Bring the Bard to a new generation

19th April 2013 at 01:00
Passport to Shakespeare scheme aims to open up the playwright's work to all children. Joanne Dwyer reports

Small children often find it difficult to get to grips with Shakespeare. The language seems foreign and the concepts a little too mature. And it doesn't help if their parents have no affinity with the Bard.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, presides over visits to the Bard's former home by enthusiastic secondary students from every continent. But the trust says its British audience, particularly at primary level, has been harder to reach.

In a bid to ensure that Shakespeare's cultural legacy is accessible to every child in Britain, the organisation is launching Shakespeare Week (the first will run on 17-23 March 2014), supplemented by free online resources and a "Passport to Shakespeare" scheme for primary children.

The passports will contain a range of activities that students can do. Quirky challenges are designed to spark students' imaginations and connect them to the world of Shakespeare, such as inventing a Shakespearian insult or designing a costume for a favourite character. Discounted and free ticket offers will act as incentives to visit museums and galleries and take backstage tours of theatres.

"We want to ensure that all children, not just the happy few, have the chance to connect with and enjoy Shakespeare," says Jacqueline Green, the trust's head of learning and participation. "Shakespeare should be a cultural birthright for every person in this country. But too many British children encounter him only as a dry subject for exams in their teens.

"Children don't have to be immersed in culture. They can have a stab at it. Then, hopefully, they might emerge thinking: 'Actually, that was really fun.'"

The trust launched the scheme this week, and is developing free online resources to help teachers run their own Shakespeare Week assembly and plan up to a term of cross-curricular learning. All participating schools will receive "passports" for their students.

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