Great Expectations

By Gary Walsh

PAGE 34 British marching bandHAVING focused on the commemoration of World War I in the past couple of years, the UK in 2016 will be looking much wider afield, with anniversaries for William Shakespeare, Charlotte Bronte, Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie, landscape gardener Capability Brown, and even London’s famous Blue Plaques.

It is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, with a host of activities in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2016 as part of the celebrations of the playwright’s legacy. These include a new immersive theatrical experience at the Royal Shakespeare Company; a reimagining of New Place (Shakespeare’s final home) following a major restoration project, and Shakespeare’s school room, open for the first time at King Edward VI School.

When the aristocrats of the 18th Century were building their mansions, there was just one person they wanted to landscape their gardens – Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, whose 300th birth anniversary is celebrated in 2016. Brown got his nickname by assuring the owners that their land had ‘capability’. He then set about creating a landscape that looked natural, but was more perfect than nature could be. He built more than 170 gardens in Britain and most of them can still be seen and enjoyed today as idyllic places to relax, contemplate nature, and picnic – just as Brown planned for the original owners.

The Brontë Society’s contemporary arts programme has recently been awarded a grant to help with celebrations surrounding the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë, more details of which will be released throughout the year.

Born in London in 1866, Helen Beatrix Potter was best known for her imaginative children’s books such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Potter drew inspiration from the magnificent beauty and plentiful wildlife of the Lake District in Cumbria, north-west England, and fans of her enduring tales will be delighted with the World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere.

Born on September 13, 1916, Roald Dahl captured the imagination of children around the world with his tales including James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Twits and The BFG. The film, The BFG, is also coming to the silver screen in 2016 and visitors to Britain can learn more about the author at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Buckinghamshire, south-east England, or visit Cardiff and visit the Little Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay where Roald Dahl was baptised.

Although October 2015 marks the 125th birthday of the world’s most popular crime writer, Agatha Christie, Britain offers many ways to celebrate into 2016, from taking a comprehensive tour of the locations that inspired the Queen of Crime, to even staying in her holiday cottage. The Agatha Christie Tour of Britain takes in an extraordinary breadth of landmarks around Britain associated with the world’s best-selling author. Then find out whodunnit at Greenway House in Devon, her family holiday home.

London’s famous Blue Plaques turn 150 next year. The homes and workplaces of figures as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, Charles Dickens, John Lennon and Oscar Wilde have all been honoured with one of London’s blue plaques. The first was unveiled in 1867 to commemorate Lord Byron at his birthplace, 24 Holles Street, Cavendish Square in London. This house was demolished in 1889 so the earliest blue plaque to survive – also put up in 1867 – commemorates Napoleon III in King Street, St James’s. Since 1986, English Heritage has run the scheme, which now comprises around 880 plaques.

And finally, the Queen will celebrate her 90th birthday next year with 7000 people, 600 horses and 1500 performers at a spectacular equestrian-themed party in Windsor Castle’s Home Park, the centrepiece of a series of national events marking the monarch’s personal milestone.

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