by Ayub Khan

In January, Arts Council England awarded the Society of Chief Librarians and its partners a grant of £95,500 to help libraries celebrate Shakespeareʼs 400th anniversary in a big way.

The ACE award means libraries across England will be able to apply for funding to commission artists, writers and performers to work on Shakespeare-related projects. Library celebrations took place during Shakespeare Week 2016 (March 14 – 20) with wide-ranging activities for children and families to get things going.

Excitement builds towards the anniversary weekend of Saturday April 23 when a mass- participation Shakespeare Selfie event will take place in libraries and bookshops. Local celebrities and customers will be invited to read out a quote, take a selfie, and share it via social media (#shakespeare16). A set of 20 popular quote ʻbubblesʼ is being provided and the wearing of Tudor costumes actively encouraged.

The quote bubbles are available for libraries to download, along with other Celebrating Shakespeare 2016 resources, at:

Bard-related, arts-based events and activities – for all ages – will continue from May to the end of October. A list of 87 artists, nominated by libraries and approved by a specialist panel, is now available to the nine English regional SCL groups as they plan their Shakespeare celebrations. The diversity is amazing – rappers, puppeteers, poets, artists, authors, comic illustrators, musicians, dance and drama groups, even cycling theatre – the list goes on.

Attorney General – Jeremy Wright MP

The aim is to introduce younger children to Shakespeare in a fun way, to interest teenagers in a playwright who was arguably the rapper of his day, and encourage adults to revisit his works with a fresh eye. In short, we want to challenge and change any perceptions of Shakespeare as stuffy, schooly or boring. High-quality arts-based events and activities, for children, young people and adults, will help us do this.

On behalf of SCL, I chair the CS 2016 steering group – working alongside representatives from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, Booksellers’ Association, BBC Learning, British Library, Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians, Royal Shakespeare Company and The Reading Agency.

Itʼs a practical partnership – sharing ideas, expertise and resources to ensure the bardʼs 400th anniversary is truly unmissable. From the CBeebies lullaby the BBC has given libraries permission to use at Shakespeare Week Rhyme Time sessions for the under-fives, to the exhibition and events programme planned jointly by the British Library and Library of Birmingham, there really will be something for everyone. We have even set some funding aside to work with prisons.

Janene Cox, Reading Offer Lead

Celebrating Shakespeare 2016 builds on last yearʼs successful ACE-funded pilot project – ʻShakespeare Week 2015 – Celebrate in Librariesʼ – when library services worked with a variety of artists including theatre groups, poets, authors, history performers, storytellers, a rapper and a voice practitioner. They ran workshops, arts and craft activities, drama events, drop-in sessions and much more.

The generous ACE funding for 2016 means library services can be even more ambitious and creative in their plans to mark the 400th anniversary of Englandʼs most famous writer, whose works are known and loved around the world.

Ayub Khan MBE
Celebrating Shakespeare 2016 Steering Group Chair