Swanning Around Stratford

By Lady Chater Lea of Ketton

I’ve just returned from getting my second Red Hat Ladies Convention under my belt, or should I have said hat!

Four ladies from our chapter made it to Stratford upon Avon for the 10th U.K convention to join another 200 or so Hatters out for a good time. What a colourful ensemble we made! Friday night saw us decked out in Shakespearean or Elizabethan costumes, in red and purple of course, for a 3 course meal followed by an Elizabethan hoedown.

Saturday morning we toured Stratford on four open topped buses before parading through the main street led by the town crier. ‘Free time’ on Saturday afternoon was spent sightseeing, shopping, cruising the river or just having a good old natter. Saturday evening a drinks reception was followed by another 3 course feast, this time wearing posh frocks. After this a live band and disco kept the more energetic on their feet until 1.00. Sadly our group were all flagging before then and in our beds by midnight.

Sunday morning saw the ‘handing over of the hat’ to the Liverpool chapter who are hosting next year’s event. With a theme of Desperate Scousewives I think that there will be plenty of scope for the more imaginative amongst us.

Before our final goodbyes a competition took place between four Queens to see who could ‘Talk like a queen, walk like a queen and dress like a queen.’ The last category caused much merriment when some loyal subjects removed their bras to enable their queen to achieve this goal. Our very own Queen Tess was the outright winner when it came to walk (dance) like a Queen.

On this happy note we made our way back to Rutland looking forward to next year’s hoot and hoping that we will at least double our numbers.

By Lady Lynndor
Imagine if you can, 200 women of a certain age, dressed in purple and all wearing red hats being guided across a major road by a very helpful female lady police officer. Not exactly “in twos” but making one long “snake” from  the four star Holiday Inn to board open topped buses for a guided tour of Stratford upon Avon. What a diversion we caused to those drivers trying to navigate the one way system! Waving arms hooting horns, swerving vans, families in cars! We filled 4 buses and set off, still waving to the astonished public along the way.
Picture the same 200 ladies led by a very poetic Town Crier along the centre of the shopping area. Lots of by-standers wanted to take photographs of us and some even wanted to be on the photos with us and many  were eager to find out what we were all about. However hard you try, you will not be able to visualise how amazing we looked! For me this had to be the high spot of the weekend, but it is actually very hard to find one particular part that stands out above the rest when you have experienced a Red Hat Convention and everything that it involves.
Friday evening dinner saw us dressed in Elizabethan/ Shakespearian costumes. What an amazing array of dresses, costumes, hats and accessories!! I underestimated the versatility of Red Hatters, but being a Convention virgin I had no idea what to expect! Whilst dining we were entertained by Shakespearean actors and I have to say that this was probably my “low spot”. Having been put off Shakespeare at school I’m afraid it left me cold and all I wanted was my dinner! The hoe-down after proved to be good fun but having a broken little toe held me back some. Could Saturdays Gala dinner top this? You bet it did!  Evening dresses galore, bling enough to light the city, gifts on the table and free wine! Wow! After dinner we were entertained by a fabulous group who played great dancing music and the Red Hatters were up “bopping”  in every corner of the room because the dance floor was full!
Altogether it was a great experience and I am glad I went. The hotel was great, Red Hatters were as you would expect, very friendly and ready to have a good time, weather was lovely, Stratford, a great place to hold the convention. On a personal note My fellow Not Stuck in a Rut-landers made it all the more pleasurable by being great company. We shared great lunches, retail therapy, laughs, busy breakfasts, before dinner drinks and silly games on the last morning! We got to know each other a lot better and what more can you ask for?   I feel I have made 3 more good friends, thank you ladies!
Roll on next year when I hope more of you will join in the fun. It’s going to be in Liverpool and “us from up north know how to party”!         Lady Lyndor

Femme Fleur Du Bonnet Rouge writes

Swanning around in Stratford hosted by The Scintillating Sophisticats

Nothing can quite prepare you for the spectacle of 200 Red Hatters in Shakespearean Dress! Believe me it was overwhelming. Not only the sheer size of the red and purple sea, but the ingenuity of the costumes. Who was that tall lady in purple breeches and a large Leicester City car park sign on her back? Richard 111 of course! How did those witches eat their meal sporting the longest of false noses – I’m pleased to say I never saw them eating their roast beef. But what I did see was an amazing number of Red Hat Ladies who had used all their imagination to be both authentic and original, while having loads of fun!

Equally awesome was the Saturday Parade through Stratford’s pedestrian zone. Led by town criers and other dignitaries, the Red Hat Ladies snaked towards the centre of Stratford. Both locals and visitors wanted photographs and an explanation of who we were, and why red and purple. Luckily Tess, Marjorie and Lynne were on hand to tell the tale. A shopkeeper emerged from The Nutcracker Christmas shop and donated a contribution, others asked very politely for photos. One minute the Town Crier was booming his verse, and just as quickly the parade was over and the crowd had dispersed like a burst bubble. Small groups of purple and red could be seen throughout the afternoon enjoying the Market and tucked away shops, or tasting local morsels as we did in the Emporium .

I have just enjoyed the best of weekends – thank you Tess for entering the Miss Swan of Stratford and outdancing the other Queens, thank you Lynne for those lovely soft gloves you won in the raffle and most of all thank you Marjorie for sharing your room and encouraging me to come!

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