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Sep 2018


The Stratford Town Centre Food Festival was the toast of the town as businesses taking part in the popular event gathered to raise a glass ahead of its return this weekend.

The festival returns this weekend (Saturday, September 22nd and Sunday, September 23rd), tempting tens of thousands of people to Stratford-upon-Avon for two days of food-filled fun. One of several events organised by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) throughout the year to promote Stratford to visitors, the festival sprawls through the town’s historic streets, showcasing it as a food and drink destination from people from across the region.

The two-day event - which was recently included in the Top 10 UK Events for September 2018 on the Holiday Lettings from TripAdvisor blog - includes an array of free demonstrations, popular Taste and Ale Trails featuring Stratford’s food and drink businesses and a bustling market showcasing local producers.

It is sponsored by local restaurant Loxleys, which hosted a champagne breakfast on Monday (September 17th) to celebrate its fourth year supporting the event. The Sheep Street restaurant served up breakfast for guests including winners of a competition organised with Touch FM, whose presenters Ollie Gallant and Si Alexander helped serve up food under the watchful eye of Loxleys’ chefs.

Among the guests were BID businesses who are involved in the Taste and Ale Trail including cheesemongers Paxton and Whitfield, which will be teaching visitors about the history of British cheese in a demonstration at the Waterside Cookery Theatre on Saturday, and Sabai Sabai, which will be running a demonstration on Sunday as well as a Thai Fruit Carving workshop in Bell Court on Sunday.

Staff from the Golden Bee, which is taking part in the Ale Trail as well as running a ‘Gintastic’ demonstration on Saturday, were also at the breakfast, while Adam Lucock from Barry the Butcher, which will be offering punters a taste of three new varieties of sausage on its stall at the festival, also joined the special occasion. 

“It was great to have our fellow businesses turn out to raise a glass with us ahead of the festival,” said Loxleys General Manager Jonathan Lea. “We’re delighted to be back as sponsor of this event, which shows everyone exactly what great food and drink Stratford has to offer. And as well as our stall, our sous chef Chris Butler is back showing off his skills with a demonstration on Sunday afternoon.”

Torquil Chidwick, managing director of Wood Street restaurant Sabai Sabai, said: “Thai food transfers really well to street food so it’s great to have a stall at the festival to show people what we do. We’re always trying to attract more people to the restaurant throughout the year and the festival is a great way to get exposure for the business so people are tempted to come back.”

Jasmine Reeves, manager at Paxton and Whitfield, also on Wood Street, added: “The festival brings people to the town. There are foodie people around and it’s foodie people who are interested in local produce.”

Adam Lucock, from Chapel Street-based Barry the Butcher, said: “The festival’s great for the town, it’s good because it’s in the middle of the town, it brings people from far and wide. People come for the festival, but they might stay over at one of the hotels, have dinner in one of the restaurants, and buy from us or other local businesses while they’re at the festival.”

The festival’s producers market organised by Cotswold Market will feature more than 100 stalls with a focus on local and regional food and drink producers. In Bell Court, visitors will be able to enjoy free hands-on workshops on the Sunday as well as live music on both days from 11am to 5pm. Running on both Saturday and Sunday, the Food and Ale Trails give visitors the chance to taste sample treats from a selection from around 30 bars, restaurants and cafes in Stratford.

The packed programme of demonstrations runs from 11am on Saturday to 5.30pm and 11am on Sunday until 4.30pm. It will showcase local culinary talent with cooking demos from chefs including Paul Foster from Salt, Townhouse chefs Matthew Hiscoe and Ben Draper and Phil Hase, head chef at Hotel du Vin, while other demonstrations will include baking, fudge-making, and gin and wine tastings.

Ruth Wood, Events Manager at Stratforward, said: “We’ve kicked off this year’s event with a pre-festival pop thanks to the Loxleys champagne breakfast. The festival is all about getting as many of our town centre businesses involved and showing visitors what’s right here in Stratford so they’ll come back time and time again.”

Tax Free Leaflet Launched

Sep 2018


Stratford’s tax-free shopping offering is taking centre stage thanks to a new leaflet dreamed up by two local businesses and the town’s Business Improvement District (BID).

The leaflet showcases more than 60 businesses in Stratford which offer tax-free shopping for non-European residents, appealing to the thousands of people who pour to areas like nearby Bicester Village on the hunt for great deals.

Its creation is the product of a team effort
by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) with two BID members, jewellers Fraser Hart and fashion and shoe shop Molemi, following suggestions that more should be done to take advantage of visitors travelling to Stratford from Asia.

The leaflet, which is being distributed around town by Stratforward’s team of Town Hosts, showcases Stratford as a tax-free shopping destination to visitors from non-EU countries, particularly China, Korea and Brazil.

