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Record-breaking River Festival

Jul 2017

Stratford packed as crowds soak up record-breaking River Festival

The hot dogs were sizzling and the Pimms flowing as record crowds packed into Stratford over the weekend to bask in sunshine at the busiest River Festival to date. Footfall figures smashed previous records, 70,000 - 80,000 people coming into Stratford over the weekend, compared to 60,000 last year.

It was the ninth 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.

Stratford was packed throughout the two days as visitors from home and abroad soaked up the atmosphere - and the sunshine - at what has rapidly become one of the region’s leading free festivals, and one of the biggest events in the local calendar. Since it started in 2008 the River Festival has grown and grown. Back then there were six stalls – this year there were more than 120; a unique opportunity for local businesses and organisations to showcase their town.

Traders have reported 2017 as their best year yet, thousands of people browsing and buying at the craft market and sampling the huge variety of food and drink on offer, from pancakes to prosecco.

At the One Elm’s pop-up pub, the drinks were in full flow. “It was a record-breaking year for us.” Mat Faulkner said.“The Saturday was absolutely packed - I have never seen anything like it in all my years in hospitality. It was just awesome.” Demand was in fact so high that the pop-up pub had to very quickly re-stock its supplies of Purity and Church Farm ales, coming close to running out on day one.

The tills were ringing over in the craft market too with Jo Sainsbury, owner of Henley Street gift shop Bright Ideas, also saying it was the busiest year she had ever seen. And not only was she making sales from her River Festival stall, but over in town too.

“We’ve done the River Festival eight times now and this was by far the busiest,” she said. “Sales were up at our shop in town too.”

The River Festival also attracted more charities than ever before. More than 30 attended to set out their stalls and fundraise through plenty of fun and games. Many other charities were there as part of a ‘Volunteer Village’ funded by Stratford Town Trust, giving them a presence and an opportunity to chat to and recruit potential volunteers.

Rachel Key, Hub Manager at Tyler House, said it meant a lot to be involved. “We had a fabulous weekend as part of Stratford Town Trust's Volunteer Village, recruiting for Stratford Samaritans and the other groups that use Tyler House. It was great to see old friends and meet so many new ones interested in giving their time to be a lifeline for someone else.”

Also new for 2017 was the Town Centre Treasure Trail, organised by BID Business Magic Alley. “The Great Stratford River Festival Treasure Hunt” took participants around the town and to local businesses picking up clues. Entries are still being collected – but Magic Alley’s Dave Matthews is expecting big numbers. “We certainly saw a lot of people taking part and coming into town. We set ourselves high targets for what we wanted to achieve over the weekend and we reached those targets on both days. The River Festival was an astounding success.”

The family area was packed, youngsters making the most of the face-painting, swing boat rides and climbing wall. On the Avon itself, more than 80 boats were moored up, flags and bunting proudly flying.World-class live music played throughout the weekend too, on the Bandstand and on the Acoustic Community Stage, sponsored by Costco. Cotswold based 9-piece funk and soul band Kinky Farnham, returned to headline on the main stage on the Saturday night, before the town was lit-up with a fireworks extravaganza.

Security had been stepped up throughout the weekend – with additional staff and random vehicle and bag checks. Organisers worked closely with Warwickshire Police to ensure safety and reassure festival-goers.

Joe Baconnet, Stratforward’s Director, said: “We had a lot of favourable comments about the additional security and how appreciative people were.  The event was a great success and the security presence was a key part of that.  We also had a lot of lovely comments about the police presence all over town.

“It was just a fantastic weekend, with a great atmosphere throughout. We were pleased and astounded by the attendance figures, no doubt helped by the glorious sunshine. Our traders reported it was their best year ever - on both sides of the river - and what’s really 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. Next year is going to be our 10th River Festival and we’re already looking forward it.  Thank you to the public and businesses who have taken it to their heart and helped make it the huge success it is.”

