William Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of our greatest ever Britons – a genius whose work continues to have an extraordinary influence across the globe.
The Bard’s plays and sonnets have been translated into more than 100 languages and are studied by schoolchildren the world over.
His work not only underpins our reputation in literature and the arts, but also strengthens the perceptions of British culture as a whole.
This has real benefits to the UK economy, by attracting even more visitors to our shores and highlighting our cultural sectors to scores of countries.
This anniversary year is an opportunity to celebrate his life, works and legacy. The British Council and the government, through our GREAT Britain campaign, are working together on Shakespeare Lives, an exciting programme of events and activities that will take place throughout 2016.
We want to use this moment to help make a real difference to children around the world. While his work is studied around the world, millions more still do not have the reading or writing skills to access literature or find employment.
The British Council and the government are working in partnership with VSO, the international development charity that works through volunteers, to significantly increase the number of children with access to education in 2016. Through the Shakespeare Lives programme, VSO hopes to leave a lasting legacy by raising funds for their education programmes to reach over 3.5 million students and 77,000 education practitioners this year alone.
The Shakespeare Lives programme invokes the power of culture to inspire, to transform, and to change lives. Throughout 2016, a diverse and exciting range of activities will take place across the UK and around the world, and I would encourage all readers to get involved. In the words of Ben Jonson: ‘Shakespeare is not of an age, but for all time’.