Tuck into the Stratford Christmas Brochure for inspiration on gifts, a what's on listing, ideas on fantastic places to eat and drink and more!
Children can make a wish and enter the Christmas Wish Competition to win a magical ride with Father Christmas in a horse-drawn carriage!
The top prize winner will receive a magical gift, a voucher for a meal for four at Miller and Carter and the opportunity to help start the festivities in Jingle Bell Court alongside Father Christmas.
The two runners up will also win a cream tea and a magical surprise gift.
To win, all you have to do is write a letter to Father Christmas using the form below.
Send your entry in by Sunday, November 10th. Winners will be notified on Monday 11th November.
Stratford's restaurant fortnight continues until October 20th with great food offers, events and competitions.
Delicious food offers are on hand all day every day. Click here for more info.
Brilliant events too to liven up these colder, darker and wetter times! Click here for more info.
Offers at many places all over town including
The Giggling Squid - image on front page
The Rooftop Restaurant at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
The Fourteas Tearoom
Around 44,000 festival goers basked in the sunshine on Saturday and chilled out in the cooler temperatures on Sunday at this weekend’s Food Festival, organised by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) and sponsored by Loxleys Restaurant and Wine Bar.
The festival programme was packed with free demonstrations by talented chefs from local restaurants, six popular taste and ale trails, 120 stall market showcasing local and regional producers, free hands-on workshops and live music.
The 120 stalls saw a constant stream of visitors throughout the weekend. Festival Sponsor Loxleys’ General Manager Jonathan Lea, said: “Saturday was incredible, we sold out of everything! The layout was much better this year, particularly the placement of the demo tent. The music was great and the whole weekend had a really good festival feel. Really pleased to have both sponsored the event and to have fund raised for Molly Olly’s Wishes with the raffle.”
Jayne Richman-Bolt, owner of Shakespaw Cat Café, said: “This is the first year we’ve had a festival stall and we’ll definitely do it again. Lots of existing customers came over and it was good to connect. And it helps create an awareness about our cat café and the opportunity we give to be with cats here in town.”
Another first-time stall holder was independent Cosy Chic Pet Boutique from Bell Court. Owner Courtney Gilbert said: “We were swamped on Saturday. Before we’d even finished setting up, dogs were dragging their owners to our stall because of the smell! We were popular as we offer food for dogs rather than owners.”
Dave Joynes, Director of Cotswold Markets co-organised the Food Festival, said: “Cotswold Markets is absolutely delighted to have been part of the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival 2019. We consider it to be the best one to date and would like to thank the traders, customers and our partners Stratforward BID for helping to deliver such a great event.”
There was a healthy appetite for the popular taste trails, with almost 800 people sampling Stratford’s local cuisine. Many taste trailers come back year after year to look for new places to go and revisit old favourites. Newcomers included The Corner House, Miller & Carter, Arden House, and Zizzis. Local resident Becky Steed said: “The taste trails give you the chance to try things on the menu that you might be too nervous to go for on a night out. There’s definitely some new meals I’ll order now.”
Wildwood Kitchen was just one of the restaurants offering delicious morsels on the taste trails this weekend. Edina Palmay, Wildwood Kitchen assistant manager said: “It’s great to welcome so many locals. We’ve been enjoying the tourist trade over the summer and now it’s a quieter time of the year so it’s a good time to remind the local people we’re here.”
Ale Trails created a tour around Stratford’s finest drinking establishments including favourites like Stratford Alehouse, The Old Thatch Tavern, The Townhouse, The Dirty Duck, The Golden Bee, The Lamplighter, Swan Theatre Bar, The Bear Freehouse, The Garrick and for the first time No.44 at the Arden Hotel.
Demos in the Cookery Theatre on Bridge Street were highly popular, the Farm to Fork demo was a winner with talks from a local lamb farmer, Barry the Butchers and festival sponsor Loxleys. Other impressive shows were by Michelin starred Paul Foster of Salt, venison with the Woodsman’s head chef Jon Coates, steak tartare with Hotel du Vin’s head chef Phil Hase, British fondue with Paxton & Whitfield manager Jazz and of course Shakespeare Distillery proprietor, Peter Monks – who lead a packed audience in a brilliant game of gin bingo!
Those hungry for more will be delighted to learn that the food festival’s culinary celebrations will be continuing in October. Restaurants and cafes will be hosting two weeks of special food offers and events from 4 to 20 October as part of Stratford-Upon-Avon Feasts. People can enjoy special menus, tantalising tasting and gastronomic adventures. Details will be released soon!
Stratforward Marketing and Events Manager Tor Wilkes said: “Saturday’s sunshine made for a sizzling festival! Crowds flocked in and got a taste for Stratford. Year on year there has been a 50% increase on people in town! Our new festival layout proved popular, our aim was to minimise traffic, so only two key roads were closed. Another change was the brilliant live music on Bridge Street which contributed to the fantastic atmosphere.
