Hay Festival celebrates global impact of Shakespeare with ambitious new projects online, at live events and in print

In this 400th anniversary year, Hay Festival: Talking About Shakespeare (www.talkingaboutshakespeare.org) is a new digital platform launched this weekend. Short films from the world’s leading actors and academics, playwrights and directors, poets and novelists are available through the channel, giving insight into Shakespeare’s contemporary resonance and his understanding of our human hearts.

Hay Festival will create films Talking About Shakespeare from its festivals throughout the year, creating a rich body of work from around the world. Contributors will include Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toni Morrison, Stephen Fry, Germaine Greer, Simon Schama, Jeanette Winterson, Tom Stoppard, and Maxine Peake.

Hay Festival (26 May – 5 June 2016; tickets at www.hayfestival.org) announces the full line-up for a Shakespeare celebration year with a host of events and workshops. Highlights include:

From stage and screen, former Dr Who show-runner, Russell T Davies, talks about his film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the eve of its BBC broadcast (Sunday 29 May) with Maxine Peake; the Deputy Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Erica Whyman, discusses her current production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which has toured the country, and RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran discusses Shakespeare’s legacy.

Leading academics give their take on Shakespeare’s influence: Simon Schama examines his myths of England; James Shapiro places a spotlight on 1606; Germaine Greer talks poetry, Gillian Clarke discusses King Lear; and Jerry Brotton talks about Shakespeare and the Orient.

Renowned writers offer their own interpretations, including the novelists behind the recent Hogarth retellings of Shakespeare: Howard Jacobson, Jeanette Winterson and Tracy Chevalier; and Stanley Wells, who will introduce his anthology of Shakespeare essays alongside Margaret Drabble.

Hay Festival runs festivals and events around the world in English and Spanish, including Mexico, Spain, Colombia and Peru. 2016 sees the 400th anniversary of the deaths of both Shakespeare and Cervantes, the greatest writers in these two languages. Hay has commissioned writers in Spanish and English to contribute to an anthology published this month to great reviews. Lunatics, Lovers and Poets: Twelve Stories after Cervantes and Shakespeare has an introduction written by Salman Rushdie. Rushdie and many of the contributors will appear at Hay Festival this summer, before touring festivals around the world. 

Films from Hay will be shown at www.bbc.co.uk/shakespearelives - an online festival from the BBC and the British Council, to share the best events and performances from the UK with audiences all over the globe. Partners in the project include the BBC, British Council, Hay Festival, RSC, Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust, The Globe, Royal Opera House and the BFI. Shakespeare Lives launches Friday 22 April, 2016.

Here’s the thing - that Shakespeare articulates what it is to be human: to love and lose all to passion, to desire power and risk life for it, the riotous comedy of our lives and our frailties, with language more revealing than any other - he knows our hearts.
— Director of Hay Festival Peter Florence

For all information on Hay Festival and our the full programme of more than 600 live events please visit www.hayfestival.org