Timed to honour William Shakespeare's 450th birthday, organisers hope the inaugural national Shakespeare Week, planned for mid-March 2014, will capture the imaginations of more than three million young British readers and their families.
Schools, theatres, museums and galleries have consistently galvanised Shakespeare’s enduring influence. But the first campaign to officially promote learning based around his works, led by the Birthplace Trust overseeing his Stratford-upon-Avon home and backed by the British Museum and Arts Council England, will co-ordinate activities centrally and issue a special Passport to Shakespeare.
© Courtesy Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
“We are launching Shakespeare Week because we believe that Shakespeare is for everyone, rather than the happy few,” said Jacqueline Green, the Trust’s Head of Learning and Participation.
“We want to bypass the barriers that make people say, ‘Shakespeare is not for us.’
“Primary school is where magic can still happen, and children are most receptive to learning new things.
“Shakespeare Week will be fun, exciting and free to access online.
“Working with partners across the country means we can bring Shakespeare vividly to life on the doorsteps of millions of children, and encourage a new generation to discover his rich creative and cultural legacy.”
The initial list of participating venues reflects Shakespeare’s pervasive power.
The Wordsworth Trust in Cumbria and the National Centre for Children's Books in Newcastle have been joined by the likes of The National Trust and English Heritage, as well as established Shakespearean fixtures such as the Shakespeare Schools Festival.
Tudor sites include the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and Knebworth House. And the involvement of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the acclaimed Orchestra of the Swan should ensure an impressive programme of performances.
Carol Rutter, a Professor at the University of Warwick whose Shakespeare Without Chairs project has been made part of the National Curriculum, called Shakespeare’s writing “one of the most important things we can give our children.”
“In a very real sense, Shakespeare is the syllabus,” she observed, adding that his language would “continuously stretch intellectual and emotional capacities”.
“He's someone they can know for the rest of their lives. He'll tell them some of the most electrifying stories they'll ever hear.
“He'll talk to them about some of the biggest ideas they'll ever have to think about and deal with. He'll give them access to some of the most fascinating, terrifying, troubled, funny, endearing people they'll ever encounter.
“In every area of human activity, from mathematics to gardening to astronomy to military discipline, Shakespeare is there, prompting us to think and feel.”
- National Shakespeare Week will take place March 17-23 2014. Visit shakespeareweek.org.uk to get involved.