HUNDREDS of schoolchildren are set to discover Stratford’s best-kept secret with a series of events to celebrate Shakespeare Week.

The Guild Chapel will welcome children from local primary schools throughout the week, running March 20th – 24th, with a range of activities on offer.

On the Monday and Tuesday (March 20th and 21st), pupils will be educated and entertained by the Chapel’s ‘secret storyteller’, teaching them all about medieval worship in the Chapel. The children will be told why, in 1563, William Shakespeare’s father was sent orders from the Queen to cover up the Guild Chapel’s wall paintings.

Discovered under layers of limewash hundreds of years later, some of the best-preserved paintings have recently undergone conservation and can be seen preserved in incredible detail.

The schools visiting the Chapel during Shakespeare Week will be encouraged to explore the images they depict – from skulls to saints and heaven to hell – by taking the Chapel’s new Activity Trail.

Then, later in the week, Escape Arts will head to the Chapel (on Thursday and Friday, March 23rd and 24th) to run a very special art project.

Schoolchildren will be taking part in mono-printing workshops, helping to recreate ‘The Dance of Death’ – a huge painting which ran down one side of the Chapel. A popular medieval theme, the Dance of Death imagery shows people from all walks of life dancing towards the grave, a reminder that no matter your station in life, you’re all heading the same way. Excitingly, fragments of the Guild Chapel’s Dance of Death are now known to have survived the centuries but are currently covered by wooden panelling while the possibility of further conservation is explored.

Several local schools have already signed–up to take advantage of the free activities in the Chapel with other schools welcome to drop-in during the week to hear the storyteller and take the trail.

Pippa Brook, Volunteer Coordinator for the Guild Chapel, said: “The Guild Chapel is such an exciting place, a window into the medieval world Shakespeare was born into. We look forward to sharing some of its secrets during Shakespeare Week and to seeing the Chapel full of children and their teachers, perhaps coming inside for the very first time.”

The final Shakespeare Week event then takes place on Saturday March 25th, when Avon Floral Art will be at the Chapel helping youngsters to make a Mother’s Day posy with flowers popular and present in Shakespeare’s day. The event is free and open to all between 11am and 1pm.

With a history dating back to 1269, the Guild Chapel is one of Stratford’s oldest and most important buildings, with a fascinating history and long associations with the Shakespeare family.

Standing between Shakespeare’s schoolroom and his final home at New Place, it would have been a permanent fixture in his life.

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