A brief history of Stratfords of the World
STRATFORDS OF THE WORLD (formerly known as STRATFORD UPON AVON SISTER CITIES) - a brief history by Dr. Geoffrey Lees, former Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon
Since the mid 1980s Stratford upon Avon has been privileged to enjoy a Sister Cities link with other Stratfords of the world following an invitation from Stratford Connecticut and Stratford Ontario to establish exchanges between the three communities. The link has subsequently been extended to include Stratford New Zealand, Stratford Prince Edward Island and Stratford Victoria (Australia).
The first visit was in April 1984 when the Stratford Connecticut High School Band visited Stratford Ontario. The following spring the Connecticut Band toured England performing in Stratford upon Avon during the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations along with the Perth County Pipe Band from Ontario and the Stratford upon Avon Wind Band Association This was the beginning of the three way link between Stratfords of the old world and the new world.
In July1986 Connecticut became host to visitors from Stratford residents of Ontario and the United Kingdom. This reunion was followed by others, again with a mainly musical theme, in Stratford (UK) in 1987, Stratford (Ontario) in 1988 and Stratford (Ct again) in 1997.
In the following years the opportunity presented itself to include drama, dance and other cultural activities into the objectives of the Sister City link, a highlight occurring during summer of 1991 when a group of actors from Stratford Connecticut came to England to present a play entitled "Stratford Characters" written by Steven Otfinoski. The People of Stratford Drama group from Stratford UK contributed a piece written by local author Charles Calvert.
Two years later in 1993 the 'People of Stratford' joined with the 'English Renaissance Dancers' in a week-long visit to Stratford Connecticut. As reported in the Connecticut 'Stratford Star', "the two groups presented a series of programs celebrating and re-creating the life, times and works of Shakespeare, using dance, music and, of course, his own words".
Reunions have continued at approximately two year intervals eg UK 1992, Ontario 1993, Connecticut 1995. In 1997 the enlargement of the world Stratford grouping saw visitors from Stratford New Zealand and Stratford Prince Edward Island join their hosts in Warwickshire, with New Zealand taking up the challenge to host the next reunion in 1999, this time with Stratfordians from Victoria, Australia taking part.
Since that time, during which the organisation adopted a new title of "Stratfords of the World", reunions have flourished, taking place in Prince Edward Island (2001), Victoria (2003), UK (2005), Ontario (2007), Taranaki (2010, Prince Edward Island (2012) and Connecticut in 2014.