Welcome

2014 is a very exciting year at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and around the world as we celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. There’s always something new to discover, so whether you’re brand new to Shakespeare, or his number one fan, take a look around and become part of the story.

Crafty Beasts at Mary Arden’s Farm

We’re getting crafty at Mary Arden’s Farm all this weekend - join us for a celebration of our rare breed animals and the skills of Tudor rural workers!

Try your hand at braiding and peg weaving with the Stratford Sinners & Weavers Guild in Mary Arden’s House. Watch as our Tudors demonstrate a variety of skilled tasks such as stone masonry and willow fence making, using traditional methods as they would have been in Shakespeare’s time.

Wander through our craft and local produce market and soak up the atmosphere to the backdrop of country music and dance provided by Silver Bough.

Read more about what’s going on down at the farm.

Win a Shakespeare Poster from Spineless Classics!

We’re thrilled to be partnering with Spineless Classics to offer UK residents a chance to win one of their fabulous Shakespeare posters; created using the entire text of one of Shakespeare’s plays!

To enter, all you have to do is share your favourite Shakespearean quote with us via Twitter, using #ShakespeareLivesHere.

Share your quote - as a photo, in a video or as a plain old tweet - by 12.00 on Friday 1st August to be included in the prize draw.

Read the full terms & conditions below.

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The Utah Shakespeare Festival

Shakespeare on the Road has arrived at the Utah Shakespeare Festival!

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This Festival was started in response to two influences: summer tourists desiring more evening activities after visiting the area’s national parks, and a young actor’s desire to produce great theatre, Festival Founder Fred C. Adams.

In the first year, the Festival presented The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice. A small company of college students and townspeople produced the plays on an outdoor platform backed by a partial replica of an Elizabethan stagehouse. The initial two-week season attracted an excited 3,276 spectators, yielded a much needed $2,000 on which to build a second season, and demonstrated the cooperative relationship between college and community which still flourishes today.

In 2000, the Festival received the coveted Tony Award for America’s Outstanding Regional Theatre. The Tony Award is the most prestigious and sought-after award in live theatre. The award for the Outstanding Regional Theatre honors a regional theatre company that has “displayed a continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theatre nationally.”

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'Shakespeare and His World' is Coming Back!

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We are delighted to announce that following the very successful initial run of our MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) ‘Shakespeare and His World’, there will be another opportunity to sign up and take part this September.
The second run of the 10 week course, made in collaboration with the University of Warwick and FutureLearn, begins on Monday 29 September 2014. We have received a great deal of positive feedback about how much learners enjoyed the course the first time round, so we wanted to offer a second opportunity to take part!
The course is led by renowned Shakespearean academic Professor Jonathan Bate, who examines a series of plays and cultural themes alongside a selection of treasures from the archives here at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
There are up to 5 hours of learning materials on offer each week, including forum discussions with other learners and suggestions for further reading, so you can engage as much or as little as you would like.
Don’t miss this great opportunity to enjoy a fascinating insight into Shakespeare’s work, life and times :)
Find out more and sign up here

Young People’s Poetry, Writing Workshops and more at the Stratford Poetry Festival

Last week saw the beginning of the 61st Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival with the Poetry Mass, The Pity of War, the festival stand at the Stratford River Festival and the Young People’s Poetry Reading on 9 July.

We were thrilled to welcome Ali and Sam Troughton, who performed a selection of 54 poems submitted by local school children in the region.  
Primary school children were given the theme of rivers, canals and boats and secondary school children were asked to write about Thankful Villages (communities where all of the young men sent to war in 1914-1918 came home again).
We received over 250 poems in total and were blown away by the talents of our young neighbours. Thousands of people have seen the poems displayed at the Stratford River Festival and now hanging proudly outside Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
The Poetry Festival continues this week with performances of works by Seamus Heaney, Dylan Thomas and our poet in residence Jo Bell, who will be leading a vibrant writing workshop on Wednesday 16 July and popping up at various Poetry Festival events over the coming weeks.
Take a look at all of the events on offer and buy your tickets before they disappear!

Exciting new acquisitions for our Collections

We were very pleased recently to acquire two new works of art for our Collections.

