WHAT do an archer, a beekeeper and a morris dancer have in common? They’ll all be part of the second annual Engage 50+ Festival launching in Stratford next weekend.

The idea is simple – to bring everyone together for a week of events and celebrations for those in the second half of life; pooling a wealth of ideas and inspirations for making the most of life from 50 to 100+.

After its huge success in 2017, the Festival will once again launch with a free Information Day. This year that’s happening between 10am and 4pm on Saturday (September 29th) at Stratford College.

There you’ll find 90 local voluntary groups, charities, associations and clubs, plus plenty of interesting, informative and fun talks, workshops and demonstrations. Try dancing zumba style, discover the joys of beekeeping, meet the Men in Sheds, have a go at seated Tai Chi, learn beginner sign language, make new friends with the U3A or WI, strum on a ukulele, try laughter yoga – and so much more.

There’ll also be plenty of practical advice on everything from how to set-up a Power of Attorney to Care Entitlement, plus – new for 2018 – a Health & Wellbeing ‘Village’ where visitors can have a mini health check, discuss diet, exercise and wellbeing and try out the Smoothie Bike – two minutes of pedalling to produce a glass of healthy juice!

Austin Heath Inspired Villages is sponsoring the Inspired Café in the foyer and a second Be Inspired Café, both serving free tea, coffee and biscuits and more substantial food for the peckish at very reasonable prices.

The Orchestra of the Swan is supporting the event, with a duo entertaining visitors at various times throughout the day.

Entry and parking for the Information Day are both free – and there will be free shuttle buses to and from Stratford College from the town centre. Those in the Stratford area who might struggle to get to these can call 01789 471595 and book a door-to-door service – free. (Shuttle bus details are published on the Engage website and in the press.)

The Engage 50+ Festival then continues throughout the following week with a series of events, many free to try.

You could join Sunny Side Up for a singalong at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (2-4pm on Sunday 30th September), get up and have a go with the Shakespeare Morris Men (8-10pm on Monday October 1st at Stratford Racecourse), try your hand at archery with the Stratford Archers (10am -12pm on Tuesday October 2nd at the Home Guard Club in Tiddington), or give walking football a spin (7pm-8.30pm on Tuesday October 2nd at Stratford-upon-Avon School).

Engage is heading to Alcester too – with an Information day on Monday October 1st at the Jubilee Centre in St Faith’s Road. Running between 11am and 2pm, there will be 40+ stands.

And rounding off the Festival this year are two events – The Engage Barn Dance, which will be happening at Great Alne Memorial Hall between 7pm and 10pm on Friday October 5th. Guests will dance to lively music from the Cat’s Whiskers Barn Dance Band with a fish and chip supper also served. Tickets are £10.

Finally, it’s the Sunny Side Up Grand Town Hall Tea Party – happening in the ballroom at Stratford Town Hall. It will take place between 2pm and 4.30pm on Sunday October 7th and include afternoon tea, Prosecco, 1920s Palm Court music, plus the Sunny Siders ukulele group, all for £5 a ticket.

Festival founder Sophie Mansfield said: “There’s a lot going on in the local area for people in the second half of life but it isn’t always easy to discover what’s happening and when, especially for those who don’t use the internet. The Festival is all about addressing that and really helping people to ‘engage’ with what’s going on around them. That can be quite life-changing, and if people leave with a smile on their face having signed up to new activities or volunteering roles or made new friends, we know it’s all so worthwhile.”

The Engage 50+ Festival has received support from Stratford Town Trust, the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All and Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme among others.

For more information visit the website www.engagefestival.org.uk or call 01789 268701.