The 10th River Festival will be held on June 30th and July 1st 2018.



Jun 2017


Thousands of people are expected to descend on Stratford this weekend (1 & 2 July) for the town’s annual River Festival. The award-winning event, now in its ninth year, is one of the region’s most popular summer attractions pulling in tens of thousands of people over the two days.

Set on and alongside the idyllic River Avon, against the backdrop of the iconic Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Holy Trinity Church, the Festival last year attracted footfall of 60,000 over the two days.

Organisers are once again promising a bonanza of family fun with everything from boats, bands, bars and bbq’s to markets, treasure hunts and fireworks. Festival goers are however being asked to co-operate with additional security arrangements this year, brought in following the recent tragic incidents around the country.

Stratforward BID Director Joe Baconnet said: “We are once again planning an amazing event for the whole family to enjoy. However, visitor safety is our priority and we’ve put in place measures to maximise public safety, working closely with authorities.

The additional security measures will include extra specialist staff, including dog handlers, and random bag and vehicle searches.

Mr Baconnet added: “The River Festival is all about community and families coming together for fun but we would ask any visitors to please be patient, vigilant and to cooperate with any security requests, including random bag and vehicle searches. They have been put in place to make sure everyone can come, have fun, stay safe and go home happy.”

The Festival kicks off on Stratford’s Recreation Ground at 11am on Saturday with well-known local choir Amicantus on the main stage. Musical and dance acts will then keep audiences entertained from the main stage and Acoustic Community Stage until 10pm on the Saturday, and then again between 11am and 7.30pm on the Sunday.

The Acoustic Community Stage, sponsored by Costco, will not only offer up the very best in musical talent but also offer an opportunity for adults and kids to have a go with a range of workshops allowing aspiring maestros to have a go at performing.

Festival favourite, Cotswold based 9-piece funk and soul band Kinky Farnham, return to headline on the main stage on the Saturday night at 8.30pm. The evening will be finished off with the usual fantastic firework display by Forest Fireworks.

For foodies there will be plenty of treats to tickle the tastebuds including everything from pies, pancakes and pasta to wraps, baps and BBQ’s. There will also be a selection of bars including a Pimms, wine & champagne bar, a spirits and cocktails bar and an ale, cider & lager.

This year, the River Festival has attracted more charity stalls than ever before reflecting the positive impact that the event has on engagement with local charities. There are over 30 charities attending and some are within a Stratford Town Trust funded area for smaller charities to raise awareness and look for recruits.

There will also be a Town Centre Treasure Trail, organised by BID Business Magic Alley. The forms for “The Great Stratford River Festival Treasure Hunt” will be available at the River Festival and will take participants around the town and to local businesses picking up clues. There will be fabulous prizes available for entrants.

“It’s shaping up to be a great event as usual”, said Mr Baconnet. “Our message to everyone is come, have fun, stay safe and go home happy.”


Make Your Own Sweet Music!

Jun 2017


Whether it’s drumming, Morris dancing or playing the harp, aspiring musicians can get a taste of performing live thanks to the Acoustic Community Stage at this year’s River Festival.
The stage, kindly sponsored by Costco Wholesale, will showcase some of the region’s finest musicians - with the chance for visitors to have a go as well.

The River Festival - one of Stratford’s most popular events - returns to Stratford on July 1st and 2nd for its ninth year, bringing tens of thousands of people to the town.
World-class music is a key part of the multi award-winning extravaganza, and this year soul band Kinky Farnham are returning as headliners on the main stage along with TRADarrr.

And thanks to Costco, the Acoustic Community Stage will be back showcasing a lengthy line-up of talent, both regional and national.  Acts will include the Coventry Singer Songwriters as well as local soul duo Wilson Wright, Cotswolds-based folk group Brimstone, KES trio The Mannequins and a showcase by Stratford Music Centre.

