English poet, playwright and actor, William Shakespeare, was born and schooled in Stratford-upon-Avon earning him the title of Bard of Avon. As well as being Shakespeare’s school, Stratford’s Guildhall was the administrative and judicial heart of Stratford, serving as the office of the Guilds, a civil court, the armory and town council chamber.
One of a handful of surviving medieval buildings of its kind, Stratford Guildhall is of international significance and is home to an outstanding collection of rare 15th-century pre-Reformation wall paintings. It remains part of King Edward VI School to this day.
To coincide with the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death, there was a vision to open the Guildhall to the public for the first time in 2016. Given that Shakespeare’s school is still used by pupils of King Edward VI School, the interpretation needed to be flexible and discreet. This led to the realisation of digital interpretation which avoids physical clutter and retains in-built flexibility.
The project received an HLF Round 1 pass for funding to conserve and open the Guildhall as a heritage attraction. We were then commissioned to prepare an interpretation design report (RIBA ‘Stage D’) to support the Round 2 application, which was also successful.
As part of the interpretation, a ‘soundscape’ audio experience was introduced. This includes an ‘on arrival’ introduction with a welcoming ‘class card’ that visitors can refer to during a 10 minute ‘lesson’ in the schoolroom. The lessons are the highlight of the visit and are held on a rolling basis throughout the day; visitors can take their cards home as a souvenir.
There are also AV presentations, a children’s activity pack, a range of foreign language summary sheets along with themed illustrated graphic panels. Low tech interactives include 3D cut-away illustrations, an interactive touchscreen, replica models and artefact displays.
Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall won the Visitor Attraction of the Year award at the Coventry and Warwickshire Tourism & Culture Awards 2017. The Schoolroom’s general manager, Lindsey Armstrong, said to the project team: