Shakespeare and Poland Festival: Celebrating cultural heritage in Stratford-upon-Avon

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Stratford-upon-Avon will host the Shakespeare and Poland Festival on June 22-23, 2024, presented by the Polish Cultural Institute in London.

This annual event will feature a vibrant weekend of activities that highlight Polish cultural heritage and the connections between British and Polish literature, theatre, and music.

Organized in collaboration with the Stratford-based Polish community organization Copernicana CIC, the festival builds on the success of previous editions and reinforces the cultural ties between Poland and Britain. These ties are symbolized by the statue of Jan Kochanowski, a Renaissance Polish poet and contemporary of Shakespeare, located in the sculpture garden at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Unveiled in 2022, this statue is a testament to the enduring friendship and cooperation between the two nations' cultural communities.

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The festival begins on Saturday, June 22, at 7pm with the theatrical production "Made of Stone" at the Stratford Playhouse. Presented by Krakow’s renowned street theatre company Scena Kalejdoskop, the play blends forgotten tales and legends in a magical mountain kingdom. It tells the story of a romantic hero on a quest to rescue his beloved from an evil spirit. This family-friendly production, rich with symbolic language and dramatic storytelling akin to Shakespeare, is suitable for audiences aged eight and up. Tickets are priced at £10 for adults and £7 for children.

Made of StoneMade of Stone
Made of Stone

On Sunday, June 23, the festival continues with Venetian Mask-making Workshops at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Conducted by Scena Kalejdoskop, these workshops draw inspiration from Shakespeare’s "The Merchant of Venice" and will be held at 10.30am and 12pm. Participants will learn traditional mask-making techniques and can take their creations home. The workshops are free, but booking is required.

A special outdoor event, the "Folk Reflections: Walkabout Performance," will take place on Bancroft Terrace outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 11.30am to 12pm. This performance features three larger-than-life figures in traditional Polish folk dress, reflecting the theme of Refugee Week 2024, "Our Home." The event is free and open to all.

At 3pm on Sunday, Stratford Town Hall will host a round table discussion titled "Transformations – Shakespeare’s Theatre in Poland and the Woman’s Voice." The panel, featuring acclaimed figures such as Dame Janet Suzman and Helena Kaut-Howson, will explore Shakespeare’s influence in Poland and the innovative interpretations of his work. This free event requires booking.

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The festival will conclude on Sunday at 7pm with "From Poland with Music," a classical concert at Stratford Town Hall. Featuring performances by pianist Anna Szałucka and violinist Jaga Klimaszewska, the concert will showcase the works of renowned Polish composers, including Fryderyk Chopin and Henryk Wieniawski. Tickets are £14, with proceeds going to The Shakespeare Hospice.

For more information and a full program of events, visit the festival's official website.