Monday 15 April 2013


I have dispatched the following letter to the Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England:

14th of April 2013

Dear Mr Mayor.

During my recent visit to Stratford-upon-Avon I came across a number of establishments relating to one William Shakespeare, for example the "Royal Shakespeare Theatre", the "Shakespeariance" and the "Shakespeare Hotel". There were also a number of retail outlets selling everything from leather-bound Romeo and Juliet scripts to glow-in-the-dark Hamlet skulls. In this way I'm afraid I was forced to make the same observation that several visitors have made to another very similar location, in this case a city called Roswell in New Mexico, in the United States of America. In fact I'm writing to suggest that Stratford-upon-Avon be twinned with Roswell.

Roswell, New Mexico is famous because in July of 1947 there was a highly secretive military operation nearby that is reported to be the response to the presence of an artefact from an extraterrestrial civilization. The artefact, some kind of aerial vehicle or spacecraft, crashed to the ground near Roswell around the 4th of July. The US Government responded by sealing off the location of the crash and secretly salvaging the wreckage, and also the bodies of the beings piloting the craft. They then maintained the illusion that such an event never occurred, something they still do to the present day. (This interpretation is of course highly disputed, but I've found that the chapters of history are rarely untouched by any and all revisionism.) Since then the city has become a tourist attraction for UFO enthusiasts in the same way that Stratford has for Shakespeare fans, with souvenir shops, live shows, conferences and other facilities. Some visitors have noted with derision "the model aliens and flying saucers", UFO books and other items on sale (Pilkington 2010 and Wallace 2005). They see it as crude, mercenary and avaricious. They dislike the way innocent tourists are asked to part with their money simply over a famous incident that took place near the town over sixty-five years ago

Personally, I wholeheartedly agree with those commentators; that it is indeed a disgrace for a town to attempt to exploit its own history for its profit and prosperity. Therefore it infuriated me to see Stratford doing exactly the same in this way with Shakespeare as Roswell has done with UFO's. How dare you!? In order to reach an amicable solution I would like to make the following request... nay, demand... nay, insistence:
* All establishments in Stratford-upon-Avon using the name "William Shakespeare" or "Shakespeare" must be immediately closed. All shops and hotels must surrender their licenses, all future theatre shows and other similar festivals must be cancelled. After a cooling-off period they may be reopened under new franchises; but on no account must they, in any way shape or form, make any reference to William Shakespeare. All merchandise in the Stratford-upon-Avon retail sphere relating to William Shakespeare must be immediately recalled from sale.
Failure to comply with my insistence will result in me being forced to write to the Queen, the Prime Minister, the President of the United States and the Secretary General of the United Nations with a petition stating that for the sake of good taste and public decency, Stratford-upon-Avon must be twinned forever, in infamy and degradation, with Roswell, New Mexico.

Yours Sincerely

Ben Emlyn-Jones

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