Joe Baconnet, Stratforward BID Director, said: “The inspirations for the leaflet were two of our BID businesses who felt we weren’t reaching out enough as a town. We were more than happy to compile the list and we were amazed to see how many of our businesses offered it. Molemi has also been a big support for other independents who want to embrace tax-free and wanted to know where to start with tax-free.”

Visitors to the UK who live outside the EU and are returning home are entitled to VAT refunds on goods bought in the UK. Not all retailers offer tax-free shopping but the new leaflet lists the businesses in Stratford which do.

Dale Fletcher, Co-Director of Molemi in Stratford-upon-Avon and Chipping Campden, said: “Due to the importance of the tax-free facility to those visiting from outside of the European Community, particularly from China, it’s extremely important that the BID plays such a pivotal role in encouraging as many retailers in the town to offer the scheme, and then to promote it to those visiting. We have used it for a number of years at both our sites with great success.”

Anne Robertshaw, from Wood Street jewellers Fraser Hart, added: “We were keen to get the message to the Chinese visitor before they arrived in Stratford and a conversation with the BID turned into this leaflet. We’re delighted that Stratford-upon-Avon will be promoted in this way.”

The leaflet, which will be updated throughout the year, will be distributed to local hotels, tour operators who bring non-European visitors, tourism buyers from abroad and used by partners to promote the town in these markets.

Mr Baconnet continued: “It’s brilliant to be able to respond to members’ needs in this way. This is exactly the kind of thing the BID is here to do - to work with local businesses to attract people to Stratford and make sure they’re spending money in our shops. It’s been great to work on this with two members and see their suggestions become a reality.”

For more information on tax-free shopping in Stratford-upon-Avon visit


Sep 2018


A champagne-filled celebration is on the cards for Stratfordians to mark the return of the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival.

Local restaurant Loxleys is celebrating its return as sponsor of the Stratforward-organised event, which takes place on Saturday, September 22nd and Sunday, September 23rd, with a champagne-filled morning in the run-up to next month’s event.

To celebrate its fourth year as official festival sponsor, the Sheep Street restaurant is hosting an exclusive champagne breakfast on Monday, September 17th, with a competition giving four lucky people a chance to join in the fizz-tastic celebration.

Making the occasion even more special, the champagne breakfast will be cooked by Touch FM breakfast presenters Ollie Gallant and Si Alexander who, under the watchful eye of Loxleys’ team, will dish up breakfast for a restaurant full of guests.

To be in with a chance of a fizz-filled feast at the special occasion, all people have to do is enter via the Touch FM website on Two lucky entrants’ names will be announced on the Touch FM breakfast show on Friday, September 14th and they will be invited to the breakfast on September 17th, each with a plus one.

For those who don’t scoop the top prize, Loxleys is also running a special deal on its champagne breakfast that day.

The Full Champagne Breakfast is a bargain at £11.95 for a Full English Breakfast with a glass of Champagne or Buck’s Fizz. But on the celebration breakfast day breakfasters will be able to get a free champagne top-up. They just have to book in advance.

“When we celebrate at Loxleys, we do it in style,” said Jonathan Lea, manager of Loxleys. “So how better to celebrate our fourth year as sponsor of the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival in its current format than with a wonderful champagne breakfast. As well as treating four people to breakfast on us, we’re looking forward to our chefs showing Si and Ollie how to rustle up a tasty breakfast that has proved one of our big hits at Loxleys.

“Being involved in the food festival is something we look forward to every year. It’s a great way of getting food and drink lovers into Stratford to see exactly what we can offer and we look forward to welcoming plenty of new faces to the town, and to the restaurant. We’ll have a stall on Bridge Street and will also be running a competition on the weekend itself so people should make sure they come and see us.”

Loxleys will also be taking part in the programme of free demonstrations at the festival’s Waterside Cookery Theatre, with sous chef Chris Butler showing the audience how to prepare Gressingham duck with summer cherries as a finale on the Sunday. Other demos from Stratford businesses include: Thai food from Sabai Sabai; a cheese demonstration from Paxton & Whitfield; wine tasting with Vin Neuf; a ‘gintastic’ session with the Golden Bee and the chance to see Bouche Bake House’s head baker Tizzy Rose creating its house speciality bread, The Goldilocks Bread.

The festival, which was recently included in a list of the Top 10 UK Events for September 2018 on the Holiday Lettings from TripAdvisor blog, sprawls through Stratforward town centre.

It includes a bustling producers’ market organised by Cotswold Market featuring over 100 stalls including some of the region’s finest food and drink producers. There will also be the popular Sunday upmarket on the second day of the festival, offering an eclectic mix of stalls including craft, art and street food. In Bell Court, visitors will be able to enjoy free hands-on workshops on the Sunday as well as live music on both days from 11am to 5pm.

The ever-popular Food and Ale Trails also return, giving people the chance to sample food and drink from a selected list of participating restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars, aimed at giving visitors a taste of the fantastic food scene in Stratford. Tickets sell fast so people need to sign up online as soon as possible.

