‘Stratford Is a Special Place To Come Back To’ – Kenneth Branagh
More than 600 people, including local and foreign dignitaries, gathered on the sunny banks of the River Avon this afternoon (Saturday) to toast the first son of Stratford, William Shakespeare.
The luncheon, supported by Jaguar Land Rover and The Rigby Group, set the stage perfectly, following a four-course meal, for guest speakers Gyles Brandreth, historian Professor Michael Wood and Shakespearean actor Sir Kenneth Branagh.
Sir Kenneth, who was this year’s recipient of the international Pragnell Shakespeare Birthday Award, held the audience in the palm of his hand with his eloquent - but at times, rousing – acceptance speech.
The award recognises ‘outstanding achievement in extending the appreciation and enjoyment of the works of Shakespeare and in the general advancement of Shakespearean knowledge and understanding. Previous winners of the award include Dame Judi Dench, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Donald Sinden.
After the luncheon, Sir Kenneth spoke exclusively to the Herald.
He said: “This kind of recognition is fantastic, especially when you look at the list of people over the past 25 years who have received this award. It feels very important and very kind that this is a family prize. It is very Stratford-specific. I like that very much. It’s important and lovely.
“Stratford is a romantic place to come back to and means a lot to me. It’s a special town.
“The event today has been amazing, terrific speeches, a great energy in the room, great reaction. This has been a terrific audience. Michael Wood kicked it off really well and then it carried on on a real high.”
For a full page exclusive interview with Kenneth Branagh – and full Birthday Celebrations coverage – see a nine-page Birthday special in Thursday’s Herald.