The British Council and GREAT Britain campaign will organize Shakespeare Lives, a global program that will take place throughout 2016 to celebrate William Shakespeare’s legacy and mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.
The program will include live performances, films, exhibitions, public readings and debates that will take place in 140 countries from January to December. The program also aims to help children in some of the world’s poorest communities through a partnership with UK-based charity Voluntary Services Overseas.
While half of the world’s children study Shakespeare today, there are still 250 million school-aged children who cannot read or write, according to the organization.
“When studying Shakespeare, children learn valuable lessons in love, life and creativity,” said Philip Goodwin, VSO chief executive. “However when millions of children cannot read, they become cut off from learning those lessons that literature can offer. (Education) is 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.”
In China, Shakespeare Lives will kick off a large-scale digital campaign on January 12 to support VSO’s fundraising for education projects.
The British Council and BBC Arts will organize an online “Shakespeare Day Live” on April 23, 2016 and a six-month “Shakespeare Lives” online festival.
The Royal Shakespeare Company says it will distribute school packs to 32,000 schools in the UK and 100,000 schools worldwide. The school packs will include access to video performances and will explore themes of global citizenship through Shakespeare’s plays and characters, including leadership, power, equality and justice.
Shakespeare Lives organizers include the GREAT Britain Campaign, the British Council, Education UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK Trade and Investment and VisitBritain.
Partners include BBC, the British Film Institute, the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Shakespeare 400 consortium, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Shakespeare’s Globe.