Ruth Wood, Events Manager at Stratforward, said: “We’re lucky that each of our events receives great local support and the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival is no different. We’re delighted that Loxleys is back sponsoring the event for the fourth year - it’s great to have them board again.

“The food festival is a celebration of the great food and drink scene we have in Stratford and brings food fans from across the region to see our chefs and producers in action and to check out the thriving food scene here, from our cafes and bars to local restaurants like Loxleys.

“The champagne breakfast celebrates Loxleys involvement and will give four lucky people the chance to have a special start to the week of the food festival. So make sure you enter and you might be in for a special treat. And even if you miss out, you can always take advantage of the great deal they’ve got on to come and join the party.”

Proposed Traffic Changes

Aug 2018


Businesses in Stratford are being given their opportunity to input to plans for traffic changes to two busy town centre streets.

Around 30 businesses met with police, safety bosses from Warwickshire County Council and the head of the town’s Business Improvement District (BID) on Wednesday, August 15th to discuss changes to the traffic flow on Waterside and Sheep Street.

The meeting at Stratford’s Town Hall was organised by Stratforward BID to make sure businesses can have their say on the proposed changes, which are part of safety measures being put in place in light of recent incidents elsewhere in the country and the current ‘severe’ terror threat level across the UK.

The first part of planned changes in Stratford were implemented last year on Henley Street and further proposals include the following alterations:-

  • Waterside, between the bottom of Sheep Street and Chapel Lane, will become controlled access.
  • Sheep Street, from Waterside to the Golden Bee pub, will be one-way up towards High Street.
  • Sheep Street from the service yard entrance to High Street will be two way.
  • Chapel Lane will have a speed reducing chicane at the bottom to reduce vehicle speeds
  • The one way section of Sheep Street will have parking and loading bays both sides of the street.

At the meeting Phil Evans, Head of Community Safety at Warwickshire County Council and Chief Superintendent David Gardiner of Warwickshire Police briefed businesses on the scheme and reasons behind the proposals.

Chief Superintendent David Gardiner said: “The Police are fully supportive of these measures that are aimed at reducing the level of risk and being vigilant. I must stress, there is no intelligence or specific threat towards Stratford, but with the threat level at Severe, we have to take action towards reducing and minimising risk where it has been identified. This is part of a countywide review of places and spaces, so it is not unique to Stratford-upon-Avon.”

Phil Evans outlined the draft scheme and what it entails. He told the meeting that while the scheme is not perfect for everyone, it is the best and most feasible solution to keep Stratford safe and still ensure access to the town centre.

He said: “This scheme is about public safety and reducing risk in known areas where crowds gather. It’s not a traffic management scheme – it is about reducing the impacts of a hostile vehicle attack. We will work with all businesses to try and mitigate the impacts and to understand what your business needs are.”

An experimental order putting suggested changes in place is set to come into play in October, along with the addition of temporary Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM) installations. Following a period of consultation, permanent HVM installations will begin in November and December.

Further permanent HVM installations are proposed for Henley Street - which is currently protected by automatic bollards - in April 2019.

One consequence of the scheme is that the Sunday UpMarket on Waterside will no longer be able to operate in that location.

Dave Webb, Executive Director of Stratford on Avon District Council, said that during the experimental period of the order (Oct – Dec), the council is proposing that the UpMarket moves to Bridge Street. During that time there will be a consultation with all businesses to assess the impact.

Joe Baconnet, Director of Stratforward BID, said: “We felt it was important to try to reach as many businesses as possible to give them the information first hand. We’ve been working hard with our partners over the last few months to ensure that the draft scheme meets the needs of town. Each business has unique requirements and that’s why we wanted to get everyone together to start thinking about what this means for their business.”

Stratforward will be producing a summary note for all of its members to review so they can see what the changes may mean for them and raise any issues or concerns.


Jul 2018



Stratford's Business Improvement District (BID) does a good job but it will need to change like any business to adapt to the economic realities facing our high streets and town centres.  These were the key messages to come out of a six-month review into the work of Stratforward in the run up to its quest to be revoted in for a third term later this year.

Stratforward is one of more than 280 BIDs in the UK - a business-led private/public sector organisation charged with helping a designated area to maximise its business potential. In Stratford, the BID is coming to the end of its second five-year term and the 430 businesses who make up the membership are set to vote for a third term in September. A ‘yes’ vote will see it continue for a further five years. A ‘no’ vote will see it disbanded.

The review has comprised a major consultation exercise with a written questionnaire and individual meetings as well as a series of surveys focused on events in the town to assess impact on trade. The results of the review were unveiled at two final consultation meeting with members yesterday (Tuesday) at Hotel du Vin in Stratford.

The consultation exercise, which began in February, asked businesses for their feedback on four key areas of Stratforward's work: hosting, events/promotion, savings and representation/advocacy. Eight in ten (82%) respondents said marketing and events were the two most important aspects of Stratforward's work for their businesses - key to attracting footfall and customers into the town to spend.