“Thanks to the support and funding by 420 town centre businesses, we organise the festival. It’s been wonderful to have so much positive feedback on the festival with many people planning to return to Stratford soon – there’s always so much going on. It’s a fantastic place to live and work!”
Around 55,000 visitors came to town to enjoy two days of spectacular music, food, beautiful narrow boats and stunning fireworks. To coincide with the festival, Bell Court in the town centre also ran a summer beach themed event with free face painting and activities. Both events retained their reputation as safe and peaceful, passing without incident.
Whilst visitors browsed stalls and sampled some of Stratford’s culinary delights, talented local bands helped to create the perfect chilled ambience at both the main bandstand and acoustic stage, before upbeat performers including local bands The Midnight Sapphires and The Payback, and headliners The SKAlectrics, got the crowds dancing as the sun went down.
Long-serving festival MC, Steve Steinhouse, said this year’s attendance figures were a testament to the River Festival’s popularity: “I can’t believe how many people came despite the weather and the many other local events taking place at the same time.” He added: “The River Festival is a people’s festival, and really celebrated by the locals - it’s wonderful.”
This year’s award-winning festival boasted a staggering 92 stalls offering some of the best food and drink in the area, as well as an eclectic artisan craft market, and interactive charity and local business stalls.
Funded by 420 town centre businesses who are members of Stratforward BID, the River Festival aims to bring more people into Stratford to take advantage of the independent shops, high street stores, restaurants, cafés and bars.
Some of the funders who attended for the first time this year included; Cam & Co of Shrieves Walk which sold mouthwatering Caribbean food; Cosy Chic Boutique, the luxury independent pet boutique in Bell Court; Diva Brows & Beauty which offered festival make up; Peter Clarke Estate Agents which kindly sponsored the Samaritans stall and ran a popular fun stall; and Escape Live who’s activities were a huge hit with families, particularly the escape rooms event which offered amazing prizes to those who found keys hidden around the festival site.
Ewa Gourkan, the new owner of For Something Different in Stratford, ran a successful festival stall. She attributed the festival’s popularity to its atmosphere: “It’s got a really good vibe, very chilled.”
Alex Clarke, manager of Stratford’s Sue Ryder charity shop, said: “We first came to the River Festival about five years ago and people loved our pop-up shop, so we’ve been coming back ever since. It’s a good opportunity to heighten awareness and chat to people who wouldn’t normally come to our town shop.” Fellow member charity, The Shakespeare Hospice also ran a small pop up shop.
Regular attendees Shabby Chic Sister returned to promote their independent local boutique, as did Karl Stallard Furniture from Greenhill, with Karl stating: “It’s great for us as a retailer in town as it puts us in front of lots of new people.”
Delicious festival feasting was provided by many, including the independent fish and chip shop Fizz and Fin, which sold triple cooked chips. The Townhouse’s tender juicy steaks were so popular they sold out. Barry the Butcher’s sausage and burger stall had a queue that snaked halfway around the festival! Bella Italia’s decision to sell not just pasta this year but wood-fired pizza as well proved a welcome one. Roly’s Fudge Pantry catered for the sweet-toothed with the crumbliest fudge around. And all made in their Stratford high street shop.
Traders had stepped up to tackle the huge quantity of non-recyclable waste left behind each year and impressively they took significant steps to minimise the waste generated from their stalls. This dramatically reduced the amount of plastic and polystyrene used. Stratforward had asked traders for their support on this and were most impressed with the support given, which would have affected the traders' profits.
Nick Hart from The One Elm has been quenching thirsts at the festival since the very beginning, and said the festival’s famed laid-back character continued to draw back the crowds: “It’s great for the community. It brings everyone together. And for us, it gets us out there even more.”
The Encore’s festival bar also enjoyed a constant stream of customers lining up to enjoy quintessentially English Pimms, refreshing mocktails, as well as Prosecco and spirits.
Local performers, who always play a huge part in the Festival, were grateful for the chance to show off their talents to such a large and appreciative audience. Ty Hansel from Evergreen said the festival was a celebration of local music, adding, “It’s great exposure for us and an excellent excuse for everyone to come together by the river and have a good time.”
The Saturday evening was topped off by spectacular fireworks provided by the team which provided the London 2012 Olympic Firework Display; crowds were treated to a dynamic display with vibrant strobing colours, glitters, crackles and whistles!
Tor Wilkes, Marketing & Events Manager at organisers Stratforward Business Improvement District, said: “Festival feedback has been fantastic! Huge thanks to everyone involved, including our partners on the water Avon Navigation Trust; the sponsors' Purity Brewery, Duchy Homes, Avon Boating, Stratford Marina and Bancroft Cruisers. Stratford District Council as ever were very supportive.
“Our many suppliers worked tirelessly to provide a seamless event. But this event could not happen without the fabulous 420 town centre businesses who we work on behalf of. This community event happens because of them. Let’s show our support.”
Stratford River Festival is one of a number of popular festivals organised by Stratforward’s award-winning events team each year. The River Festival has won multiple awards including the Pride of Stratford Tourism Initiative of the Year Award in both 2016 and 2018 and Stratford's Best Festival by Stratford-upon-Avon Online in 2016 and 2017 - as voted by members of the public.
