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Global Celebration of William Shakespeare to reach millions in 2016

Global Celebration of William Shakespeare to reach millions in 2016
November 26, 2015

Shakespeare Lives, a major global programme for 2016 celebrating Shakespeare’s works and his influence on culture, education and society on the 400th anniversary of his death will present the opportunity for millions of people across the world to actively participate in a unique digital collaboration as well as experience Shakespeare’s works directly through brand new productions of his plays, film, exhibitions, public readings and educational resources.

In New Zealand, the celebrations kick off with a visit from award-winning playwright and actor Tim Crouch, who will be presenting his unique brand of Shakespearean performance with ‘I Peaseblossom’ – a work created around A Midsummer Night’s Dream most minor character, a fairy called Peaseblossom who shares her hilarious identity crisis with the audience.

British Council Director NZ, Ingrid Leary stated “we have been chasing Tim to come to NZ for several years now, with this outrageous piece of theatre, so we are delighted he can make it at this poignant time, being the start of the global celebration of Shakespeare’s life.”

The GREAT Britain Campaign partners leading Shakespeare Lives are the British Council, Education UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK Trade and Investment and VisitBritain.

Since his earliest plays Shakespeare has inspired entire generations - world leaders, writers, film makers, artists, composers and performers have all turned to Shakespeare to reflect their own lives and times and change the course of history.

Celebrating the enduring influence of one of the world’s greatest playwrights and poets, Shakespeare Lives will not only explore his global legacy but also continue to demonstrate how his stories, themes and language are relevant in the modern world and can remain central to the lives of future generations.

Shakespeare Lives is possible due to the unprecedented number of partnerships and collaborations between the British Council, the GREAT Britain campaign partners and organisations including the BBC, the BFI (British Film Institute), the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Shakespeare 400 consortium, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Shakespeare’s Globe.

From a unique online collaboration to performances on stage and film, exhibitions, public readings, conversations and debates and educational resources for classrooms and English language learners, people around the world in over 140 countries and of all ages will have the chance to actively participate and get involved throughout the year.

While half the world’s school children study Shakespeare today, there are still 250 million children who cannot read or write. The Shakespeare Lives partnership with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) will support their work to help more children have access to education worldwide.

VSO Chief Executive Dr Philip Goodwin explains “when studying Shakespeare, children learn valuable lessons in love, life and creativity.

“However when millions of children cannot read, they become cut off from learning those lessons that literature can offer.

“We believe that every child deserves an education. It’s a direct route out of poverty but in many countries teachers are poorly trained and pupils are excluded from classrooms because of their gender or ability.

“Our volunteers work hard to improve the education outcomes of children across the world and this partnership will shine a light on the great work they do.”

Major highlights in the Shakespeare Lives programme include:

• A mass participation digital campaign, Play Your Part, launched on Twelfth Night in January 2016 to support VSO’s fundraising for their work in education;

• The British Council and BBC Arts are collaborating with key cultural partners to showcase the best of modern British Shakespeare for international audiences. This includes an online ‘Shakespeare Day Live’ on 23 April 2016 and a six month ‘Shakespeare Lives’ online festival;

• A schools pack created in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company and available in translation. The pack will explore themes of global citizenship through Shakespeare’s plays and characters such as leadership and power, identity, equality and justice. Distributed to 32,000 schools in the UK and 100,000 schools worldwide with access to video clips from RSC performances;

• New interactive materials for English language learners of all ages, including a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, exploring the relevance of Shakespeare on the FutureLearn platform;

• A global touring programme in association with the BFI, the largest ever organized by the British Council, of 20 great interpretations of Shakespeare's works for the cinema from the BFI National Archive, including Silent Shakespeare, Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948), Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968) and Richard Loncraine's Richard III (1995) starring Ian McKellen, who is also spearheading the BFI’s Shakespeare on Film season starting in April.

• National Theatre Live Shakespeare films will also be made available globally alongside screenings of historically-acclaimed and ground-breaking contemporary Shakespeare productions, including the international premiere of the film of Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre’s Hamlet starring Maxine Peake.

• Commissions from cutting-edge artists from the UK’s creative sector including Viktoria Modesta, David Wilson and a collaboration with SBTV and UK grime artists who will create their own personal responses to popular Shakespeare moments to inspire young audiences globally to explore his work and enter a creative competition to submit their own response to Shakespeare. These films will be available to view online as well as potentially being showcased at film festivals throughout the year;

• A series of essays written by leading contemporary figures will explore Shakespeare’s enduring importance and relevance today and for future generations;

• A series of literary translation workshops around the world in partnership with Shakespeare’s Globe, the British Centre for Literary Translation and Writers’ Centre Norwich which bring together translators, writers, actors, directors and academics to explore the cultural and linguistic challenges and complexities of translating Shakespeare’s plays and poetry.

• Other initiatives include leading UK and international poets invited to respond to Shakespeare’s sonnets in new ways; Meera Syal and Steven Berkoff at the Emirates Literature Festival in UAE; Tim Crouch in Malaysia and New Zealand; The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company delivering a series of workshop tours, live performances and professional development programmes across Sudan, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia; a new production of Romeo and Juliet created by Graeae Theatre Company and Dhaka Theatre, Bangladesh, through a long-term training programme with disabled adults; and intercultural theatre company Terra Nova Productions performing The Belfast Tempest at the Titanic Docks in Belfast with an international cast of over 200.

For programme details visit

Images: William Shakespeare (top) and Auckland's planned recreation of the Globe Theatre which will will ‘pop up’ on 19th and 20th February next year (middle and below).




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