Tuesday, 23 April, 2019

Shakespeare to take center stage to revive library dedicated to playwright

26 Oct 2018, 01:44 ( 5 Months ago) | updated: 26 Oct 2018, 01:51 ( 5 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
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A major project to connect Birmingham, Britain's second biggest city, with the region's rich Shakespearean heritage was given a big boost Thursday.

   The University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council are collaborating on a 1.3-million U.S. dollar plan to revive the city's almost-forgotten Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library.

   The library is owned by Birmingham City Council with a collection, including rare Shakespeare folios, built up over 150 years. It includes sets of Shakespeare's works in 93 languages from Abkhazian to Zulu, with many works shut away in vaults not open to the public.

   The library has been described as the first, oldest and largest Shakespeare collection in any public library in the world, and one of Britain's most important cultural assets.

   The project aims to re-connect Birmingham's communities with the city's Shakespearean heritage and re-establish the West Midlands as the world's 'go-to Shakespeare center'. 

   The country's National Lottery is helping to fund the university and Birmingham's city hall's "Everything to Everybody" project. The plan is to unite the Shakespeare archive with the George Dawson Collection, a wealth of documents relating to the nonconformist preacher, lecturer and activist, who founded the library which helped make 19th-century Birmingham the world's most progressive modern city.

   A comprehensive program of working with the Birmingham Commonwealth Association, Culture Central, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and other organisations and communities across the city will culminate in a major exhibition and festival celebrating Birmingham's cultural ambition and innovation in 2022 when Birmingham hosts the Commonwealth Games.

   University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood said: "We are delighted to lead this landmark project since opening up the Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library will make a real contribution to world culture at the same time as restoring an important but forgotten historical association between Birmingham and the Bard."

   Project leader Professor Ewan Fernie, from the university's Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, said: "The vast majority of the Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library's publicly-owned treasures are unknown, their potential to excite new audiences untapped."

   Birmingham City Council's culture spokeswoman Councillor Jayne Francis said: "We're developing an extensive program of community-led activities which will help people of all ages and backgrounds rediscover Birmingham's Shakespeare Library and reinvent it for the future."

   "The project will transform the relationship between Shakespeare and the wider region in which he was born, confirming the West Midlands as a world-class Shakespeare center, with Birmingham's rich heritage and cultural diversity right at its heart," Jayne Francis.