Shakespeare Lives (British Council/GREAT)

Shakespeare in lives 2016 logo.pngShakespeare Lives, a global programme of events and activities that celebrated 400 years of Shakespeare, invited the world to join the Shakespeare400 festivities by participating in a unique online collaboration and by experiencing the work of Shakespeare directly on stage, through film, exhibitions and in schools.

Shakespeare has long played an important role in the British Council’s work, promoting a friendly knowledge and understanding across the world.

Working in partnership with the British Film Institute (BFI), they organised an international tour of British films which have reimagined Shakespeare’s work. The programme ambassador, Sir Ian McKellen, travelled to India, China and Russia to introduce the films at a series of popular public events.


Shakespeare Lives short film collection

The collection reinterprets Shakespeare's most famous works while showcasing the diversity and breadth of the UK’s creative sector.

Dear Mister Shakespeare, one of the films in the collection, is written by Phoebe Boswell. In the film, Phoebe recites a rhetorical letter to Shakespeare on how racial tensions in Othello resonate today.

Another film in the collection, Star Cross'd, is poet and writer Laura Dockrill’s contemporary take on Romeo and Juliet, set on a British beach where ‘two houses, both alike in common crime’ wage an ice-cream war.

Theatre and Dance

The British Council’s research and development fund, Shakespeare Reworked, sparked a number of new international theatre and dance projects.

The commissions challenged theatre companies to collaborate, develop, workshop and perform a unique interpretation of Shakespeare's work.

Dancers rehearsing in Rosalind.Image credit: James Cousins Company and David Foulkes

For the first time in its history, Shakespeare's Globe presented a live production to the world with Emma Rice's Bollywood-inspired A Midsummer Night's Dream which was live-streamed for the BBC Shakespeare Lives international online festival, co-curated with the British Council.


Throughout the year, contemporary UK and international poets collaborated to create responses to Shakespeare's sonnets.

Jackie Kay's response to Sonnet 11, Thirty Five, is named after the hospital ward her mother stayed in.

Listen to more of the poems


Together with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare Lives created the Shakespeare Lives schools pack, a teaching resource which uses Shakespeare’s plays to interrogate the human experience and explore what it means to be a citizen in the 21st century.

Related links