For some of you, the Stratford Residential might be a treasured memory of your time as a student of the University of Birmingham. The trip, which took place annually throughout the 1970s and 1980s, offered a chance to explore the birthplace of William Shakespeare, to sit back in the sunny gardens of the Shakespeare Institute, and to bring to life the literature usually encountered in the lecture halls.
Revived in 2013 thanks to the Circles of Influence fundraising campaign, the residential is usually a three-day study trip to Stratford, home of the University’s Shakespeare Institute. Since then it has been extended to four days and funded by The School of English, Drama and ACS.
The trip follows the announcement of the Shakespeare Institute’s collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company in reinstating iconic studio theatre The Other Place, which was originally built in 1973. With plans to reopen in 2016, The Other Place will provide opportunities for students to access creative learning spaces and have the RSC provide input into their studies.
“The trip great,” says Mary Davies, a second year student, “we stayed in overnight accommodation, saw a production of The Jew of Malta and Othello at the RSC, and spent time in the Shakespeare Institute doing learning through workshops and activities. We also went to Mary Arden's farm which was brilliant. The trip is great because we learnt a lot and got to meet people on our course in other years.”
Each year, students take part in a variety of events including a trip to the Royal Shakespeare Company, talks, group workshops, and tours around Stratford-Upon-Avon. The activities do not, however, simply cover the works of the Bard, with workshops and talks covering topics from Staging Shakespeare to the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy.
Robert Barnett, also second year, said “The best part was the activities being organised around different literary time periods and genres. It's the reason I took up Modernism for second year, as I chose to do a session based on Modernism at the residential.”
“I also learnt a lot about what was expected of you for the third year Shakespeare module. It was really informative and inspiring in a lot of ways.”
This year, students were treated to an inspiring session with alumna Beth Cordingly (BA English Literature and Drama) who plays Bellamira in the new RSC production of The Jew of Malta, and co-star and Lanre Malaolu, who played Ithamore.
Year upon year, the Stratford Residential continues to be a success after a busy examination period for English students, and future plans will see the trip integrated even more into the BA English programme.