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Festival celebrates Shakespeare as part of London 2012

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    • Half of the school children across the globe are taught Shakespeare, according to a recent British Council research. His plays are translated and staged in over 80 languages, and countless movie adaptations continue to inspire people around the world.

      The World Shakespeare Festival, celebrating the Bard and his work, will be part of the London 2012 Festival, a global extravaganza tying in with the upcoming Summer Olympics in London, celebrating culture through film, theatre, music, fashion, visual arts and more. The festival kicked off last month, coinciding with both Shakespeare’s birthday and his death anniversary.The Festival, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and brought together with 60 major UK and international arts organisations, will be the biggest celebration of Shakespeare. Running until November, over one million tickets are on sale for almost 70 productions, supporting events and exhibitions around the UK in London, Shakespeare’s hometown Stratford-upon-Avon, Newcastle/Gateshead, Birmingham, Wales and Scotland, as well as online events.

    • The Festival will also provide a chance for amateur theatre across the UK, with 260 groups taking part in Open Stages, working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and nine partner theatres around the UK, to share skills and expertise to stage their own Shakespeare-inspired productions. Open Stages will culminate in a national celebration of amateur theatre in July in Stratford-upon-Avon.
    • You don’t have to be in the UK to be part of the Festival. The digital platform, My Shakespeare, will create a global digital conversation, creating a view of Shakespeare through a twenty-first century lens. The site will include guest bloggers, a unique online search of Shakespeare’s plays, a chance to create your own visualisation and new artists’ commissions released onto the site

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The arts in 2012: the British blind spot | Culture | The Guardian

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    • A theatre director recently told me that he would not be applying for the currently vacant job of artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, because he wasn’t sure what any of the three words in the organisation’s name mean any more: monarchy, Elizabethan authorship and permanent acting troupes are all concepts currently in flux. In the same way, anyone seeking to promote “British culture” – a key marketing concept in the year of the 2012 London Olympics – faces the problem that the definition of the United Kingdom is contracting while the definition of culture is expanding.
    • Artistically, 2012 will be dominated by two veterans of our academies and libraries: William Shakespeare, chosen as the focus of the Cultural Olympiad, and Charles Dickens, whose bicentenary falls in February. These are undisputed British – or, at least, English – cultural icons of the kind you would expect to find on banknotes.
    • The worship of Shakespeare and Dickens is a heritage reflex; that the two writers will now double as symbols of Britain in an Olympic year is problematic for two reasons.
    • First, there is the problem of familiarity. For British artistic directors to announce their intention of exploring Shakespeare and Dickens is rather like the owner of a fish shop declaring that next year’s menus will focus on seafood.
    • their dominance has had the unintended but severe consequence of disenfranchising generations of non-white acting talent.
    • The World Shakespeare festival, running from April to September, will also approach the plays multiracially.
    • And it’s on this question – of which flag to put on the badge – that the sweat really starts to pour down the foreheads of the cultural commissioners. In a recent article, the outgoing head of the civil service, Gus O’Donnell, predicted that the breakup of the UK is now a real possibility – an issue largely ignored by politicians and newspapers protective of the Queen, or nervous of traditionalist voters. This potential fracturing has dramatic implications for the arts.
    • As actual or psychological independence accelerates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it may be that the concept of British culture is becoming an impossibility.
    • The economic crisis that has made Britain more politically insular and suspicious of Europe has left its culture ever more dependent on co-funding.

      It is also more divided. The idea of someone from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland all going into the same building at the same time used to be the classic structure of a joke. These days it could be culture department policy. The biggest arts festival the UK has seen in decades will struggle to disguise these divisions.

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