But it’s not just about watching - a range of acts will give musically-minded punters the chance to get involved. Harpist Jasmin Earnshaw will host a Celtic Harp Workshop, giving people the chance to have a go on the unusual instrument, while light-footed visitors can join in with Shakespeare Morris and try their hand - or feet - at Morris dancing. And acclaimed drummer Bo Davies will be hosting a drumming workshop, with those involved getting a feel for the spotlight, performing the results of their labours in front of the Bandstand before the headline act on Sunday.

Stratforward Events Manager Ruth Wood said: “The River Festival is all about getting people involved, and this is a great way to do that - giving visitors of all ages the chance to make, as well as listen to, music.
“We owe a big thanks to Costco Wholesale for sponsoring our Community Acoustic Stage, allowing some of the finest musicians from the local area to share their talents.”

The Stratforward-organised River Festival is a highlight of the calendar in Stratford and the wider region, attracting more than 60,000 people to see 100 boats moored up on the Avon along with an array of entertainment from live music and food and drink to a fabulous fireworks display on the Saturday night.  Danny Lang, General Manager at Costco Wholesale, said: "Costco are delighted to be given the opportunity to sponsor The Stratford River Festival, one of the region’s premier events of the year.
“At Costco we pride ourselves on always providing top quality goods and services  at the lowest possible price, we are looking forward to having the opportunity to display our unique range of goods to potential new customers.
“Events such as this are an integral part of our business and we hope the festival will again provide a vehicle for us to demonstrate the advantages of Costco membership.”

Water You Waiting For?!

May 2017


Stratford’s biggest party returns with the ninth annual River Festival in just a matter of weeks.

Months of preparation have already gone into the return of the award-winning event, which takes place on July 1st and 2nd, and new details are being confirmed all the time.  From world-famous musical acts to fabulous fireworks and plenty of new food pitches - all in the bard’s own home town - the events team at Stratforward BID is pulling out all the stops to make this year’s event the perfect family-friendly quintessential English weekend.

A highlight of the Stratford summer, the River Festival attracts more than 60,000 people from across the region, with more than 100 boats moored up on the Avon and stalls providing a weekend of food, drink and family fun.
Popular soul band Kinky Farnham, a hit at previous festivals, return as the headline act, and are just one of a range of stellar acts. The acoustic stage sponsored by Costco will offer up the very best in musical talent, including Stratford-based choir Amicantus and Jack Blackman, one of the UK's leading young blues guitarists.

As well as great music, visitors will be able to enjoy an array of entertainment including a fabulous firework display on Saturday night courtesy of Forest Fireworks. For the foodies, there are no fewer than 14 hot food traders this year, with new treats to tickle the tastebuds including pies, pancakes and pasta.  On top of all this, free childrens' wristbands will make sure the event remains one of the most family-friendly around. 

Ruth Wood, Events Manager at Stratforward BID, said: “The River Festival is our biggest event by far, and a huge success each year but that doesn’t mean we can sit on our laurels.
We may have only just finished with the Stratford Festival of Motoring, which was another triumph, but preparations for the River Festival have been underway for months and are now really hotting up. We want people to be confident that they can have a day of fun and entertainment in a safe, secure environment, and our team are going through every single detail with a fine tooth comb to make sure that happens. On top of this, we’ve got plenty of exciting elements to add to an already thrilling weekend so watch this space for all the latest announcements on what is set to be another great River Festival.”

Come and enjoy Stratford's biggest party on the banks of the River!

Cash Saving Scheme

May 2017


A brand new members’ benefits scheme that could save town centre businesses a whopping six-figure sum each year was launched by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID).  
The new Joint Procurement Scheme will help BID businesses reduce their running costs on items like utilities, telecoms, water, pest control and merchant services.

The scheme, officially launched by Stratforward BID this week, is run in partnership with joint procurement specialist Meercat Associates Ltd, which uses collective buying power to get the best deal possible.  Meercat works only with Business Improvement Districts and has a proven record of saving millions of pounds for BIDs across the country.

