Monday 21 November 2016


A special screening of Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V took place this weekend at the Ainkawa 2 Refugee Camp in Erbil, Northern Iraq (Kurdistan).

Co-presented by the British Council, Screens of Peace and Gatherton Arts, the film was shown with Arabic subtitles on a huge inflatable screen and was organised as part of the British Council’s Shakespeare Lives programme.

The camp is under the management of the Assyrian Catholic Church run by Father Emmanuel. The people living there are mostly from Mosul areas such as Bartella and Qaraqosh.

Shakespeare Lives is part of the Shakespeare Lives programme of events and activities which are illuminating Iraq in 2016, initially in the Kurdistan Region. This unprecedented project celebrates William Shakespeare, the world's most famous and popular playwright, as part of the global celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of his death.

David Pardoe, Deputy Director of the British Council in Iraq said: “William Shakespeare is one of Britain’s most loved and widely recognised literary figures, but what is sometimes less well known is his popularity and deep resonance in modern day Iraq. 

"Shakespeare’s plays and poems were translated into Arabic centuries ago, his works and words have been performed on the Iraqi stage by generations of talented and passionate actors, his plays enjoyed by theatre audiences who have lovingly sat through performances despite the traumatic and turbulent events going on around them. Shakespeare’s enduring themes of conflict; family and political intrigue, speaking truth to power and romantic love resonate with modern Iraqi audiences. 

"Shakespeare’s works are studied by millions of schoolchildren in Iraq as part of the school curriculum. Sometimes however this means a lot of people in Iraq come to know Shakespeare as a literary figure, by showing Branagh’s cinematic and accessible version of Henry V we are bringing Shakespeare to new audiences. 

"On a lighter diplomatic note, the film portrays a time when England was at war with France, thankfully things have moved on considerably since those days and we are really pleased to be organising this screening specifically with our French partners, Screens of Peace who work with film and displaced communities in Iraq.”

The British Council in Iraq is proud to organise plays, symposia, film screenings, poetry readings, and workshops for young people who are refugees from Syria and displaced people from all parts of Iraq as part of the Shakespeare Lives programme worldwide.

For more information, contact or telephone 020 7389 3175.

Notes to Editor

About Shakespeare Lives

Shakespeare Lives is a major global programme for 2016 celebrating Shakespeare’s works and his influence on culture, education and society on the 400th anniversary of his death and is possible due to the unprecedented number of partnerships and collaborations between the British Council, the GREAT Britain campaign partners and organisations including the BBC, the British Film Institute, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Shakespeare 400 consortium and Shakespeare’s Globe.

For more information, please see #ShakespeareLives

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. The majority of our income is raised delivering a range of projects and contracts in English teaching and examinations, education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. Eighteen per cent of our funding is received from the UK government.

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