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River Festival 2016

Jun 2016

Stratford Gears Up For Bumper Festival Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Jun 2016

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Jun 2016

Cycling fever is ready to hit Stratford as the town prepares to welcome some of the world’s finest women cyclists next week.

The gruelling second leg of the Aviva Women’s Tour comes to Warwickshire for the first time next Thursday (June 16), with the finish line in the heart of Stratford….and businesses in the town are already lining up to embrace the event. 

They include Bright Ideas Gifts on Henley Street, one of the shops that is selling Warwickshire Bears, donned in Aviva Tour kit to mark the arrival of the prestigious event to the area.

The bears are being given to winning riders and schoolchildren as prizes, but are also being sold in shops around the patch to raise money for charity.

Proprietor Jo Sainsbury - a triathlete herself - can’t wait for this premier event to hit the county for the first time. “I just think something like this is amazing for the region,” she said. “If it kindles an interest and if people around the world see the lovely image of cyclists going through the Warwickshire countryside and Stratford and think, ‘I want to visit there’, then that’s great.”

Mrs Sainsbury, 54, who took up sprint triathlons five years ago, added: “I wanted to do just one triathlon in my 50th year, but now I do about four a year. When I heard about the chance to get involved in this by selling the bears I thought it was a great way of getting involved in a sporting event that’s good for the area.”

Other businesses in the town are being urged to get involved by either decorating their shop windows, decorating a bike or even creating special cycle themed menus.  Among those already geared up include Dayna Edwards at Something Different in Meer Street, who has created a bike themed window, and the team at the nearby White Swan in Rother Street who have decorated a bike outside the hotel.

This year is the first time the Aviva Women’s Tour has come to Warwickshire, with thousands of followers expected to descend on Stratford’s Bridge Street to catch a glimpse of the finish line.

Councillor Peter Butlin, Deputy Leader of Warwickshire County Council and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Transport and Planning, said: “We’re excited about what this will do for Warwickshire, especially after it was recently recognised as one of the top 10 locations in Europe to visit.”

The 140km Warwickshire leg on the second day of the five-day tour will start in Atherstone, working its way down the county before arriving in Stratford in the afternoon.

The longest leg of the event, it will include gruelling climbs and is expected to be an early indicator of who could take the Aviva Yellow Jersey.  Among those taking part are World Champion Lizzie Armitstead and reigning Aviva Women’s Tour Champion Lisa Brennauer.

The Great Britain national team, who continue their preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, will ride alongside teams from the USA, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Other high-profile teams include Rabo Liv, who won the 2014 race with Marianne Vos, and Britain’s  own newly-formed Drops Cycling Team, who will be making their tour debut.


  Jo Sainsbury of Bright Ideas Henley Street and Councillor Peter Butlin

Less than a month to Stratford's Biggest Party - Stratford River Festival July 2nd and 3rd

Jun 2016

Are you coming to Stratford's Biggest Party?  Stratford River Festival July 2nd and 3rd 2016

There will be the collection of more than 100 narrow boats moored up along the banks of the Avon, with many illuminated on the Saturday evening.

World-class acts will be taking to two stages on the town’s recreation ground,as well as a fantastic firework display and nearly 100 charity, craft and food and drinks stalls. 

Six-piece party band Mister Shakes, featuring Brian Ferry’s sax player, will headline on the Saturday and the event will close on Sunday with one of the UK’s leading Glenn Miller tribute groups, the Ashby Big Band.

Since it was established the Stratford River Festival has become one of the region’s leading free festivals.  Last year’s festival was not only a record-breaking year, bringing nearly 60,000 revellers into Stratford, but also scooped the Tourism Initiative of the Year Award 2016 in the Touch FM Pride of Stratford Awards.

The River Festival is organised by Stratforward - Stratford’s Business Improvement District (BID) - which represents nearly 500 shops, cafes, restaurants and other businesses in the town.

Ruth Wood, event organiser, said: “After last year’s record-breaking event, we can’t wait to welcome even more people back to Stratford for one of the highlights of our calendar. “From boats to bands, there’s something for everyone over the weekend - and it’s all free. It’s no surprise it’s one of the leading free festivals in the region.”




Congratulations to the Winners of Stratford Festival of Motoring

May 2016

It was an honour to have so many incredible cars on display. A handful of cars were selected as being outstanding:

Furthest Travelled Car of the Festival Trophy was won by Peter Darby who travelled to the festival from Dumfries- 260 miles each way!  He drove a Morgan Plus 2 litre. Since its purchase it has done many runs from Scotland down to the Midlands and has been proud to appear in all the Stratford Motoring Festivals since.

Car of the Festival Trophy. The Mayor Councillor Tessa Bates selected a blue and cream Bentley3 1/2 litre, manufactured in 1934. It is owned by Bob Shanks of Kenilworth.

Stratforward Trophy for Car of the Festival chosen by Festival Patron Quentin Willson 1913 Model T Ford Car 3, Ford owned by Jim & Tessa Wallace from Rugby. They had a very wet drive home in the rain in their stunning open topped car which has no mudguards! 

