Wednesday 23 April 2014


On the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, the British Council has announced plans for a global celebration of his life and work.

New research carried out for the British Council in five overseas countries shows Shakespeare’s enduring status as the UK’s greatest cultural icon in the eyes of the world. When young adults were asked to name a person they are interested in and associate with contemporary UK Arts and culture, William Shakespeare was by far the most popular response.

The British Council is planning a major international programme of events for 2016 – the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The theme will be Shakespeare as a living writer who speaks for all humanity and nations. Activities across the organisation’s work in English, education and the arts will explore the story of how a playwright from the Midlands came to be enjoyed all over the globe, and influence the development of not only the English language but many others.

Working with partners in the UK and around the world, the British Council will develop arts events, English language teaching materials, creative education programmes and projects to develop civil society. Early plans include:

- Support for a range of world-class touring theatre from solo artists to large-scale companies

- An international festival of Shakespeare in music and on film

- Collaborations between writers and translators on Shakespeare-related themes

- High-quality education resources for teachers and learners of English

- A new mass-participation global digital project

Sir Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council, said: “The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death is the biggest opportunity to put UK culture on the world stage since London 2012. As the most widely read and studied author in the English language, Shakespeare provides an important connection to the UK for millions of people around the world, and the world will be looking to celebrate this anniversary with the UK. We hope that the UK’s cultural organisations will come together to meet these expectations and ensure that 2016 is our next Olympic moment.”

Graham Sheffield, Director of Arts at the British Council, said: “We’re developing plans for the British Council’s most ambitious arts and education programme. We’ll explore how the work of one English writer travelled the world, inspired artists in every medium and is now enjoyed in over 80 languages.”

More detailed plans and partners will be announced over the coming year.

Notes to Editor

For more information, contact Mark Moulding in the British Council Press Office on 0207 389 4889 or

The research cited in paragraph two was conducted by Ipsos MORI using online panels in India, Brazil, Germany, China and the USA. The research was conducted with 18-34 year olds with a minimum of secondary education using local language where appropriate. In each country 1000 respondents (5000 in total) were interviewed. Fieldwork took place between 18 December 2013 and 17 January 2014. 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publically-funded grant provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover which last year was £781 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

For more information, please visit: You can also keep in touch with the British Council through and