The first is a black and red chalk drawing by Henry Bunbury (1750 –1811) titled ‘Falstaff at Justice Shallow’s Mustering his Recruits’ – a timely subject given the current productions of Henry IV at the RSC. Bunbury was one of the greatest satirical artists of his day and throughout his career he enjoyed the patronage of the Duke of York who appointed him his Equerry in 1787. Our new work is believed to have originated in the collection of the Duchess of York. We already have two watercolours by Bunbury in the collection and this new work makes an excellent addition.

The second work is an oil painting by Thomas Stothard (1755 –1834) titled ‘In the Forest of Arden’. It is oil on panel showing a scene from As You Like It. All suggestions as to which scene are gratefully received. Stothard was a member of the Royal Academy and produced many works on a Shakespearian theme, >including some for John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery.

The paintings were purchased using funds raised at our auction of agricultural machinery and tools from the collection in 2013. We are currently considering the best way to display them for our visitors so look out for them on your next visit!

We were treated to a beautiful rendition of ‘God Bless America’ by the Philadelphia Boys Choir; a group of 9-14 year old singers who visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace this afternoon.

Take a listen!

Shakespeare on the Road comes to Shakespeare at Winedale

Shakespeare on the Road has arrived at the Shakespeare at Winedale festival in Texas!

"Shakespeare at Winedale is a University of Texas program dedicated to bringing Shakespeare to life through performance.  Founded by Professor James B. Ayres on the belief that the best way to study Shakespeare’s plays is to perform them, Shakespeare at Winedale offers a unique opportunity to explore these rich and complex texts through the creative act of play.  Shakespeare at Winedale is a program of the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts, but many of its activities are centered on the Winedale Historical Center near Round Top, Texas, where for more than thirty-five years students and audiences have come to encounter Shakespeare’s living art.

Established in 1970 as a UT English course, Shakespeare at Winedale has grown into a year-round program reaching many different groups.  Students in the summer program spend two months in the Texas countryside, studying and performing three plays in the converted nineteenth-century barn that is our theatre.  A spring semester version of the course is offered on the UT campus, with performances at Winedale.  Camp Shakespeare provides a two-week experience of learning and playing Shakespeare for 10-16 year-olds.  Our Outreach program brings Shakespeare into the classrooms of elementary school students throughout central Texas, and brings those students to Winedale to perform.  Our program also includes a medieval nativity play performed by children from the Winedale area, a summer course for teachers through the UTeach program, visits by British Shakespeareans to the Winedale theatre barn, and special performances in other venues, including an annual tour to England.

We invite interested students, teachers and audience members—of all ages and backgrounds—to learn more about Shakespeare at Winedale by exploring this site or contacting us directly.”

Visit the festival website to find out more.

From Our Hong Kong Correspondent

This post was written by our Collection Manager Paul Taylor, and was first published on the Finding Shakespeare blog.

As we all know, the appeal of Shakespeare is global and this was clearly demonstrated in May this year when I had the unusual privilege of accompanying a key item from our collections, the Bidford Chair, to a new temporary exhibition in Hong Kong; The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Chairs for Viewing the World through Time.

The story associated with this chair is that it is reputed to be the chair Shakespeare sat in whilst competing in a drinking competition at the old Falcon Inn, Bidford-on-Avon.

The Hong Kong Heritage Museum exhibition explores the position that this everyday utilitarian object has held in people’s lives throughout the ages and our chair fits the bill perfectly.

Preparations for the loan started back in 2013 when the curator, Naomi Yy Szeto visited the Birthplace Trust and requested to borrow the chair. This was approved by our Trustees and the loan process began culminating in my waiting at Heathrow Airport late in May as our chair was loaded on to a flight along with objects from the British Museum and Science Museum.

With the time difference, we arrived on Wednesday into Hong Kong. There then followed a nine hour wait for the items to clear customs and cargo handling before a trip to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum to securely store the items overnight. We finally checked into our hotel on Thursday morning at 4am!

Later that day I returned to the museum to check and then install our chair in the exhibition. The museum staff were very helpful and excited to have the chair in this important anniversary year, particularly as this is the first time it has been out on loan since we acquired it in 1865. It now sits in pride of place in this exciting exhibition and demonstrates the impact that a single object can have in an exhibition.

We have been delighted to share our collections digitally with our audiences around the world through this blog, and now we are sharing this item physically with audiences in Hong Kong.

Read more posts from Finding Shakespeare.

The Art of Villainy

British people make the best villains according to Jaguar - and there’s nothing more British than a snippet of Shakespeare :)

Take a look at their latest video with top tips on the art of villainy from Tom Hiddleston.