Booksellers across the country have been gearing up for "Shakespeare Saturday" spinning off from the Booksellers Association’s The Bard Is My Bag campaign.
From cooking up Shakespeare birthday cake for browsing customers, to educational workshops and dressing-up, independent bookshops have been readying their Bard-inspired events and promotions to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death.
Self-confessed “huge Shakespeare fan” Sarah Rees, owner of independent Cover to Cover in Swansea, has sold £100 worth of the Bard's titles to one customer alone on the back of her promotional display windows. She said: "I think The Bard is My Bag campaign is brilliant. In Wales, because of the accent, you can say you are ‘bard’ - as in not feeling well - so there’s actually a double pun in Wales. And having put the books in the window, and the BAMB [promotional materials], we actually sold £100 [worth] to one lady yesterday of Shakespeare books, so that’s amazing.”
Rees is also bringing a trained professional actor, Adrian Metcalfe, into the store this Friday (22nd April), who runs his own theatre company, the Lighthouse Theatre. She added: "It was a last minute thing, because he saw my window and he said ‘Oh, how about me coming in?’. He’ll be reading Shakespeare on request and we’re going to put him in costume and create a bit of an atmosphere, a bit of an event.”
Other live performances can be found at South Wales indie Griffin Books, London theatre bookshop Samuel French and at the Wivenhoe Bookshop in Colchester that is hosting open-air Shakespeare performances by the Wivenhoe Open-Air Shakespeare company.
Richard Drake, owner of Drake the Bookshop in Stockton, will simulateously be presenting a full roster of 'Shakespeare Saturday' activity. As well as the usual stocking up on tote bags, and organising a themed window display in the shared arcade where the shop is based (below), Drake will be putting on refreshments for the Bard's birthday, promising a slice of birthday cake with every purchase (while stocks last) and encouraging browsing customers to sample the shop’s special “brew”- a non-alcoholic mead. Games including a quoits competition, mini archery and hoop and stick will also be organised, along with a “famous scenes mash-up”, where customers will be asked to read a line from a famous Shakespearian scene and will be able to watch back a celebratory montage online after the event.
Drake, who celebrates seven months since opening his store this Friday (22nd April), said: "We have put together a collection of books for young and old alike, including sticker books, graphic novels and contemporary fiction like Shylock is my Name, Howard Jacobson's version of Taming of the Shrew and Jeanette Winterson's take on A Winter's Tale. We are travelling back to the 1600s with mead and cake and games from the time and can't wait for the fun to start.” He added: "As ever Twitter will be full of our shinanigans so keep an eye out.”
Helene Hewitt, owner of The Suffolk Anthology in Cheltenham, hosted a talk about Shakespeare last night (20th April) and has double toil and trouble in store for children on Saturday, looking at Shakespeare’s use of language in Macbeth and offering opportunities to dress up. “We’re going to be using the witches speech from Macbeth and exploring that, and we’re going to be looking at his use of words, especially insults,” she said. "We’ve got someone who was a teacher coming in to help me do that. It will be quite active. And we’re dressing up.”
The Owl and Pyramid in Devon is also hosting games and activities throughout the day; as is family-owned bookshop Southcart Books in Walsall, holding a raffle with Shakespeare-themed prizes. Meanwhile Pavilion Books in London will be sharing strange but interesting facts about Shakespeare, and Wiltshire Christian retailer Sarum College Bookshop is planning to deliver a quiz on Shakespeare and the Bible.
Promotions for the day include some celebratory discounting at many retailers, exemplified by Cambridge University Press' CUP Bookshop, which is offering a generous 30% off all Shakespeare titles, and by Griffin Books in South Wales, which is taking 20% off the price of all Bard books, along with hosting live performances throughout the day as well as a quiz and refreshments.
Lindum Books in Lincoln is offering the Bard is my Bag tote with any purchase by or about the Bard on Saturday, while Dulwich Books will give one to a customer after a minimum spend of £10, at which point customers also qualify to receive a free proof of an already-published book.
Alan Staton, head of marketing and communications at the BA, said: “We’re delighted with the response from bookshops to Shakespeare Saturday. From stunning Shakespearean window displays to special performances, competitions and events, bookshops up and down the country have embraced the opportunity to celebrate all things Shakespeare this weekend.
"The BA’s The Bard is my Bag tote bag and t-shirts will be widely available in bookshops for book lovers to show their appreciation of the Bard this weekend and beyond."