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Alfresco Shakespeare in an English Seaside Garden!

2 June 2016

In 2016 the UK is celebrating not one, but two of Great Britain's most wonderful heritage assets; William Shakespeare, arguably the world's most famous play write, and the 'English Garden', indisputably a quintessential feature of British culture.

Italian Gardens in Eastbourne

So, in the 'Year of the English Garden', a tourism campaign launched by VisitBritain and also with the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death being commemorated in 2016, here in Eastbourne we're offering our visitors a delightful double-serving of alfresco Shakespeare set in the stunning and secluded Italian Gardens, which are located at the foot of the South Downs National Park.

Plus, a whole lot more gardens for the green-fingered, nature loving visitors to explore and more Shakespeare and the arts for our culture-vulture visitors!

‘All the world’s a stage’ or all the garden is a stage in Eastbourne, when William Shakespeare’s As You Like It is recreated in the Italian Gardens. Located at Holywell Retreat; a quaint and peaceful beach, the Italian Gardens are home to a unique wooded amphitheatre carved out of Beachy Head’s famous white chalk cliffs and surrounded by beautiful trees and this creates the perfect setting for a summer's night watching some of Shakespeare's best works unfold in a stunning alfresco location.

As You Like It by EODS

Bringing Shakespeare and nature together, Eastbourne Dramatic and Operatic Society, recreate one of Shakespeare’s most memorable plays from 27 July to 6 August. The ItalianGardens are transformed into ‘The Forest of Arden’, the setting in which Shakespeare’s most modern of women, Rosalind, tries to teach her lover and the audience how to win and keep a lover, whilst dressed as a man!

There really isn't a more romantic way to spend Mid-summer evenings, than in these beautiful secluded gardens which are often referred to as 'Eastbourne’s best kept secret'. Visitors, residents and holiday-makers can come and absorb culture, the striking natural beauty of the beach-facing gardens and a truly enchanting atmosphere.

The gardens boast undercover seating or a grassed area ideal for setting up a picnic and taking in all the action from the ‘front-row’ and with a refreshment marquee selling hot drinks, soft drinks and wines and beers, plus an array of delicious cakes, theatre-goers will have have both their culture appetites met, as well as their foodie needs met.

More Shakespeare comes in the form of a ‘Macbeth’ parody, when The Rude Mechanical Theatre Company stages Macbyrd in the Italian Gardens for one night only on 10 July. The setting of the Shakespearean satire is Sussex’s very own Jevington village (just a few miles outside of Eastbourne) and this absurd comedy which features 16 birds as lead characters, portrays power struggles in a WW2 English community.

Italian Market

Love Italy, but can't afford that trip to Rome or Milan this year? Nevermind, a trip to Eastbourne will allow you to discover some more Italian culture when the smells and flavours of Italy come to Eastbourne at the Seafront Italian Market, from 28-30 July! There are dozens of edible Italian delights to be scooped-up, from pastas, antipastos and pizzas, to meats, fishes and of course an array of Italy's yummiest sweet treats, ice-cream, tiramisu and more!

Another one for the arts and Italian culture loving visitors this summer, OperaCoast brings a two-day course for aspiring performers to the Birley Centre, culminating in a performance of opera, La Rondine by Italian composer, Giacomo Puccini on Sunday 24 July. You can even sign-up to the two-course and have your five minutes of fame in this community opera!

Even more comedy-esque Shakespeare arrives in Eastbourne in August, when the DevonshirePark Theatre presents The ShakespeareRevue, a comic concoction of hilarious sketches and show-stopping numbers where Shakespeare meets showbiz in a dazzling cabaret-style musical originally produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

'In an English Country Garden....' Come and Explore the Gardens Trail in and around Eastbourne!


Gorgeous gardens and literary links are bountiful in and around Eastbourne. National Trust run Bateman’s in nearby Burwash is the former home of world famous author and poet, Rudyard Kipling. ‘Just So Story Day’ on 3 August where visitors to Bateman’s can listen to stories inspired by Kipling’s daughter’s inquisitive nature, and ‘The Jungle Book Trail’ on 22 July, are just two literature-inspired ways to explore Bateman’s striking gardens.

Enchanting Charleston, country home of the Bloomsbury Group, has a very colourful history and the walled garden designed in 1916 was inspired by ‘Italian fresco’, with mosaics, box hedges, gravel pathways and ponds. The house and gardens are open to the public Wednesday-Sunday until 30 October.

Michelham PrioryMichelham Priory boasts a fascinating 800 year-old history, 7 acres of grounds and gardens, a medieval herb garden, a working watermill and forge and an interactive medieval gallery. Garden explorers can visit the Tudor manor house from 10.30am-5pm until 31 October.
Ocklynge Manor in Eastbourne

If you are planning an overnight stay and you want a gorgeous garden to feast your eyes on, you should book in to Ocklynge Manor, a 300 year-old manor house which is surrounded by a stunning three-quarter acre garden, complete with with an abundance of flowers and plants, it really is dreamy. So dreamy in fact that Mabel Lucie Attwell, the illustrator of J.M.Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan’ once lived in the house and imagined up many of the splendid imagery featured in 'Peter Pan', in this very house. You'll find a historic blue plaque commemorating her on the road-side wall of the manor.

For more information on ‘As You Like It’, the Italian Gardens and all events and attractions listed here go to

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