BBC to Launch Shakespeare Online Festival

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The U.K. public broadcaster wants to "make Shakespeare irresistible to everyone" in 2016, marking 400 years since the death of of the playwright, says BBC boss Tony Hall.

The BBC said Thursday it will partner with arts organizations on a William Shakespeare online festival and other initiatives to bring the famous writer's works to a British and global audience.

"Shakespeare’s genius will be brought to life for millions of households in the U.K. and around the world like never before under ambitious digital plans," the U.K. public broadcaster said. "An online festival, a digital project tracking Shakespeare’s inspirations around the country, and interactive lessons for school children are among the plans."

The initiatives are part of the BBC’s celebrations marking 400 years since the death of Shakespeare in 2016. The digital plans are also part of BBC director general Tony Hall’s pledge to create a more open BBC. The broadcaster will partner with the likes of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare’s Globe and the British Film Institute.

The BBC previously unveiled such TV programs as The Hollow Crown: The Wars of The Roses, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Judi Dench. The digital plans announced Thursday include the launch of an online Shakespeare festival to give "everybody the best of Shakespeare in one place."  Co-curated by the BBC and the British Council and working together with organizations including the Royal Opera House, Shakespeare’s Globe, Hay Festival, the Space, the British Film Institute and the Royal Shakespeare Company, "we’ll launch Shakespeare Lives with a special day packed with live performance, events and more on April 23," the BBC said.

The festival will include "world-beating performances, insight from great artists, gems from the archive and interactive Shakespeare experiences."

Meanwhile, Shakespeare on Tour will "draw on original archive material and research from Records of Early English Drama (REED) and the British Library, together with academic support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and De Montfort University, to build a digital picture of key historic Shakespeare performances from his lifetime to the present day."

And Interactive Live Lessons, produced by BBC Learning, will look to reach school children and others across the U.K. Schools, colleges and universities across the U.K. will be given access to hundreds of BBC television and radio broadcasts of Shakespeare’s plays, sonnets and documentaries through the digital BBC Shakespeare Archive Resource.

Said Hall: "Next year we’ll be celebrating Shakespeare like never before. Working with many of our country’s leading arts organizations, I hope we can bring Shakespeare to millions across the world on television, radio and online. That’s our big ambition – to make Shakespeare irresistible to everyone."