The Festival was originally started to bring the river back into Stratford town centre, with many river businesses feeling that locals had abandoned the river to visitors.
Stratforward is Stratford’s Business Improvement District (BID) which represents 420 shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and businesses in Stratford town centre.
The Beside the Seaside event has been organised by Bell Court and the businesses there to help spread the impact of the River Festival around town.
For more information visit:
Twitter - https://twitter.com/river_festival
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/stratforward/
Boat-lovers and landlubbers alike will be treated to a spectacular nautical sight at Stratford River Festival this weekend when more than 100 striking boats adorn the banks.
Avon Navigation Trust, organisers of the river during the festival, are full to capacity and have a lengthy waiting list of boaters desperate to get to the popular event on July 6 and 7.
A huge selection of eye-catching narrow boats, wide boats, tugs and more will be on display throughout the weekend. Visitors have the chance to win a free boat trip when they vote for their favourite in the Best Boat Competition.
This year, scores of vintage Russell Newbery engine enthusiasts chose to hold their stunning annual rally in Stratford upon Avon for the very first time, to coincide with the festival.
Avon Navigation Trust Engineering Director Roger Clay said: “The boats bring another dimension to the festival. People are fascinated by them and love looking at them and talking to people who live or spend a good deal of their time, on boats. They want to know what life is like on the waterways. In terms of water-based festivals, the River Festival is probably the most popular and has the biggest attendance. The location is a major draw and the fact that there’s a prime tourist town within walking distance.”
Roger Clay of Avon Navigation Trust
Boat owner and Russell Newbery rally organiser Andrew Laycock: “As a veteran river festival visitor myself, I know how fantastic the event is and how big the crowds get. It has such a unique atmosphere, so laid back, with such a range of good food and of course good music.”
Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to descend upon the town this weekend to enjoy a weekend of live music, family activities, food & drink. The award-winning, two-day festival, now in its 11th year, boasts a staggering 92 stalls offering some of the best food and drink the town has to offer, as well as a stunning artisan craft market, and stalls promoting charities and local businesses. An eclectic mix of local musical talent will entertain the crowds at the bandstand and the acoustic tent again this year, catering for lovers of soul, ska, jazz, Motown, folk, rock and more. Saturday’s entertainment will, as always, culminate with the festival’s spectacular fireworks display. This for the first time is presented by the team responsible for the stunning display at the London Olympics!
Festive fun isn’t confined to the river banks, with activities spilling into the town at Bell Court with a Beside the Seaside themed free face painting & live music.
“The River Festival only takes place thanks to the fantastic 420 Stratford town centre businesses who fund this popular special event,” said Stratforward Marketing & Events Manager, Tor Wilkes. The River Festival gives visitors a brilliant opportunity to soak up Stratford’s hospitality and the atmosphere of Stratford’s bustling town, its many independent shops, high street stores, restaurants, cafés and bars.
The River Festival is organised by Stratforward, a Business Improvement District organisation which unites local businesses and supports town centre initiatives to bring more people into Stratford town centre, make them stay longer, spend more and leave happy.
During this year’s River Festival on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th July, take a photo in our giant deckchair, challenge your friends and family to a classic game of Connect 4 or Snakes and Ladders, get your face painted and enjoy music from vintage singer Betsy Harmony.
There will also be live music from local musicians every Saturday from 3 – 5pm throughout the summer. Betsy will be back on 27th July and you can harmonise with acoustic sets from Two Tone (13th, 20th July, 10thAugust) and Sugar Sweet Duo (3rd, 24th and 25th August), or get your dancing shoes on with 10 piece jazz band Shades on Black (17th and 26th August)..
Visitors can also enjoy a glass of bubbly or a refreshing G&T from mobile bar, Secco Cart. A converted horse cart, the pop-up bar is now open daily from 11am.
Toby Saggers, Asset Manager at Blue Coast Capital, the owners of Bell Court, adds: “With summer now in full swing, they’ll be a fantastic atmosphere across the development as we welcome lots of people to join in with our outdoor games and live entertainment. Bell Court is the perfect place to soak up the hot weather with fantastic cafés, bars and restaurants to choose from as well, all now serving tasty summer menus.”
Retailers at Bell Court include Seasalt, Debenhams and Lush, as well as independent businesses including Cosy Chic Pet Boutique, Victoria Lou Bridal, Farringdon & Forbes, Magic Alley, Bardia’s, The Naildressers and The Browstudio.
Full timetable for live music between 3pm and 5pm :
Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th July -Betsy Harmony
Saturday 13th July - Two Tone
Saturday 20th July - Two Tone
Saturday 27th July - Betsy Harmony
Saturday 3rd August - Sugar Sweet Duo
Saturday 10th August - Two Tone
Saturday 17th August - Shades on Black
Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th August - Sugar Sweet Duo
Monday 26th August - Shades on Black
Vintage singer Betsy Harmony