Meercat’s fee will be paid by Stratforward, with members able to benefit directly from any cost savings gained through the scheme.

BID director Joseph Baconnet said it is hoped the scheme will work across all sectors, with many members finding that the savings are more than their annual BID levy. He said: “We want our members to save money. Small changes can make big differences and together we have the power to drive down costs. This scheme will help our members get the best deal possible on their running costs and relieve the ever-increasing pressure on high street businesses. "

The Joint Procurement Scheme is being administrated by Simon Jackson, Business Consultant at Meercat, who has already visited Stratford several times to meet with businesses and discuss the potential benefits the scheme could bring to them.

Members who want to take part in the scheme can pass their bill information to Meercat completely confidentially who will then carry out a full analysis to calculate potential savings. Companies can then decide whether to progress with a service saving, which again can be managed by Meercat. Simon, a former BID manager himself, said: “At Meercat we work exclusively with BIDs and currently work with 90 across the country, helping 25,000 businesses under our umbrella and have already delivered £7million savings. Our work with BIDs across the country gives us huge buying power. We don’t add any commission or interest on to our very very keen prices so those prices are passed on to BID members directly.”

Triumphant Trophy Winners at Stratford Festival of Motoring 2017

May 2017

Trophies were presented to participants at Stratford Festival of Motoring 2017 by the festival patron, Quentin Willson at 3pm on Monday 1st May.

Many congratulations to all winners on being chosen against some stiff competition.  

To quote Quentin, "Stratford Festival of Motoring is one of the UK's best attended and most authentic motor festivals in the UK."  So huge thanks to all participants for bringing your stunning cars and making the festival  so special.

Trophy 2017




Mayor’s Choice

1939 Buick Ltd

Hugh Busby


Stratforward’s Choice – chosen by Quentin Willson

Rolls Royce Silver Spirit previously owned by Felix Dennis

Rod Moseley

Shipston on Stour

Listers’ Choice

1951 Jaguar XK120

Terence Heyes



Winner of Ayes & Nays Treasure Hunt

Land Rover Discovery

Lawrence Sear


Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust – Director’s Choice Award

1961 3.4 Mark 2 Jaguar

Joe Sugden & his co owner


Furthest Travelled Car


Roger & Margaret Key




Torque of the Town - Stratford Festival of Motoring proves a bank holiday hit

May 2017


The fifth annual Stratford Festival of Motoring was the ‘torque of the town’ this Bank Holiday weekend, attracting tens of thousands of visitors from across the country.

Rain showers didn’t dampen the motor madness that arrived in the bard’s town for the popular two-day event that featured more than 300 cars on show throughout the town’s streets.

From Audrey, the last remaining Vintage Mobile Cinema, to a unique pink ‘Barbie’ Jaguar that once starred in a film directed by Michael Winner, the free festival transformed Shakespeare’s home town into a petrolhead’s paradise for the weekend.

They included cars from across the world spanning decades of iconic motor history, including ‘Vicky's S’ TVR - commissioned by TVR chairman Peter Wheeler for his wife Vicky that he once treated Prince William to a lesson in.

Car lovers from across the country joined in organised runs through the surrounding Warwickshire and Gloucestershire countryside, arriving in Stratford for a lap of honour around the historic town centre before parking up for a day of motor madness.

Participants included Roger Key, who travelled an impressive 442 miles from Stonehaven to Stratford specially for the event, as well as members from car clubs across the country.

Ruth Wood, Events Manager at Stratforward BID - which organises the festival - said: “The weather may not have been perfect, but the odd rain shower certainly didn’t wave the red flag for the festival and this year was another great turnout from participants and visitors.

“The whole aim of the motor festival is to lay on something a bit different and showcase Stratford to an audience from across the country. The sight of hundreds of cars, classic and up-to-the-minute, has become something people will travel a long way to see and this year was no exception.”