Three quarters (76%) thought Stratforward’s Town Hosts are vital to the continued success of the town. The three-man team that pounds the streets 363 days of the year: answer questions from locals and visitors; act as the 'eyes and ears' of the emergency services on the ground dealing with first aid and security/anti social behaviour incidents daily; run Bardwatch as part of the Warwickshire Retail Crime Initiative which links into the towns CCTV and radio link system, involving over 100 businesses in keeping the town safe; run the educational ambassador tours for front-line staff from businesses, and help control buskers and instances of begging in the town. 

Sixty three per cent of businesses highlighted saving schemes for their staff run by Stratforward as important. The BID operates several discounted parking schemes for staff and a business-to-business discount initiative that can save individual staff hundreds of pounds a year.

Around six in ten businesses (57%) said business savings schemes operated by the BID were important. Some businesses save thousands of pounds a year thanks to the joint procurement scheme Stratforward operates for things like utilities and merchant services. Finally, just under half (45%) said Stratforward’s role in representing businesses’ voice with stakeholders such as councils, business organisations and tourist bodies is important.

Looking ahead to BID3, the vast majority of businesses that responded (87%) thought Stratforward's main job needed to be to promote the town. Hosting and representing the voice of businesses were the next two most important tasks, with around two thirds (66% and (64% respectively) highlighting this. Just over half (52%) of respondents said savings were key to them.

Additional survey work related to the first three major town events of the year - Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations, The Stratford Festival of Motoring and The River Festival - to look at both positive and negative impacts of events on business.

Around eight in ten businesses (82%) who responded to the survey on Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations, run by a committee headed by the town and district councils, thought they gave a positive impression of Stratford. However, one in ten businesses (10.19%) felt the opposite. Asked about their views on impact on footfall to the town, just over half of respondents (53%) agreed the event had a positive impact on footfall to the town. Just under one in five disagreed (18%).

Businesses were then asked for feedback on the Stratford Festival of Motoring, which saw some BID members enjoy record-breaking days over the early May Bank Holiday weekend. Around eight in ten respondents (81%) to the survey on the Stratforward-organised event thought it gave a positive impression of the town. Just 6% disagreed. Similarly, 87% said they felt it had a positive impact on footfall with just 6% disagreeing. Over half of businesses (53%) felt they had gained new customers as a result of the festival.

Businesses were also asked for their views on Stratforward's recent award-winning River Festival, which always attracts record numbers of people to Stratford for a weekend of free music, fun and food.

Eight in ten businesses (81%) felt the festival gave a positive impression of Stratford, with just 15% disagreeing. Over two thirds (69%) agreed the event had a positive effect on footfall to the town while 10% said it did not. Six in ten (60%) felt some kind of benefit from the festival, with 10% saying it had ‘massively’ benefited them, 18% saying it had benefited them a ‘lot’ and 32% a ‘little’. A quarter (24%) felt the festival had a negative effect on their business, while 16% said there was no benefit.

Over a third (36%) said the festival had resulted in an increase in sales, while 36% said their sales were the same. Nearly three in ten (28%) felt their sales were worse or much worse. And despite some concerns and suggestions for how to improve the festival, half of respondents (53%) said they would be likely to get involved in the event in the future - a third of whom (35.9%) would ‘definitely’ take part.

Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, Stratforward Director Joe Baconnet said: “This review exercise has given us an invaluable insight into how businesses feel about the work of Stratforward and the events organised by us, and others, aimed at promoting and showcasing the town.

“Overall, there is a lot of positive feedback on the work the BID carries out on a day-to-day basis in the name of our members. It is obvious that much of the work done by Stratforward on promotion and events, hosting, saving money for members and acting as the voice of business in the town is appreciated by members.

"However, in these most challenging of times for the High Street - highlighted yet again in recent days by the Grimsey Review - it is obvious that the organisation needs to change to reflect the changing needs of these new times. BID3, if voted for by members in September, will have to be different to reflect the current climate.

"The bottom line is that we need to work more closely with members and stakeholders and adapt to the new conditions to get more people to come into town to spend in our shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs and use the professional services we offer like banks, solicitors and estate agents - and not just on event days.

"In Stratford we’re lucky to have a global reputation and a strong selection of businesses across a range of sectors, so while it’s tough out there, it’s not impossible. It just means that in today’s challenging trading times it is more important than ever that we all work together to ensure we don’t just survive - but thrive.”

The results of the review and feedback from both member meetings will be used to help create a Business Plan for BID3. This plan is expected to published in mid-August when the official notification of ballot issued by Electoral Reform Services is sent out to members. Ballots for the revote will be issued on August 31st and the ballot will end on September 27th. The result of the ballot will be made public on September 28th. A ‘yes’ vote will see BID3 start a 5 year term on April 1st, 2019.  A ‘no’ vote will see the BID disbanded and all work cease.

