Posts to The Shakespeare blog have been few and far between over the summer, mostly owing to the fact that I’ve been working on a history of Stratford’s Shakespeare Club, though taking a month out to visit Australia also has had more of an effect that I expected. The book The Story of the Shakespeare Club of Stratford-upon-Avon: “Long life to the Club call’d Shakspearean”, co-written by myself and Susan Brock, winged its way to the printers a couple of weeks ago and we expect the copies to be delivered to us any day now. The laborious researching, writing, altering, proofing and checking has been a process that made me value the much more free and easy creation of blog posts where a few links to electronic resources is all that is required most of the time.
However, in a few days we will be facing the reality of proper publishing as hundreds of copies are delivered, and we have a new challenge in selling the books, to be officially published on 1 November. In recent months we have been joined by a small team who are helping us get the word out about it, and we are planning a series of launches (soft and hard), presentations and book signings.
One of the great pleasures of putting the book together has been working with the designer Chris Wheeler who has cheerfully turned the manuscript and a miscellaneous collections of image files into a book that will be a pleasure to look at as well as an enjoyable read. The story of the Club is certainly a more interesting one than either of us thought it would be, and so intertwined with the history of the development of Shakespeare in his home town that we have christened it “an alternative history of Stratford-upon-Avon”.
Who would have thought, for instance, that it was members of the Shakespeare Club who sponsored the building of the first purpose-built theatre in Stratford, and no, I am not talking about the Memorial Theatre but the one that opened its doors more than fifty years before, and on land once owned by Shakespeare. Or that it was the Shakespeare Club, consisting of local tradesmen, that boldly staged the first procession of Shakespeare’s characters to be seen in the town, to be seen by crowds of up to forty-thousand people.
Next Tuesday, 11 October, Susan Brock and myself will be giving a talk featuring some of our favourite characters from the Club’s history at the first meeting of the season, to take place at 7.45pm at Mason Croft in Stratford-upon-Avon. This will be an open evening and visitors are welcome free of charge. It will also be an opportunity to buy a copy of the book ahead of the official publication date for £12.99. This is just the first of the meetings for the winter and the full programme is available to see on the Club’s website where you can also download a membership application form should you wish to join. Further information about how to order a copy of the book is also on the site.
Ahead even of this, I’m giving an illustrated talk to Stow & District Civic Society on Friday evening 7 October on the related but separate subject of the history of Stratford’s Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations. This takes place in the centre of Stow-on-the-Wold, at 7.30pm. Full details of the talk and the rest of the Society’s upcoming programme are available on their website.