More than 300 vehicles from old to new were on display throughout the town’s streets, from pre-1960s cars to performance vehicles and an impressive selection of Jaguars - this year’s Featured Marque - from the Jaguar Heritage Trust.

They impressed crowds of people who travelled to Stratford from far and wide - including one Jaguar enthusiast who apparently came all the way from America.

There was plenty of family fun on offer, from free Jaguar remote control cars to an interactive display by Stratford College, as well as a Treasure Hunt, artwork created using remote control cars, and a ‘Where’s Will?’ competition to spot a waxwork of the bard in cars around town.

Local motor heritage museums the British Motor Museum and Coventry Transport Museum took part in the event, while festival sponsor Listers showcased brands from five of its dealerships, including brand new models.

Toni Dunk, Group Marketing Manager at Listers, said: "This year's Stratford Festival of Motoring has been a great event, showcasing the very best of the motoring world against the backdrop of one of the region's most beautiful towns.

"Listers has been delighted to be the sponsor of such a successful event for the second year running. It's an opportunity for us to get involved, to showcase our own stunning ranges, and to personally meet many of our current and future customers.

“A big thank you to Stratforward for organising such a great event, we look forward to getting involved again in future years."

The dates for next year are Sunday 6th May and Bank Holiday Monday 7th May 2018.

Organised by Stratforward Business Improvement District. of-motoring






Apr 2017


Some serious miles are being racked up by visitors to this year’s Stratford Festival of Motoring - but none more than Roger Key who will be driving an impressive 442 miles to take part in the event.

Mr Key and wife Margaret are travelling from Stonehaven in Scotland all the way to Stratford for the festival, which returns to the town on Sunday, April 30th and Monday, May 1st.

That’s the distance of at least two Grands Prix or 52 laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe, the famous venue of the Le Mans 24-hour race.

Of the hundreds of participants bringing their petrol pride and joys to the festival, Mr Key is travelling the furthest in his MG TF. His journey is nearly 200 miles further than last year’s ‘furthest travelled’ attendee Peter Darby, who drove 260 miles from Dumfries.

But for Mr Key, who has travelled to Mull and Shetland, Brittany and even Denmark in pursuit of his hobby, it’s by no means the furthest he’s gone.

The motor enthusiast and his wife, who is a fan of the bard’s home town, have visited the area in previous years and decided to coincide this year’s return trip with their first visit to the motor festival.

“It looks a super event and it’s in a lovely part of the world,” said Mr Key, who is secretary of the Aberdeen MG Owners Club. “We’re looking forward to taking part in one of the runs and having a look around all the other cars.”

The Keys will be leaving their classic 1978 and 1969 MG Midgets, which are being refurbished, at home and are instead travelling the length of the country in their more modern MG TF.

“It’s nothing exceptional but it’s cheap to run and good on fuel and it’s been reliable - we’ve covered a fair few miles in it,” added Mr Key.

The Stratforward-organised Festival of Motoring is one of the highlights of the calendar in Stratford, attracting 60,000 visitors last year.

The 2017 event will follow the same successful formula as the past four years with organised runs into surrounding countryside followed by the spectacular sight of 300 cars parked up on the town centre streets on both days of the festival.

This year’s event is sponsored by Listers, which will showcase its own state-of-the-art range, and the 2017 Featured Marque is the Jaguar, with Wood Street filled with cars from the iconic British brand.

The festival will also feature Audrey, the last remaining vintage mobile cinema, sponsored by local classic car hire company The Open Road and an array of petrolheads’ dream cars on show by Auto Adrenalin.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is running a ‘Where’s Will?’ competition, giving people the chance to win a year’s pass if they spot a waxwork model of William Shakespeare among the car displays, and families will be able to take part in The Great Stratford Motor Festival Treasure Hunt, organised by Magic Alley, using a special 'key' to unlock clues across town.