Red Hot River Festival is a Sizzling Success

Jul 2018

Stratford's River Festival is a Sizzling Success!

Revellers descended on a sweltering Stratford for two days of music, food and fun as the River Festival returned for its tenth year at the weekend.

The festival proved a red-hot hit with visitors and locals, with tens of thousands of people enjoying the entertainment laid on as temperatures soared to nearly 30c. Initial figures indicate that visitor numbers roughly matched last year’s record-breaking attendance of around 60,000 for the two-day extravaganza of free family fun.

Highlights included: the 100-plus boats on the River Avon; the 30-plus hours of live music and entertainment on the Bandstand and Acoustic Stages; the bustling craft market showcasing many local businesses; the ever-popular Family & Charity Area which featured activities from organisations including Escape Arts, The Shakespeare Hospice and Stratford Town Trust; a whole host of great food and drink, much of it provided by local businesses; and of course, the fantastic fireworks display on Saturday night.

Despite the volume of people, many of whom spilled into the town centre to visit local restaurants, bars and businesses, the 2018 event retained the River Festival’s reputation as a safe and family-friendly event, with not one arrest across the weekend.

The festival also proved its eco-friendly credentials, following in the footsteps of Glastonbury’s aim to go green, with paper straws on offer at several bars and the debut of ‘The Steelie’ - an alternative to plastic beer cups - at The One Elm’s bar. And thanks to a team of 50 volunteers, who included local litter picking group ‘Rubbish Friends’, the Renewal Church, boaters staying at the festival and Stratforward board members, more rubbish was recycled than ever before at this year’s event.

This year also saw the first Pirates vs Mermaids event in Stratford’s newest shopping and leisure development, Bell Court, encouraging visitors to cross the river and take in Stratford town centre and everything it has to offer.

BID director Joe Baconnet said: “What a weekend. We were thrilled to have such great weather. One of the most common comments was what a great atmosphere there was down on the riverside and it was great to see people moving across the river to enjoy some of the fantastic local businesses in the town centre. Each year both Stratforward and our members are coming up with new ideas to make sure everyone benefits from such an influx of people to Stratford. This year’s Pirates vs Mermaids festival showed it’s possible to encourage people into the town centre so businesses can take advantage of potential customers who are likely to return to our fabulous town.”

The Pirates vs Mermaids event was organised by Bell Court along with business owners in the leisure development, including family attraction Magic Alley which sold a special rum-flavour butter beer created exclusively for the weekend. It also included a fancy dress competition, live music, and a showing of swashbuckling classic Pirates of the Caribbean at Everyman cinema. Dave Matthews, owner of Magic Alley, said: “Stratford offers such a unique selection of festivals and events that there is something for everyone. The River Festival, which is the crowning glory of the festivals, spans the town and draws on the heritage of its full name, Stratford-upon-Avon.”

Down on riverside, it was all hands on deck for The One Elm, which ran one of the festival bars while The Encore took the helm of the other.  The Encore served around 5,000 drinks, including Pimm’s, Prosecco and spirits, to thirsty punters while The One Elm’s General manager Mat Faulkner said they poured around 12,000 pints of beer, lager and cider to thirsty punters, as well as dishing out nearly 5,000 burgers. The pub also debuted the environmentally-friendly ‘Steelie’ cup as an alternative to plastic cups.

“We’ve been looking for an alternative for plastic cups for some time,” said Mat. “We were literally visited by these guys on Wednesday and they managed to get us 100 cups with both our logo and Purity Brewery’s, to test run at the River Festival. They went down really well and we’ll be having these instead of plastic next year.” Mat, who even drafted in his family to help, said: “We still have to run the pub at the same time and it was really busy. We sold 32 barrels of lager in four hours on Saturday which is just shy of 2,000 pints. I had to get Sunday’s delivery on Saturday night.”


Visitors chose from an array of food to cater for all tastes, including stalls from local butcher Barry the Butcher, Carluccio’s, Bella Italia, The One Elm and The Townhouse, Hathaway Tea Rooms and Roly’s Fudge Pantry.

Rick Allen, the owner of Hathaway Tea Rooms, said it had been a fantastic weekend both at the festival site and at the High Street tea rooms. "We were packed on Saturday,” he said. “We took as much in our tearoom as we did at the festival which is unusual. I think it was so busy at the festival that people migrated up into town."

Dave Baldrey, the owner of Greenhill Street’s Fizz and Fin, enjoyed lengthy queues at their River Festival stand, selling around 2,000 portions of fish and chips. He said: “It’s been brilliant. Nothing else brings these many people to Stratford, it’s a brilliant event.”

Alongside food and drink, visitors enjoyed the chance to browse stalls from some of Stratford’s own businesses including The Minories boutique clothing shop Shabby Chic Sister, Greenhill Street’s Karl Stallard Furniture, Sheep Street hairdresser Nashwhite, Meer Street’s For Something Different and Bright Ideas, based on Henley Street.

