450th Anniversary Celebrations

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust announces initiatives to celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th anniversary in 2014.

11 February 2014

-          Stratford-upon-Avon - new exhibition at Shakespeare’s Birthplace

-          UK-wide - Shakespeare Week for primary school children

-          International:   

  •  Shakespeare on the Road (USA)
  •  Singing Shakespeare choral project


The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has announced major initiatives to put Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon on the world’s map for the celebrations of the playwright’s 450th anniversary in 2014.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has launched a major new, national campaign to bring Shakespeare’s legacy to life for children with their schools and families across the UK.  Shakespeare Week (17-23 March 2014) will unite primary schools, theatres, galleries, museums, cinemas, libraries, musicians, publishers and historic places in a nationwide celebration of Shakespeare’s cultural and creative influence.   Every child taking part in school will receive a Passport to Shakespeare, which will give them access with their families and schools to events and activities organised by local and national arts and heritage venues throughout the UK. 

More than 1,900 schools and 150 organisations have already joined the campaign.  Many are planning to run special family-friendly events and activities during Shakespeare Week and beyond.  The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will be running different family programmes at the Shakespeare Family Homes that it cares for in Stratford-upon-Avon on weekends from 22/23 March and every day of the Easter school holiday period (12-27 April). www.shakespeareweek.org.uk

A brand new exhibition will welcome visitors at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. ‘Famous Beyond Words – Shakespeare all Around Us’ explores the extraordinary story of William Shakespeare, the boy from Stratford-upon-Avon who became a household name all over the world.  It reveals how Shakespeare’s work has fascinated people of all ages and backgrounds for four centuries, and takes visitors on a journey back through time to discover what sparked Shakespeare’s imagination and how he continues to shape our lives today.

‘Famous Beyond Words – Shakespeare All Around Us’ is a permanent introductory exhibition which will open in March this year.  It replaces the current ‘Life, Love & Legacy’ exhibition which closed at the end of last year for the installation of the new exhibition.  The visitor reception area at the main entrance to Shakespeare’s Birthplace, which receives almost half a million visitors each year, will also be completely redesigned and refurbished at the same time.

Stratford-upon-Avon’s celebrations of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth will take place on 26and 27 April. Stratford’s tradition of the Birthday Celebrations dates back more than 100 years and brings together residents and visitors with people from the worlds of diplomacy, theatre, literature and academia in a vibrant mix of pageantry and performance. Festivities start with the grand Birthday Procession which parades through the historic spine of Stratford and finishes with the laying of flowers on Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity Church.  A community parade follows and spectators can join the throng of costumed players, musicians and creative groups to celebrate this milestone anniversary. There will be a programme of special events and activities at the Shakespeare Family Homes based in the town, and free entertainment in the streets and parks of Stratford.

Singing Shakespeare is a three year global project to inspire choirs from all over the world to take part in the 450th birthday celebrations and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016.  The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has commissioned 12 new choral settings of Shakespeare-themed compositions suitable for choirs or any age, size and ability.  Award winning composer Gary Carpenterwill produce four volumes of compositions which put Shakespeare’s words to music. These works are being funded by the Friends of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Four books of three choral settings each will be published by Cadenza Music between April 2014 and April 2016 and compositions will be available to purchase by amateur and professional choirs. The premiers of the first volume of three settings will take place in Stratford-upon-Avon during the town’s Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations between 24 and 27 April 2014. They will be performed by Stratford based professional and amateur choirs who will join forces in a special concert which will also feature Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music – an iconic musical evocation of a scene from the Merchant of Venice. Premiers of the remaining three volumes will take place in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast between April 2014 and 2016.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is taking Shakespeare on the Road to Shakespeare festivals across the United States.  The charity’s Head of Research & Knowledge, Dr Paul Edmondson, will visit 14 festivals in 60 days to meet communities of people who are making Shakespeare happen year in year out. It’s a story of reverse pilgrimage which will start new conversations across the States. Dr Edmondson will be joined by Dr Paul Prescott, Associate Professor at University of Warwick as well as AJ and Melissa Leon from entrepreneurial social media company Misfit Inc. The team will fly into Kansas City on 4 July 2014 and hit the road from there. They will build up a picture of how Shakespeare is being performed and celebrated across the States during the anniversary years of 2014 to 2016. Each festival with be given a commemorative plaque to mark the visit and will host presentations about the project and the work of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. In addition, the Festivals will be invited to deposit material in the Trust’s archives between 2014 and 2016 to illustrate Shakespeare performances in America. Regular updates of the visit will be blogged during the 60 day road trip and Drs Edmondson and Prescott will also compile a book about their experiences.  

To commemorate the centenary year of the First World War the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is planning an exhibition at Hall’s Croft, the house where Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna lived, which will draw on a wealth of personal stories about people from the town. The Trust holds over one million documents including Stratford-upon-Avon’s town records dating as far back as the twelfth century.

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016 the charity plans a major project to unlock the rich heritage of New Place, the home where Shakespeare lived and worked in his mature years, and where he died in 1616. During 2015 the Trust aims to transform and reconfigure Shakespeare’s estate, including Nash’s House next door, for 21st century audiences.  A new structure will rise, wrought quite literally from the words that Shakespeare wrote, creating a compelling gateway to a reinterpreted New Place which will tell the missing story of Shakespeare’s mature years as a writer and citizen of Stratford-upon-Avon. This flagship project for the nation’s 400th centenary celebrations will create a lasting legacy which brings to life the enduring appeal of William Shakespeare, the Midlands schoolboy who became one of today’s most globally recognised figures.  It will ensure that the rich heritage of the site survives and that its significance is understood for centuries to come.

Also this year the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is holding three strategic workshops with experts from fields which include heritage, conservation and museums to frame the future development of the most important Shakespeare site in the world, Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. The Shakespeare family home in Henley Street where William Shakespeare was born and grew up welcomes nearly half a million visitors from around the globe each year. In addition to the Tudor house itself, the site currently includes the adjacent Shakespeare Centre, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year and which was opened back in 1964 to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. The centre incorporates Europe’s largest Shakespeare-related library and archive collection as well as the visitor centre, spaces for learning, events and small exhibitions, offices and cafe.

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Press and Public Affairs Officer Nurinder Mantell on 01789 207132/ 07824 137638 or email Nurinder.Mantell@shakespeare.org.uk

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is the independent charity that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage sites in Stratford-upon-Avon, and promotes the enjoyment and understanding of Shakespeare’s works, life and times all over the world. The charity runs formal and informal educational programmes for people of all ages. It holds the world’s largest Shakespeare-related museum and archives open free to the public, a collection which is designated as being of international importance. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust receives no regulargovernment funding public subsidy or direct government funding; it depends on income generated through the support of visitors, donors, volunteers and Friends.