Education & Family

William Shakespeare: Anniversary project set for global stage

Shakespeare Lives Image copyright Michal Daniel
Image caption Shakespeare Lives will reach a global audience: Michelle O'Neill in Macbeth at the Guthrie Theater in the US.

The 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare next year will be marked by a major global cultural and educational project in 140 countries.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said the playwright was "one of our greatest literary exports".

The initiative will include working with young people without access to school in developing countries.

The British Council's Sir Ciaran Devane said the project would reflect Shakespeare's "global impact".

Speaking in the Houses of Parliament at the launch of Shakespeare Lives, Mr Whittingdale emphasised the playwright's cultural significance and international influence.

Globe to global

"Shakespeare is a major driver of tourism and also an important player in our export market. And the creative industries which he towers over are a huge part of our economy," said Mr Whittingdale.

"It is very hard to overstate the scale and scope of his reach."

Image copyright Sergey Petrov
Image caption "Full of sound and fury" - Sakha theatre production of Macbeth in Moscow

Partners in the 400th anniversary project include the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare's Globe and the BBC.

There will be performances, publications, films, broadcasts, online events and festivals.

Schools in the UK and around the world will be given resources and video clips, exploring themes such as "global citizenship".

'Soft power'

But there will also be an alliance with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) to use the Shakespeare events to reach those young people who are excluded from education.

Despite a millennium pledge for universal primary education, there are about 58 million children who have no access to school - mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

There are an estimated 250 million young people around the world who are unable to read or write.

Image caption Shakespeare was buried in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1616

"When millions of children cannot read, they become cut off from learning those lessons that literature can offer," said Philip Goodwin, VSO chief executive.

The exercise in cultural "soft power" will include events in the United States, Bangladesh, Malaysia, New Zealand, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates.

Sir Ciaran, British Council chief executive, said the playwright was "one of the most enduring examples of cultural impact and relations".

He said the "genius" of Shakespeare's language had given "people from all walks of life a platform for self-expression".

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