Many of the cars displayed took part in two runs around local countryside. The Pub Cricket Tour Trophy was won by Dennis Wood of Stratford in his 1979 Triumph Spitfire.

Listers Car of the Festival Trophy – the grabber orange Ford Mustang built in 1970. Owned by Ian Draper of Coventry.   

The Wellesbourne Lions provided marshals to help run the event and they organised a raffle.  The winner was John Hoyland of Redditch.  He won a day out in 1978 Corvette Pace Car that led the cavalcade.  This was kindly donated by The Open Road.

Many congratulations to all winners.   And many thanks to those who displayed their cars, to the judges, and all who supported this popular event.

The Mayor and Mr & Mrs Shanks  

  Tony Merrygold, Ruth Wood and Jim Wallace

Dennis Wood and Tony Merrygold  

   Ian Drapper and Listers representative



May 2016


Fom Corvettes to Capris and Austins to Audis – this year’s Stratford Festival of Motoring had it all. The streets were lined with more than 300 cars of all ages, shapes and sizes with many then joining a cavalcade around the town centre.
The event, organised by Stratforward and sponsored by local dealership Listers, brought tens of thousands of extra visitors into the centre of Stratford on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, boosting many businesses in the process.
Ruth Wood, Stratforward’s Event Manager, said:

“We are delighted that this year’s Festival of Motoring was so successful. We had a record number of motoring enthusiasts participate and the town was crammed with an amazing selection of cars ranging from an original Jaguar XKR from a James Bond film to a 1960 East German Trabant. The car owners were incredibly enthusiastic and delighted to talk all things automotive with the tens of thousands of visitors who came into town.

We made a popular decision to move the high performance cars to Wood St and it was great to see the crowds moving up and around town. The Auto Adrenalin club once again were a hugely popular attraction and it was great to see such a cross section in ages of the cars parked up next to each other.  Cafés and restaurants reported yet another bumper weekend of trading in a relaxed atmosphere with the town centre streets closed off to all but festival vehicles.  We are committed to showcasing Stratford town centre as a fabulous place to visit and we hope that by hosting these festivals we are constantly encouraging new and existing visitors to return time and again.”
Quentin Willson, Patron of the Festival, provided the commentary during the town centre cavalcade and on the Monday, dozens of car fans took the chance to hit the road in some of the amazing cars on display by making a donation to The Shakespeare Hospice Young Carers and to secure a ‘Dream Ride’ in cars including a VW Beach Buggy, Lotus and Jaguar courtesy of the Sporting Bears.
The remote control Land Rover experience was another popular event over the two days, drawing crowds to Waterside including the outside broadcast team from Touch FM, the festival’s media partners.
Sponsors Listers had a number of new cars on display around the town centre together with the world’s fastest lawnmower!
Group Marketing Manager Toni Dunk said: “The Stratford Festival of Motoring event has proved to be a huge hit with car lovers of all ages in the past and this year’s event was no exception. 
“It was a pleasure to meet so many motoring enthusiasts and for Listers to work with Stratforward to help bring the event to life this year with a fantastic combination of classic cars and exclusive new cars on display from our Listers Audi, Honda, Lexus, Toyota and Volkswagen dealerships.”


Stratford Festival of Motoring to Span the Years

Apr 2016

Classic car enthusiast Peter Skinner will be one of more than 300 owners set to descend on Stratford over the May Day bank holiday weekend as they take part in this year’s Festival of Motoring.

His 1970 VW Karmann Ghia will be on display on Sunday and Monday, May 1 and 2, alongside everything from a 1920 Rolls Royce through to a police patrol car from the States.

And the event, sponsored by Listers and set to draw thousands of visitors into the town centre, will also feature some of the current day classics such as the luxurious Lexus and the thrilling 155mph VW Golf R.

It will be the second time that Mr Skinner, of Harvington near Evesham, has taken part in the event. “I did the Stratford Festival of Motoring a couple of years ago and it’s one that I like because there are lots of different types of cars,” he explained.  “It’s always good to talk to motoring enthusiasts especially those who know what my car is as they were never that common. It was a car that I admired when I was a young man and I’d always hoped to have one one day. I bought this one nearly 20 years ago from a lady who was working in California as a computer programmer. She came back to England and decided to bring the car with her so drove it across America to Florida so that she could put it on a boat to bring home.”

Many of the cars will be taking part in a cavalcade through the historic town centre at 1pm each day – a route that takes in Bridge Street, Waterside, Sheep Street, High Street, Wood Street, Meer St and Henley St.

Other highlights include a Land Rover remote control car experience and dream rides with the Sporting Bears where a donation to The Shakespeare Hospice will secure a trip to treasure in such cars as a Beach Buggy, a Porsche and a Lotus.

Ruth Wood, event organiser from Stratforward BID, said:  “Our Festival of Motoring has proved to be a huge hit for car lovers of all ages and this year’s event promises to be the biggest and best yet with loads going on for all."

