The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust came into being following the purchase for the nation of Shakespeare’s Birthplace in 1847 and of Shakespeare’s New Place estate in 1862. The trust cares for five historic houses in Stratford-upon-Avon, all associated with William Shakespeare and his family, is the custodian of the most significant Shakespeare collection of rare books, artefacts and documents in Europe and is a leading centre for education and research.
The first Shakespeare Week took place in March 2014 – celebrating the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. It will take place annually in late March or April.
In order to offer children a rich and varied programme of activities and events in their local area the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust recognised from the outset that it would be crucial to work in partnership with arts and heritage organisations across the country.
Over 90 cultural organisations committed to supporting Shakespeare Week by:
- programming events or activities for schools and / or families during Shakespeare Week and / or
- making available any relevant resources for schools through the Shakespeare Week website and / or
- offering incentives to children holding the ‘Passport to Shakespeare’
- Funding – launching and establishing a national campaign successfully required significant investment
- Engaging schools – where both time and cost are critical factors in deciding whether to participate or not
- Internal capacity – with a target to engage with 3.5 million children within 5 years, the trust needs to continue delivering a high quality educational experience
- The perception that Shakespeare is ‘not for everyone’. Encouraging cultural engagement outside school – for a child to develop a life-long enthusiasm their interest must be encouraged beyond school
- To enthuse a new generation of Shakespearians – 2014 is the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and 2016 the 400th anniversary of his death
- Shakespeare can be a vehicle for creative activity across the curriculum
- The collections are a rich source for learning materials
- Potential links with the new Arts Award categories for children – Discover and Explore
Responding to the challenges and opportunities
- Arts Council England provided financial support towards the first two years and a fundraising campaign is underway to ensure the project can continue beyond 2016
- Wide consultation with teachers in the region and their input shaped the project. There is now a network of teacher advisors who are also advocates for the project
- This project was adopted by the trust as its major contribution to the celebrations of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, which has lead to additional resource and the support of colleagues in every department
- A range of activities for teachers to adapt and tailor to their pupils so that everyone can have a fun, first encounter with Shakespeare
- Every child who takes part in Shakespeare Week at school will receive a Passport to Shakespeare that will include fun challenges to ignite their imagination and encourage them to undertake activities with friends and family
- Influence how children first encounter Shakespeare at school, promoting the enjoyment of Shakespeare’s stories, language and heritage to a new generation
- In the first five years to have 3.5 million children participate in Shakespeare Week activities
- Broaden access to the cllections
- Ensure creative, cultural experiences remain at the heart of learning in schools
- Develop new cross-sector partnerships
- Increase visitor numbers, attracting a UK audience more representative of the UK population
- Raise the profile of the trust as a leading educational charity
- Consultation with end users is essential – success in recruiting schools (1,250 had joined the celebration by October) illustrates how valuable consultation has been in developing a product that teachers would want to engage with
- Investing in marketing is not a waste of money
- Having the right support team in place – that means identifying skills and knowledge gaps and having the right external support people in place (an example would be the web designer who made ideas a reality) as well as ensuring that buy-in from colleagues, senior managers and board
For further information about the project visit the Shakespeare Week website.