Venice... via Birmingham!   The launch of the 6.5m gondola made entirely of cardboard will be one of the highlights at the 2016 River Festival, which takes place on July 2 and 3.

 The creation is half the length of a real gondola but made in exactly the same way only using cardboard instead of traditional materials. Renowned ‘cardboard’ artist Will Alexander has spent weeks constructing the gondola at a secret Warwickshire location. He will take the helm at the festival to practice his gondoliering skills before heading off to Venice. There he plans to show it at international exhibition, the Venice Biennale, and also hopes to work as a gondolier carrying passengers aboard his cardboard creation.

But before he heads abroad he’s taking his creation to Birmingham, argued by some as having more miles of canal than the Italian city, where it will form part of a festival in the city. Mr Alexander, 40, was born in Stratford and studied fine art at the University of Central England (UCE) now Birmingham City University but now lives in London.

 

The gondola is not his first cardboard construction. Previous work includes a cardboard ice cream van called ‘icecreamvanman’, and ‘Reinventing the Wheel’, which is currently part of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. 

He first dreamed up his gondola project five years ago and enlisted the help of Avon Boating, a Stratforward member and River Festival sponsor which has its own fully restored gondola originally owned by Marie Corelli. Mr Alexander has been given space by Avon Boating to work on his creation, as well as advice and training from managing director Nick Birch.

Speaking at his hidden workshop, Mr Alexander said: “Ideally I want to take it to Venice and work as a gondolier with it, that’s my crazy dream. “It looks lovely just as a framework, and if I wanted to I could just put it in a gallery as it is. But the dream is to put it in the water and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Mr Alexander is internationally known for his work with cardboard. He was first inspired to work with it while studying in Birmingham and went on to make a cardboard car that he ‘drove’ down the city’s Broad Street on a Friday night. “A couple of years later a group of us went to Zurich and we took a cardboard tram that we actually took on the tracks in Zurich,” he said. “What I realised is if you make anything out of cardboard people love it because they remember sitting in cardboard boxes when they were children. It makes people feel like children again. With the ice cream van it makes people feel like they are having their first ice cream again. With the gondola it might remind people of what their first imagining of Venice was.”


The eighth annual Stratford River Festival, organised by Stratforward (BID), is one of the key dates in the town’s calendar. Last year’s event attracted nearly 60,000 revellers and scooped the Tourism Initiative of the Year Award 2016 in the Touch FM Pride of Stratford Awards.


The 2016 event will see up to 100 narrow boats moor up along the banks of the Avon. It will feature a huge firework display, dozens of charity, craft and food and drink stalls, and performances from worldclass acts on two stages. They will include six-piece party band Mister Shakes, featuring Brian Ferry’s sax player, and one of the UK’s leading Glenn Miller tribute groups, the Ashby Big Band.