Karl Stallard, from Karl Stallard furniture, said it was a way of getting the business in front of thousands of potential customers. “It’s successful for us as a retailer in town because not everybody knows we’re there,” he said. “We’re on the edge of town so it helps get our name out there. It’s a promotion for the business as it puts us in front of lots of people.”

Jo Sainsbury, the proprietor of Bright Ideas, added: “It’s been another amazing River Festival. The visitors really enjoy it and even if they don’t go into the town, they plan to come back to Stratford. Ten years in and it’s getting better all the time.”


The festival is organised by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) on behalf of 430 town centre shops, cafes, restaurants and other businesses. It 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. 



River Festival 1 - Crowds enjoying the River Festival in Saturday afternoon's sunshine.

River Festival 2 - David Baldrey and Amy Haydney from Fizz and Fin did a roaring trade.

River Festival 3 - The One Elm's Mat Faulkner, manager, Ollie Coulson, Maddie Guarino and Nick Hunt pictured with their Purity ‘Steelies’.

River Festival 4 - Magic Alley’s Dave Matthews taking part in the Pirates vs Mermaids Festival at Bell Court.

2. This year was the tenth Stratford River Festival. The event 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.

3. Stratforward is Stratford’s Business Improvement District (BID) which represents 430 shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and businesses in Stratford town centre. Members involved in the 2018 River Festival included: Magic Alley, The One Elm, The Encore, The Townhouse, Timeless Tales, Fizz and Fin, Barry the Butcher, Carluccio’s, Bella Italia, Hathaway Tea Rooms, Roly’s Fudge Pantry, Shabby Chic Sister, For Something Different, Bright Ideas, Nashwhite, Nando’s, Escape Arts, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Stratford Town Trust, Farringdon and Forbes, Karl Stallard, Avon Boating, The Shakespeare Hospice, Sue Ryder.

4. The Pirates vs Mermaids event was organised by Bell Court and the businesses there to help spread the impact of the River Festival around town.

Stratford River Festival


New Buskers Policy

Jun 2018


A new Busker’s Policy for Stratford-upon-Avon has been launched aimed at enhancing the visitor experience to the town and making it easier to deal with those street entertainers who do not play by the rules.

The revised policy has been drawn up by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) working alongside the Musicians Union following increasing levels of concerns, mainly relating to sound levels due to amplification, from businesses, visitors, residents and fellow buskers.

Stratforward BID Director Joe Baconnet said: “This does not mean that buskers are not welcome in Stratford, far from it. Our street entertainers are famous across the globe and loved by the millions of visitors who flock here every year. In recent times a small minority have seemingly disregarded the previous policy and caused problems for visitors and local businesses as well as fellow buskers who do adhere to them.

He added: “This new policy is all about us working together to enhance the visitor experience to the town and avoid confrontational situations. It aims to empower everyone to solve problems quickly and easily on the street, and to ensure performers are treated fairly and can make a positive contribution to the life of Stratford.

“While the majority of buskers are a wonderful addition to Stratford’s street, this policy will make it easier to enforce against the small minority who cause a persistent, negative impact on businesses or the public."

The new policy gives step-by-step instructions on how to deal with complaints, and uses the Community Protection Notice (CPN) procedure to ensure complaints can be enforced if required. While it encourages cooperation to resolve any issues, breaches of the policy and continued, persistent non-compliance can be enforced through these CPNs which will be enforced by Stratford District Council. Part of anti-social behaviour legislation, a Community Protection Notice (CPN) is aimed to prevent unreasonable behaviour that is having a negative impact on the local community's quality of life - particularly around noise.

The new Busker’s Policy was drawn up by Stratforward, which works on behalf of nearly 430 businesses in Stratford town centre, after they highlighted busking as an area they would like more support in.

The document is aimed to make sure businesses, visitors and buskers in Stratford-upon-Avon get a positive experience from the street entertainment.

Accompanied by a map to illustrate the designated busk pitches throughout Stratford, the policy includes advice to buskers on the following:-

  • Performance advice
  • Safety and access advice
  • Guidance on amplification
  • Noise sensitive locations
  • The Buskers Voluntary Registration Scheme

Mr Baconnet said: “The effective enforcement powers - an approach advocated by the Musician’s Union - are available as a last resort to deal with any individual persistently causing a negative impact by acting unreasonably.

“The idea is that busking should be a positive experience for all, but we know in a small minority cases that some buskers do not consider their impact on others.

“We try and ensure this policy is followed by every busker, but we rely on the goodwill and professionalism of all our performers, as well as that of residents, businesses and visitors in the town to ensure that things run smoothly and for everyone’s benefit.”

The new Busker’s Policy remains in place throughout the year and is available online at The policy is subject to change, and in the event of any changes, an up-to-date copy will be available online.

