The Birthday Lunch


Ticket holders will be contacted in late March to confirm seating requests, the menu and dietary requirements.


The Birthday Lunch is a traditional part of the annual Shakespeare birthday celebrations. The 2018 lunch will be held on Saturday, April 21 at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon, the same location as last year.

There will be a sparkling wine reception at 1.00pm and lunch will be served from 1.30pm. The tables will all seat 10 people this year. A three-course lunch will be provided, with tea or coffee afterwards but no further alcohol is included in the ticket price after the sparkling wine. There are cash bars at the hotel or drinks can be ordered in advance by contacting the hotel, as last year. The menu, with vegetarian options, will be available nearer the time.

There will be the customary speeches and toasts including the presentation of the annual Pragnell Award for “an outstanding achievement in extending the appreciation and enjoyment of the works of William Shakespeare and in the general advancement of Shakespearian knowledge and understanding”.

The winner of the 2018 Pragnell Award is the very distinguished actress, Jane Lapotaire. Miss Lapotaire came to national prominence for her performance in the title role of the 1977 film Marie Curie. She has worked extensively with the RSC on productions ranging from her Tony and Olivier Award-winning portrayal of Edith Piaf in 1978 to appearances in Gregory Doran’s productions of Richard 11 in 2013 and Henry V in 2015. Further detail on the other guest speakers at the lunch is provided at the bottom of this page.

Last year, the boat transfers from Holy Trinity to the hotel were very popular and they will be provided again, organised by Bancroft Cruisers. The boats will leave the Dell, with the first departure at about 12.15/12.30pm. Places will be on a first come, first served basis.

Tickets for the lunch will be available from the Royal Shakespeare Company box office to personal and telephone callers (01789 403493) at 10 am on Friday, 16 February.

Online sales will commence on Monday, February 19. The link to the RSC website which will be available for bookings from 10 am on Monday, 19 February is:

Two types of tickets will be sold this year – one for just the lunch at £44 and the other at £49 for the lunch plus the boat transfer. Tickets which are not collected personally from the RSC box office will be posted nearer the date and all buyers will be contacted about a month ahead of the lunch date to confirm seating requests, the menu and special dietary requirements where relevant.

For guests who would like to stay over in Stratford, there will be special room rates at the Crowne Plaza. They will be £99 for a single room and £109 for a double room. These rates are available until the end of February for lunch guests and can be booked via the hotel reception.

This website will be updated as and when new information about the lunch becomes available so if you plan to attend please keep an eye on this page:

If you have queries, please feel free to contact the organisers Alan and Ros Haigh at

Speakers – update

The event will be introduced, as it was last year, by Quentin Willson. Quentin is well known to many people in Stratford but although he may write widely for national newspapers and magazines about cars, his secret is that he’d really much prefer to be writing about Shakespeare. He read English literature at university and adores his Shakespeare. Recently Quentin has helped the Town Trust promote the preservation of the Guild Chapel in Stratford, a building that the town’s most famous son was very familiar with.

Michael Billington was the recipient of the Pragnell Award in 2009 and he has very kindly agreed to give the speech and toast to Shakespeare’s immortal memory at the lunch. Michael has been drama critic of The Guardian since 1971 and of Country Life since 1986. He has been a keen Shakespeare lover ever since he first saw Troilus and Cressida, with Paul Scofield, at the old Memorial Theatre when he was 8 years old.

Aside from journalism, Michael has written a number of books. These include biographies of Harold Pinter and Peggy Ashcroft, a study of post-war British theatre, State of the Nation, and most recently a book about world drama, The 101 Greatest Plays.  He also broadcasts regularly for the BBC.

The Pragnell Award will be presented to Jane Lapotaire at the lunch and she will be introduced by Professor Michael Dobson, the Director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham.

Finally, the speech and toast to the visitors will be given by Penelope, Lady Cobham. Lady Cobham is a board member of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and chairs its Development Board.  In addition to having been a board member of Historic England, Historic Royal Palaces, the V&A and British Waterways, until last year she chaired the national tourist board, VisitEngland. She also spent 20 years developing the 18th Century Hagley Hall as a tourist attraction. Lady Cobham is therefore ideally suited to talk about the importance of our visitors to Stratford.

The speaker who will respond on behalf of the guests at the lunch has not yet been confirmed.