Happy Shakespeare Day! That’s right, April 23rd is the day William Shakespeare, the author of some of the world’s most celebrated plays and poems, was born.
To celebrate, special pageants are often held at Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, where Shakespeare grew up, and where thousands of tourists go each year to see his plays performed. The Mayor of Stratford also leads a procession to lay flowers on Shakespeare’s grave, and the bells of Trinity Church ring out in his honour.
So what did I do to celebrate William Shakespeare?
I was invited to a special Shakespeare themed event with Viking; one of the world’s largest suppliers of stationery and office supplies. We were informed we would be mastering the art of calligraphy and learning to write a sonnet. I was sold straight away, not only did the activities seem really cool, but who doesn’t love stationery?! Maybe it’s just me, but my favourite part of going back to school was always the stationery shop you’d do the day before. I loved stocking up on new books, gel pens, and files!
The event was held at ‘The Bull & Gate’, a pub in Kentish Town, North London. The décor of the room was made up to resemble a 16th century living space, with candles burning throughout the room, and portraits hung on the walls. There was even a musician playing the lute and a cardboard cut-out of the man himself which was very Shakespeare-esque.
As I mingled with other bloggers, sipped on prosecco, and enjoyed some delicious canapés, we were introduced to the evening ahead and the activities we’d be partaking in.
My group started with a calligraphy class. Our host for the evening was Mathilda, a calligrapher from Quill London, who’s beautiful handwriting made the art look effortless.
The main rule we were taught was “thin going up, thick going down”. To achieve different thicknesses, you apply different levels of pressure to the nib. Lighter pressure creates thinner lines, and more pressure creates thicker lines. Getting the balance right was a little tricky, although the most challenging thing for me, was holding the pen straight, as I usually write with the nib slightly angled.
We started by perfecting our alphabet, learning the different techniques for writing small and capitalised letters. Once we felt comfortable, we moved on to words, so I of course tried my hand at writing ‘Ashley’s Footprints’. I think I did alright for someone who’s never tried calligraphy before, although I definitely have a long way to go!
Next up was sonnet writing. A sonnet is a special form of poetry that takes its name from the Italian word sonetto, which means “little song” or “little sound.” Sonnets are lyrical poems of 14 lines that follow a specific rhyming pattern and usually feature two contrasting characters, events, beliefs or emotions
I have always been interested in poetry and used to write a lot of poems as a child. In fact, I actually had a poem published whilst I was at primary school titled ‘The Winter Wind’, which I can still recite. For me, a poem isn’t a poem unless it rhymes – it just reads so much better! Plus, trying to figure out rhyming couplets is all part of the fun!
For our sonnet writing lesson, we were introduced to Jacqueline, who has won numerous awards for her poetry. Her passion for poetry really came through and she gave us a lot of information and tips on different writing styles. We started by reading a couple of famous sonnets to get an idea of the rhythm, and typical topics. When it came to writing one, we started by writing a line each, and then passing it around in a circle for the next person to write. I particularly liked this method as it didn’t put a lot of pressure on you individually to produce a world class sonnet, and meant you were constantly writing about different topics, which helped me to be more creative.
OUR GIFT SET
I had a brilliant time at Viking’s Shakespeare event and loved learning two brand new skills; calligraphy and sonnet writing. Upon leaving, we were gifted a beautiful calligraphy and writing set containing parchment paper, calligraphy pens and nibs, writing ink, sealing wax and envelopes. I’m looking forward to using it.
What are you doing to celebrate Shakespeare week? Let me know in the comments below.
I received an invite to this event in exchange for a review. Views are my own.