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Shakespeare Week 2014: how to get involved

Date Posted: 17/09/2013

Pupil's take part in a Tudor's Alive workshop.

Pictured: Pupils taking part in a ‘Tudors Alive!’ educational session at Mary Arden’s (Photo credit: Amy Murrell 2012).

Arts and heritage organisations across the UK will be opening their doors to school groups as part of a major new national campaign to give every Primary school child a great first encounter with Shakespeare.

Shakespeare Week (17th – 23rd March) aims to unite schools with theatres, galleries, museums, cinemas, libraries, musicians, publishers and historic places in a nationwide celebration of Shakespeare’s cultural and creative influence.

More than 70 organisations, including many of the country’s leading cultural attractions, have already signed up to the scheme to provide special events and activities for children taking part with their schools and families.

The campaign is organised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 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 already runs highly acclaimed formal and informal education programmes and group visits for all age groups, but Shakespeare Week is its first national outreach campaign dedicated to Primary school children.

Jacqueline Green, head of learning and participation at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said: “We are launching Shakespeare Week because we believe that Shakespeare is for everyone, rather than the ‘happy few’.

“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.

“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.”

Free classroom resources and a Passport to Shakespeare

Shakespeare Week was announced last April with strong support from UK arts and heritage organisations and high profile education, culture and political leaders.

School children enjoy learning more about Tudor times with Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Nicola Hawley, children’s and families heritage education officer.

Pictured: School children enjoy learning more about Tudor times with Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Nicola Hawley, children’s and families heritage education officer.

Within days, teachers up and down the land were downloading a bank of free classroom resources from the Shakespeare Week website in their thousands, and ordering the campaign’s Passport to Shakespeare that will give every pupil taking part access, with their families and schools, to Shakespeare-related events and activities organised by local and national arts and heritage venues throughout the UK.

The Passport to Shakespeare – a fun size version of a British Passport – will contain a range of activities students can do with teachers on a school visit, and will carry discounts and incentives to visit productions, exhibitions, back-stage and behind-the-scenes tours, historic venues and other attractions taking part.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is also developing its own special tour for Passport holders at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, and a series of special events and activities for school groups at all the Shakespeare Houses and Gardens.

Quickly challenges to spark the imagination

There will also be quirky challenges designed to spark children’s imaginations and connect them to the world of Shakespeare, such as inventing a ‘Shakespearean’ insult; designing a costume for their favourite character, or finding something from the Tudor world in their local area.

Jacqueline Green explained: “We want every Primary school child to have the opportunity to experience some aspect of Shakespeare’s stories, language and creative legacy, where they live.

The point of the Passport to Shakespeare scheme is to encourage an on-going, active interest in Shakespeare and provide suggestions and inspiration for deepening their involvement with cultural organisations more widely.”

Information about participating organisations and special events and offers planned for school groups will appear on the Shakespeare Week website. Passports will be sent to schools which have signed up to the campaign in February.

Shakespeare Birthplace.

Pictured: Shakespeare's Birthplace.

The Shakespeare Week website also offers is a growing ‘bank’ of free, cross-curricular teaching resources that have been specially created by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and other arts and heritage organisations.

They are listed on the site by National Curriculum subjects but they can be linked and used by teachers in and out of the classroom. The majority of resources are currently targeted at nine to 11 year olds, however many are suitable for younger primary school children or can easily be adapted.

The most popular categories so far include Food and Recipes, English, Drama and Maths; the most frequently downloaded resources include an introduction to Caliban the ‘monster’ from The Tempest, Shakespearean Insults and Shopping in Shakespeare’s Time.

Join over 1,000 Primary schools already registered

More than 1,000 Primary schools have already registered to join Shakespeare Week. “We have been bowled over by the response from teachers and from organisations planning to take part in Shakespeare Week,” said Jacqueline.

“This demonstrates the strength of demand for creative new ways to engage a new generation with Shakespeare and his rich creative legacy. At this rate we could well reach 1,500 schools, and up to 200,000 children and their families in our first year – three times our initial target.

“We hope that many more schools and partners will sign up to make the first Shakespeare Week, marking the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in 2014, a truly national celebration. Over the next five years we hope to reach more than three million children with their schools and families.”

Shakespeare Week has been awarded public funding by Arts Council England to support the campaign’s establishment over the next two years.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is seeking additional funding and working with organisations across the worlds of education, arts and heritage and politics to make Shakespeare Week an annual fixture in the primary school calendar.

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