Street Art Installation for Shakespeare’s Birthday Revives High Street

A first of its kind urban art installation will be displayed in Stratford-upon-Avon town centre, which will see established urban artists revamp now-disused retail spaces on the high street to create an immersive exhibition influenced by some of William Shakespeare’s best-known sonnets. 

Acclaimed artists Church of Best Ever, Cee Illustrate, Ed Hicks, Tom J Newell, Zoe Power, and Pete Barber will unveil their new work on Shakespeare’s 459th birthday on Friday 21st April 2023.

Global Street Art, in partnership with Stratford-Upon-Avon District Council and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, will be showcasing the selected works which will bring to life some of Shakespeare’s most notable sonnets. The urban exhibition will marry the quintessentially British nature of Shakespeare’s prose with an interpretation of art in the modern age. 


The new street installations are inspired by the historic graffiti that visitors have left in Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Dating back to the 1500s, many have inscribed their initials and names into glass as a mark of honour and pilgrimage. These marks in the present day would be known as graffiti tags. 

The gallery experience, curated by Global Street Art, will serve as a real-life example of how art in the streetscape can be utilised as a catalyst for rejuvenating the high street for the local community and tourists. 

In 2022, over 17,000 shops were permanently closed in the UK, a 50% increase on 2021 during the pandemic, and the UK Centre for Retail Research estimates that Retailers and Landlords will have to pay close to £1.1bn in the coming tax year to cover business rates on empty sites.

Sonnet 130 – Love, by Pete Barber

Various research projects in the UK and USA have shown a positive relationship between urban and Street Art and real estate values. The installation will demonstrate how urban art can play a key role in regeneration with a unique feature that uses QR codes to link to information. 

The project therefore aims to renew a sense of pride amongst the local community and draw together those from neighbouring towns to congregate and enjoy these captivating pieces of art.

The art works also seeks to draw in tourists from across the country and beyond to visit the new landmark – bringing a new wave of investment to local businesses in the process. The mobile art exhibit will remain in the district following the unveiling to be showcased in different parts of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Sonnet 119 – Infidelity, by Ed Hicks 

Dr Lee Bofkin, CEO of Global Street Art, commented, “It’s been a pleasure to partner with Stratford-on-Avon District Council on this exciting project to bring something new and unexpected to the high street. We’re thrilled to bring our unique approach to supporting urban art installations to Shakespeare’s hometown, and create an immersive experience for visitors and locals alike, particularly at this important milestone in the year.” He added, “These installations by six incredibly talented artists are thought-provoking, engaging, and bring a fresh take to Shakespeare. We’re excited to show how art can help bring people together and create a sense of place.” 

Tony Perks, deputy chief executive at Stratford-on-Avon District Council, said, “We know that empty shops are an issue in town centres across the county. This project has the opportunity to deliver an exciting and vibrant series of art works, to tempt more people and visitors alike back into our town centres, and help local businesses flourish. 

Sonnet 12 – Time, by Zoe Power 

Prof Charlotte Scott, director of knowledge and engagement at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said, “Although Shakespeare’s Sonnets are sometimes less publicly accessible than his plays, they are central to his lyrical development as an artist and frequently provide the inspiration for some of the most popular renditions of love, loss, ageing, desire and creativity itself. It will be fascinating to see how these talented artists have been able to interpret and respond to specific Sonnets.”

Sonnet 65 – Mortality, by Church of Best Ever 

The concepts, which will be featured right by Shakespeare’s Birthplace at 22 Henley street in Stratford-upon-Avon, are: 

  • Sonnet 65 – Mortality, by Church of Best Ever 
  • Sonnet 18 – Beauty, by Cee Illustrate 
  • Sonnet 119 – Infidelity, by Ed Hicks 
  • Sonnet 63 – Jealousy, by Tom J Newell
  • Sonnet 12 – Time, by Zoe Power 
  • Sonnet 130 – Love, by Pete Barber
Sonnet 63 – Jealousy, by Tom J Newell

Funding of £50,000 was approved by Stratford-on-Avon District Council to work in partnership with The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who have contributed £7,500 to the project, to commission original artworks to be displayed in these empty shop windows. In addition to managing the delivery of the project Global Street Art have contributed £30,000 towards the overall costs.

Sonnet 18 – Beauty, by Cee Illustrate 
The official launch this morning

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