This weekend, the Brits are marking a key cultural anniversary. It has been 400 years since the death of that ultimate literary icon – William Shakespeare. A feast of plays, sonnet readings and other events are planned throughout the rest of year, but this isn’t just about culture. There’s money to be made. The Bard is big business.
Stratford-upon-Avon — where the playwright was born — attracts more than 5 million visitors a year. Not bad for a small market town with a population of just 27,000. Tourism pumps half a billion dollars annually into the local economy, supporting 7,000 jobs.
“Shakespeare is an incredible meal ticket for the town,” said council chief Dave Webb.
One local business that benefits from the influx is Tudor World — an interactive attraction that includes an Elizabethan banqueting scene and a throne room.
“Everyone in Stratford is gearing up for the anniversary,” said the co-owner John Ford. “This is going to be our year.”
The Shakespeare effect will be felt well beyond Stratford. The Bard is a “massive brand for Britain,” said regional tourism chief Helen Peters.
“This year we’re expecting visitors from China, Japan, Korea, and of course, the United States and Europe. In fact, pretty much most of the world.”
The Shakespeare name adds luster to many businesses that have nothing to do with drama or poetry. The Bard figures in more than 100 registered trademarks for products like beer, wine, even gourmet pies. Would he be upset about this posthumous cashing in on his name?
“I’m sure he’d see the irony of it all, and he would love it!” said Peters.
He might be more impressed by the fact that over the centuries he has sold more than 4 billion books and his plays have been performed in almost every country in the world.