Shakespeare Birthplace Trust welcomes two delegations from China

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has welcomed two separate delegations from China this week, following the visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace by the Chinese Premier Mr Wen Jiabao in June.

China's Vice Minister of Cultural Industries Mr Sun Zhijun examines the window which bears the signatures of famous writers who have visited Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon with Dr Diana Owen, the Trust's director.

15 September 2011

On Saturday 10 September China’s Vice Minister of Cultural Industries Mr Sun Zhijun and First Secretary (Cultural) of the Chinese Embassy Li Zhang, led a delegation from the Chinese Government’s Publicity Department, which is responsible for running 1,700 historic sites in China.  The visit to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was part of a fact-finding mission to investigate sustainable models for running heritage properties.

Dr Diana Owen, Director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, met the delegates to discuss how the Trust works as an independent charity to promote the enjoyment of Shakespeare’s works, life and times around the world and to attract 750,000 visitors a year to the five Shakespeare Houses in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Dr Owen said, “We understand that we were picked for this visit as an example of an independent organisation which operates without the benefit of any central public funding.  The group seemed particularly interested in how we are developing our volunteer network, and in our long term plans to develop the Trust as a global cultural meeting place.”

The delegates toured Shakespeare’s Birthplace, stopping to examine the window inscribed with signatures of many famous literary visitors over the past 200 years, and watched a performance of a scene from Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare Aloud.  They viewed a display of Chinese items from the Trust’s collections and signed the visitor book beneath the entry left by the Chinese Premier earlier this year.

A second party of Chinese foreign office ministers and representatives from other Chinese institutions visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage on Monday 12 September, as part of a cultural tour for delegates attending the UK China Forum in London.  The visitors included Liu Jieyi, Vice Minister of the Chinese Government’s International Department, and Peter Batey, Chairman of the Great Britain-China Centre, the organisation which promotes understanding between Britain and China and contributes to key areas of reform in China.

The delegation was welcomed by Professor Stanley Wells, Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and Dr Paul Edmondson, Head of Knowledge & Research at the Trust, who introduced the charity’s latest digital project which deals with questions around the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.  The 60 Minutes with Shakespeare web site has attracted visitors from 77 countries and international media interest since it launched on 1 September.

Dr Owen said, “As Boris Johnson remarked on the launch of the World Shakespeare Festival last week, Shakespeare is one of our greatest British exports.  Some 64 million children around the globe study Shakespeare each year – 21 million in China alone.   We are working to build projects and partnerships with centres for literature, learning and culture in China, and these visits suggest that the interest in mutual.”
Dr Owen will return to Shanghai and Hangzhou in October to present at an International Shakespeare Forum and meet various groups, colleges and universities.  She last visited in April 2011.