Shakespeare400 is a season of cultural and artistic events across 2016, celebrating four hundred years of Shakespeare, his creative achievement and his profound influence on creative culture across the centuries. It is the collective endeavour of a consortium of leading cultural, creative and educational institutions in and around London, working closely together to express the impact of Shakespearean creativity on the widest range of artistic forms.
The Shakespeare400 season includes theatre, music, opera, dance, exhibitions with an emphasis on creative curation, and a range of educational events to help new audiences engage with Shakespeare’s work. The season is designed to demonstrate the ongoing vibrancy of Shakespeare’s creative influence in national and global culture, and in the process to extend and enhance the legacy of the World Shakespeare Festival of 2012.
Together, the consortium partners seek both to reflect on four centuries of Shakespeare-inspired creativity across all art forms and to look forward to the next hundred years in the global life of Shakespeare’s plays and poems. The season aims to treat all art forms engaged with Shakespeare equally – after all, Shakespeare’s influence extends far beyond the theatre – and partners have been particularly keen to champion work outside the limiting ‘heritage industry’ frame too often imposed on Shakespeare.
A century ago, Sir Israel Gollancz, Professor of English Language and Literature at King’s College London, was the leading figure in the Shakespeare tercentenary celebrations of 1916, working hard to create the conversations and secure the necessary support for a celebration of the first three hundred years of Shakespeare’s creative influence – a celebration that, it was hoped, would be both local and global, emerging from London but reaching out across the world. The onset of the First World War, however, drastically limited what could be achieved – though the marking of the tercentenary nonetheless did take place both in London and across the world.
Now, a century later, we have the opportunity again to consider the impact that Shakespeare’s writing has had on the collective imagination, not only in the English-speaking world but across the globe: the constantly changing responses to, and engagement with, the Shakespeare canon and the ways in which creative encounters with Shakespeare reflect and inform perceptions of national and international cultural life. It is fascinating to investigate all the ways in which creative culture has changed – in London, in the UK, in the world – since 1616, the year of Shakespeare’s death, and since the tercentenary of 1916. Shakespeare is no longer only London’s, or the United Kingdom’s, but a playwright and poet for the world.
The Shakespeare400 season partners include some of the best of London’s creative and cultural sector: Barbican, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Bloomsbury Publishing / The Arden Shakespeare, British Film Institute, British Library, City of London, City of London Festival, Film London, Glyndebourne, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Hogarth Shakespeare – from Vintage Books, King’s College London, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Museum of London, Museum of London Archaeology, National Theatre, Rambert, Royal Collection Trust, Royal Opera House, Royal Society of Literature, Senate House Library, Shakespeare's Globe, The National Archives.
The season as a whole is coordinated by King’s College London, with academics from the university’s London Shakespeare Centre contributing their literary-critical, historical, dramaturgical and curatorial knowledge to the season.
Deborah Bull, Assistant Principal (Culture & Engagement) at King’s College London comments, ‘We are very pleased to have brought together the diverse and dynamic range of partners that make up the Shakespeare400 consortium. The influence of Shakespeare on art, culture and society over the past 400 years cannot be underestimated and this is reflected in the rich programmes of activity and media listed on this central web resource.
‘Some of the partners involved in Shakespeare400 are longstanding and some are new to King’s. I’m delighted they have committed to working with us to ensure that Shakespeare’s quatercentenary is marked as it should be – for as wide an audience as possible and in a way that doesn’t only commemorate the past, but that also celebrates the present and heralds the future.’
Professor Gordon McMullan, academic director of Shakespeare400 and director of the London Shakespeare Centre said, ‘The idea for Shakespeare400 emerged in the aftermath of the World Shakespeare Festival of 2012. I was working on Sir Israel Gollancz and his leadership – and thus that of King’s – of the Shakespeare tercentenary of 1916, and it seemed possible that King’s might again facilitate the celebrations in London.
‘I’m delighted by the support that the idea received throughout King’s and from potential cultural partners, as well as the remarkable willingness across the board to be involved in a shared project for 2016. We extended and developed the opening conversations, and the consortium as it is composed today began to emerge.
‘It is, of course, a very exciting time for lovers of Shakespeare across the globe, and we are thrilled to be contributing in this way to the marking of four hundred years of Shakespeare-inspired creativity.’