A TOAST will be raised to Shakespeare at the annual Thomas Oken’s Feast in Warwick, which honours one of the county town’s greatest benefactors.
To mark the recent 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death, the Mayor of Stratford has been invited to attend the event. It is believed Thomas Oken, Mayor of Warwick in the 1560s, was a friend of Shakespeare’s father, the then mayor of Stratford, and would probably have known his son.
Today’s two mayors – Warwick’s Christine Cross and Stratford’s Juliet Short (Stratford) – will attend a special public service at St Mary’s Church, followed by the annual Oken Feast in the Lord Leycester Hospital on January 27.
Clive Mason, chairman of Thomas Oken trustees, said: “Thomas Oken left a bequest of £40 to Stratford-upon-Avon for them to hold their own Oken’s Feast. The Warwick feast was resurrected in 1952, to which the Stratford mayor was invited, and we have now revived that to celebrate our link with Shakespeare, following the 400th anniversary of his death.”
Mr Mason said that the church service, which begins at 7pm, is held in accordance with Thomas Oken’s wishes and everyone in the town is invited to come and enjoy the music and hymns.
The evening will begin with the traditional parade of trustees, dignitaries and townspeople from the Court House to the church, led by Mr Mason and the Warwick mayor, and closes with the annual feast in the Guild Hall at the Lord Leycester Hospital.
The Charity of Thomas Oken and Nicholas Eyffler is one of Warwick’s oldest charities, founded in 1571. Today it owns 14 alms houses in Castle Hill and Bowling Green Street and makes significant grants most years for ‘relief in need’ in the town. Recent grants have included Myton Hospice, Lord Leycester Hospital and Warwick Apprenticing Charity.