Ruth Wood, events manager at Stratforward, said: “We’re putting the final touches on the organisation of what has shaped up to be a great event, with something on offer for everyone, and we’re delighted to see people coming from far and wide - especially Mr Key and his wife.”

Stratford's Getting Kinky

Apr 2017


World-class music is back on the bill for this year’s Stratford River Festival, with the return of soul band Kinky Farnham to the stage at the multi award-winning event.

The popular funk and soul band is just one of an array of stellar acts on offer for the crowds set to descend on Stratford when the popular festival returns on July 1st and 2nd.

The Stratforward-organised River Festival is one of the highlights of the calendar in the region. Last year’s event on the Recreation Ground attracted more than 60,000 people with more than 100 boats moored up on the Avon and at least 100 stalls providing a weekend of food, drink and fun for all.

Top-notch music is always a draw at the free family festival and this year visitors will be entertained by acts including Kinky Farnham - a huge hit in previous years - as well as TRADarrr, who offer a new take on traditional British Folk music.

Other acts set to take to the stages on the Bandstand and the Acoustic Stage include musical talent from across the region and closer to home such as Stratford-based choir Amicantus and Jack Blackman, one of the UK's leading young blues guitarists.

Event Organiser Ruth Wood said: “Music is always an important part of the River Festival and we’re so excited to be welcoming Kinky Farnham back to our Stratford stages. When it comes to music, there’s something for everyone at this year’s festival, from funk and soul to classical, rock and swing.

“Last year’s festival was another great year, with 60,000-plus people coming to Stratford for what has become one of the most popular events in the region. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back for what is guaranteed to be a great event.”

And for thirsty visitors to the River Festival, three of Stratford’s own local businesses have beaten off stiff competition from other bars and pubs across the area to win the tenders for the alcohol concessions at the event.

The One Elm, The Keys & Kitchen and The Encore won the tenders for the bars at the event after a rigorous and competitive process that saw applications from far and wide.

Mat Faulkner, general manager at The One Elm, which got through 100 barrels of beers, ales and ciders, 2,000 bottles of prosecco and 1,000 pints of Pimms last year, said: “It’s great that three local businesses are leading the way again.

We’re really excited. We have been part of the festival now for who knows how many years. It’s home from home for us now. We love being down there and meeting everyone.”


Apr 2017

Visitors to the Stratford Festival of Motoring will be able to get hands-on, thanks to a series of interactive demonstrations by Stratford College’s Motor Vehicle department.

The 2017 Stratford Festival of Motoring, organised by Stratforward BID, takes place on Sunday, April 30th and Monday, May 1st and is sure to attract car enthusiasts from across the country.

Stratford College has teamed up with festival sponsor Listers to run the demonstrations including changing a wheel and basic car maintenance techniques, giving people of all ages the chance to get their hands dirty and have a bit of fun, while learning about cars.

Sponsor Listers will be showcasing cars from five dealerships on Waterside and Bridge Street as well as providing the car for the Stratford College demonstrations, which will be run by staff, students and apprentices.


The weekend will also include organised ‘runs’ out into the Warwickshire and Gloucestershire countryside on the Sunday and Monday morning, followed by the spectacular sight of 300 cars parked in the town centre streets, showcasing some of the world’s finest motor heritage.

Ian Watson, Motor Vehicle lecturer at the College, said: “Joining forces with Listers at the Festival is a wonderful opportunity for our Motor Vehicle department and for the College as a whole.  The students and apprentices will have the chance to share their skills with members of the public and demonstrate the successful practical training that epitomises the College’s vocational courses.” 

Stratford College will have a stand at the festival in the family area in Rother Market.  As well as interactive demonstrations, staff and students will be on hand to discuss course options and College life with visitors.  The College offers apprenticeships, full-time diplomas and part-time leisure learning, all provided by a highly experienced, knowledgeable team in an industry-standard workshop.

For more information on any of Stratford-upon-Avon College’s courses, please visit or call the College on 01789 266245.