The fun starts from 9.30am each day when the cars start arriving back in town after an early morning tour of the Cotswolds. They will take up their positions with all the other cars on display from Rother Street all the way down to Waterside. The festival is free to attend.


Classic car owner Peter Skinner is pictured with Simon Brown, the brand manager at Listers VW Stratford, and Stratforward BID event manager Ruth Wood.

For more information on the Festival Sponsors

Lister Twitter pages:


Listers Facebook pages:


Listers Group

Apr 2016


Stratford Festival of Motoring looks set to be bigger and better than ever thanks to a major new sponsorship deal.  The annual May Day Bank Holiday extravaganza - which regularly attracts 20,000 thousand extra visitors - will receive a cash boost thanks to the deal with leading local motoring dealership Listers.

Listers Group Marketing Manager Toni Dunk said:

“Stratford Festival of Motoring is quickly becoming a firm favourite in the Listers annual calendar of events. We are thrilled to be the main sponsor this year and look forward to once again displaying our very own unique brand of horsepower with an incredible range of Audi, Honda, Lexus, Toyota and Volkswagen cars on display right in the heart of Stratford, on Bridge Street and the Waterside.”

Event organiser Ruth Wood from Stratforward BID said:

“As the biggest local motoring dealership we are delighted that Listers Group recognises the value of supporting an event on their doorstep”.

Over the two days of May 1 and 2 the historic town centre streets of Stratford will be throbbing with the sound of over 300 high performance motors and classic cars. A cavalcade of cars will tour the town over lunchtime on both days before parking up for all to admire.  

Sheep Street, Wood Street, Meer St, Bridge Street, Henley Street and Rother Market will all be shut to allow the thousands of visitors to get up close to everything from vintage classics like a 1913 Model T Ford, 1934 Bentley 3½ litre, 1938 Armstrong Siddeley and 1928 Buick Tourer, unusual cars like an East German Trabant and a Bond Bug to supercars like the Lotus Esprit, Ferrari and Noble.

Contributing towards the fun family friendly atmosphere will be live music, street entertainers and extra themed entertainment. Full details of the event will be issued in the coming weeks. The event is free.

Listers Audi     Listers Honda     Listers Toyota     
Listers Lexus     Listers Volkswagen   
Listers Group     


Mar 2016


Stratford shops have taken to the catwalk in aid of The Shakespeare Hospice.  More than 20 local retailers took part in the Stratford Fashion Show at Stratford Artshouse and raised over £4,500 for the charity. 

The sell-out event – hosted by Stratforward BID  and compered by TV fashion guru John Scott – used more than 70 local amateur models to showcase clothes and accessories from national names including M&S, Debenhams and BHS as well as loads of local independent favourites such as Domino, New Idle, VH & Co and Gemini.

Event organiser, Tor Wilkes from Stratforward, said: "It really was an incredible night for all involved.  The stage rocked all evening as many of Stratford's leading retailers wowed the audience with their season favourites. 

"The entertaining evening and marvellous monies raised were testament to the incredible generosity of the local models, shops, stylists and audience." 
Clothes from the hospice's own shop in town and from Stratford's Cancer Research shop were given the catwalk treatment to prove fashion can be done on a budget.  Some of the other models had taken matters into their own hands and took to the stage in clothes they had made from local sewing emporium Sew Me Something’s sewing patterns and workshops.
Hair and make-up were provided by an army of volunteers – headed by a celebrity hair stylist team from Matthew Curtis. Beauty salon Gorgeous Obsession used the show to officially launch their competition to find the Face of Stratford  2016 and show their dramatic new makeup range.

The finale saw local brides reliving their wedding days by donning the wedding gowns they had bought from local bridal shop Shakespeare in Love. Their hair was styled by ENV Salon.
For one bride, who tied the knot in December, her involvement in the show was particularly  poignant – Lisa Lamb, from Shottery, is a complementary therapist at The Shakespeare Hospice.
“I’ve been working there for just over two years and it’s an absolute privilege,” she explained. "It was great to be on the catwalk but totally full-on and really intense. My heart was skipping beats and then trying to catch up again. But with the amazing amount of money we made it was truly worth it.”


The Shakespeare Hospice supports every adult and young person in this community with a life-limiting illness, together with those who matter to them. They care for 900 people every year at a cost of £2m and most of this is funded by donations from the community.

The businesses involved in Stratford Fashion Show were: Aspire Style, BHS, Cancer Research, Debenhams, Domino, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, El Greco, ENV Salon, For Something Different, Gemini, Gorgeous Obsession, Hotter Shoes, Jigsaw, Looking Glass Aesthetics, M&S, Matthew Curtis Hair Design, New Idle, Nuha, Rohan, Sew Me Something, Shabby Chic Sister, Shakespeare In Love, Shiptons, VH & Co, The Shakespeare Hospice Shop and The Stratford Clinic

Fashion Show SOLD OUT!

Mar 2016