10th River Festival

Jun 2018



It’s all hands on deck in Stratford this weekend as the town’s award-winning River Festival returns for a tenth year.

The free family event returns this weekend (Saturday, June 30th and Sunday, July 1st), with pirate-inspired action spreading across the town thanks to the very first Pirates vs Mermaids event in Stratford’s newest shopping and leisure development, Bell Court.

The Stratford River Festival is one of the region’s leading free festivals. Last year it brought a record 57,000 people to Stratford to join in with music, food, drink and a waterborne exhibition of boats on the town’s waterways.

Top-draw bands will entertain crowds on Riverside while there will be slightly more than grog and biscuits on offer thanks to an array of food and drink stalls - many local Stratford businesses.

This year the party spreads to the town centre with the inaugural Pirates vs Mermaids event in Bell Court, including a fancy dress competition, live music, a showing of swashbuckling classic Pirates of the Caribbean at Everyman cinema and a special rum-flavoured butter beer at local family attraction Magic Alley, created exclusively for the weekend.

On the riverside, live music will entertain on The Bandstand and Acoustic Stages including the Simon Kemp Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, dance group Folk Friendzy, the Ashby Big Band and Stratford Music Centre.

The festival will be opened by the Mayor of Stratford and a highlight will be an epic fireworks display at 10.30pm on Saturday night.

Throughout the weekend, families will be able to view a spectacular static narrowboat display as well as taking part in fun activities in the Family & Charity Zone which features an array of stands from organisations including Escape Arts, the Shakespeare Hospice and Stratford Town Trust.

A bustling craft market will offer everything from jewellery to gifts and homemade preserves from local businesses including For Something Different and Bright Ideas.

This year’s festival bars are run by The Encore, which is offering Pimm’s, wine, Champagne, spirits and cocktails, and The One Elm, which will have gallons of cider, lager and real ales to keep revellers refreshed.

Visitors can choose from an array of food, including stalls from local butcher Barry the Butcher, Carluccio’s, The One Elm and The Townhouse, Hathaway Tea Rooms and Roly’s Fudge Pantry.

Stratforward BID director Joe Baconnet said: “We may be landlubbers here in Stratford, but we every year we celebrate the water we have got with the award-winning River Festival. The festival always brings thousands of people to check out our great live music, food and drink, narrowboat display and family-friendly activities.

“Over the past decade the festival has grown each year, and 2018 is no exception. For the tenth year we’re making sure the party spreads through the town centre to make sure visitors get the chance to take in the businesses that fund this fabulous event, whether they’re independent shops, high street names or restaurants and bars.

“The inaugural Pirates vs. Mermaids event in Bell Court should make this year’s River Festival bigger than ever and we look forward to saying, ‘ahoy, me hearties’ to even more locals and visitors to our wonderful town on one of the busiest weekends of the year in Stratford.”

The festival is organised by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) on behalf of 430 town centre shops, cafes, restaurants and other businesses. It 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. 

Ship Ahoy! Pirates and Mermaids

Jun 2018

Come and join the Bell Court Pirates Vs Mermaids Weekend!

A host of pirates and mermaids will be landing at Bell Court as part of Stratford River Festival on Saturday 30th June and Sunday 1st July.   You will be invited to transform into ferocious buccaneers and mystical sirens and take part in a fancy dress competition, that will be judged by the Pirate Queen and her consort, with a treasure chest of prizes up for grabs!

To ensure people really look the part, there will be free face painting available between 10 am and 4 pm for anyone wanting to become a pirate or mermaid for the day.

There will also be live music, a pirate story-telling corner, photo opportunities with the visiting mermaids and a flash mob from Rozie T Dance.

Plus, Stratford Everyman will be showing the swash-buckling classic, Pirates of the Caribbean at 5 pm on Sunday 1st July.

Toby Saggers, Asset Manager at UK & European, owners of Bell Court, said: “This month we’re celebrating the one year anniversary of Bell Court opening to the public and what better way to mark the occasion than with our first Pirates Vs Mermaids event as part of this year’s River Festival? The River Festival is one of the most popular events in Stratford-upon-Avon and we’re very excited to be adding another element to the weekend at Bell Court.”

Visitors to the Bell Court event will also be able to indulge in rum flavoured butter beer at Magic Alley which has been created exclusively for the weekend, whilst enjoying mermaid and pirate themed food and drink, along with special offers at the many bars and restaurants.  

Dave Matthews from Magic Alley said: “It’s not every day that we get to welcome pirate royalty to Stratford-upon-Avon but I’m sure Pirates Vs Mermaids at Bell Court will be truly fit for a Queen. It’s a great way to bring the community together, through music, story-telling, street entertainment and some great food and drink. I’m sure we’re going to be very impressed with people’s costumes too.”

