Published on 8 February 2021
A leading language school in Stratford is hoping to bring the town and Shakespeare to the world - despite lockdown, Covid and Brexit.
OHC, which is based on the Tiddington Road in the town, usually attracts around 500 students from various countries every year to hone their language skills.
Covid has forced the college, which has been in operation on the site for 35 years, to close its doors and furlough its staff but now it is hoping that international learners will hear all about the town's heritage.
The company is planning to stage virtual tours which can be streamed live online to students to ensure they still get their fix of the Bard and learn about Stratford's role as an international centre of literature and heritage.
As well as helping its students, OHC is hoping it will help the town recover by stimulating interest in time for when international travel returns.
Georgina Collier, a director of the Holmes Education Group which owns the school, said: "Obviously by the nature of what we do we have been hit very hard by Covid. There are no students coming to the UK on trips and there has been very little international travel for the past 10 months.
"We are limited to what we can offer online because so much of what we do is about experiencing face-to-face what the UK has to offer. English is not easy to learn online, but we are offering some teaching and part of that takes in a focus on Shakespeare.
"That is quite straightforward when we are in Stratford, but not so easy now! Therefore, we are now looking to work with a guide to do a real time tour which will be streamed live to online students who are studying with us. We are currently approaching guides and we're hopeful it will happen quite soon."
Georgina, who also oversees the company's colleges in Westminster, Richmond and Oxford, is hoping the virtual tours will encourage the students to visit for real once more normal times return.
"We really hope that this will lead to more people visiting Stratford once they are allowed to because the level of support we have had from Stratford District Council has been superb," she added.
"It is the only location where we have had total support and we are so grateful for what they've done for us.
"We have received rates relief and £25,000 of funding, but it's been the level of communication, understanding and the overall spirit of support from officers and councillors which has been the most impressive.
"We have been totally bowled over by the reaction and it has meant so much to us as a company and also the staff who work in the town.
"We can't wait until safer times return and we are able to attract people into Stratford to see just what a wonderful place it is and to contribute to the local economy."
Cllr Matt Jennings, Economic Development & Tourism Portfolio Holder for Stratford District Council, said: "This has been, and still remains, an extremely difficult time for business but it is pleasing to hear that the efforts of our officers in processing grants quickly is appreciated.
"The language school is very well-established, and we all look forward to the day when it can open its doors once again and welcome in students from across the globe.
"For many of those young people, their first experience of the UK happens here in Stratford, and that remains with them for the rest of their lives."
Stratford-on-Avon District Council
Elizabeth House, Church Street,
Tel: 01789 267575