Anyone entering the fancy dress competition will be in with a chance of winning a £25 gift card from All Bar One, a full platter from Nando’s, wine tasting for two people at Veeno, a family ticket for Magic Alley and two tickets for Everyman cinema.

Pirates Vs Mermaids has been organised by Bell Court owners, UK & European Investments, Magic Alley and the Stratforward BID.  Joe Baconnet, Director of Stratforward BID, said: “This Pirates Vs Mermaids event will be a great new addition to the annual River Festival which welcomes more than 70,000 people to the town every year.”

A new retail and leisure destination, accessed via High Street, Rother Street, Ely Street and High Street, Bell Court is home to numerous bars and restaurants including Nando’s, ASK Italian, All Bar One, Veeno and Miller and Carter, as well as home and lifestyle boutique, Farringdon and Forbes, floral café, Bardia’s, Everyman Cinema and new family attraction, Magic Alley.

Further information about Bell Court, including other upcoming events, can be found at, or on the Facebook (BellCourtStratford), Twitter (BellCourtLife) and Instagram (BellCourtStratford) pages. More information about the River Festival can be found at

Weekend Park and Stride in Stratford

May 2018

Stratford's Weekend Park & Stride Scheme - enjoy cheap weekend parking at the new hospital multi-storey!

A unique Park and Stride scheme launches in Stratford-upon-Avon this weekend thanks to a ground-breaking deal between Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) and the team that run Stratford Hospital's car park. 

People who work in Stratford, and visitors, will benefit from cheap weekend and Bank Holiday car parking, thanks to the new partnership that allows them to park on the town’s brand new £22million hospital site, just yards from the railway station, and only five minutes walk from the town centre. People can park in the 205-space secure multi-storey car park for just £2.50 a day. The scheme will operate on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays and starts this weekend - just in time for half term.

Joe Baconnet, Director of Stratforward BID, said: “This is a win-win for everyone involved. Staff who work in businesses in Stratford struggle to find centrally-located parking and even if they do it is often felt to be unaffordable. This is particularly the case for staff who only work at weekends when Stratford is usually at its busiest.  Add this to our existing arrangement with NCP for their car park in Rother Street, where registered staff can park for £3.70 a day, and the Stratford Park and Ride scheme and we now have a variety of discounted offerings available to them. Over the year these schemes can save an individual hundreds of pounds.”

He added: “Hopefully the knock-on effect of town centre staff using this car park at weekends, will be that more town centre car parking spaces will be available for visitors, so generating more income for individual businesses. It should also help reduce waiting times and queues for town centre car parks, in turn reducing congestion which will hopefully reduce emissions and help the environment. The other major plus is that this will see monies going directly into the coffers of a local health-related business. There is also a more obvious health benefit - by parking here, people will take a stroll into town, and we all know that even the shortest amount of physical exercise is beneficial to our wellbeing. At a time of increasing change in the high street, pressure on people’s finances and concern about the nation's health, we cannot think of a better way to bring a positive outcome all round.”

The scheme is the result of a deal between Stratforward and SWFT Clinical Services Ltd, which owns and manages Stratford Hospital. Samantha Macdonald, Marketing Manager at SWFT Clinical Services Ltd, said: “This is extremely good news. Obviously Stratford Hospital is very much in the heart of Stratford, and with it being a centrally located facility we are always very keen to support the wider community. Our downtime is often the busiest time for visitors and town centre staff so it makes sense to utilise our facilities for the benefit of everyone involved.”

John Coyne, Managing Director at SWFT Clinical Services, added: “Parking is at a premium in the town and more and more people are having to park further away so we think this is a great solution. When you look at the proximity to the main town it’s not far at all.  While the hospital does have some 24-hour services, the times that the deal is available coincides with periods the car park would be under-used. We have always approached car parking rates as competitively as possible. Clearly sometimes car parking chargers garners a negative response – but with this approach all parties can benefit.”

The Stratford Hospital car park is accessible from Arden Street. It is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is covered by CCTV.


1. Image is of  Stratforward BID director Joe Baconnet and Samantha Macdonald, Marketing Manager at SWFT Clinical Services Ltd.
2. Stratforward BID Director Joe Baconnet is available for interview. Please contact the number below to arrange.
3. Stratforward is Stratford’s Business Improvement District (BID) which represents nearly 430 shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and businesses in Stratford town centre. Stratforward’s role is to encourage people in to Stratford-upon-Avon, to stay long, spend more and leave happy, benefiting its member businesses and the town as a whole.
4. SWFT Clinical Services Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust. The company operates the outpatient pharmacy for the Trust based at Warwick Hospital, a private patient day surgery clinic in Stratford-upon-Avon and most recently has developed a facilities and estates management service, under which it manages the Stratford-upon-Avon hospital on behalf of South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust. The company’s primary purpose is to develop income for the Trust through commercial activities and all profits made by its trading activities are either reinvested in the business or returned to the Trust for reinvestment in health care services.