From 16 May to 15 June the Shakespeare Beyond Borders Alliance will present the free and online Equality Shakespeare Festival, hosted by The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham.
The Alliance was co-created by Dr Chris Laoutaris (Associate Professor at the Shakespeare Institute), Professor Michael Dobson (Director of the Shakespeare Institute) and Dr Rowan Mackenzie (Artistic Director of Shakespeare UnBard) in June 2021 to bring together Shakespeare and theatre scholars, directors, film-makers, charities, arts organisations, government bodies, authors and educational initiatives across social, disciplinary and geographical borders. Its inaugural events were attended by over 600 participants from across the globe.
The Equality Shakespeare Festival is guest co-organised with the help of Dr Yasmin Arshad (Honorary Research Fellow, University College London), who with Dr Laoutaris is the co-creator of the EQUALityShakespeare (EQUALS) initiative, Dr Robert Stagg (Shakespeare Institute and University of Oxford) and Dr Jessica Chiba (Shakespeare Institute), and is event-managed by Matt Clulee, and will explore the ways in which Shakespeare can be used to further equality, social justice, inclusivity, diversity and international collaboration.
Kicking off on 16 May with a tribute to the late actor of stage and screen Sir Antony Sher, the Festival will welcome renowned actresses Dame Harriet Walter and Alexandra Gilbreath, along with numerous authors and academics, including Sir Jonathan Bate, Sir Stanley Wells, Dr Paul Edmondson, and Professor Jyotsna Singh, among others, in a celebration of the great actor’s life and legacy.
On 18 May, there will be sessions on race, gender and class with Forward-Prize-winning poet Luke Kennard, author Sally Bayley, and poet Neal Hall, the winner of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Best Poetry Book Award. 24 May will feature sessions on ‘Uniting Global voices’, focusing on Shakespeare in Japan, Singapore and Ukraine. The sessions on 1, 8 and 15 June will showcase the work of various organisations working on equality-related Shakespeare projects, including the production company Three Chairs and a Hat, whose ‘Shakespeare She/Her’ film project is giving a voice to Shakespeare’s women; MAWA Theatre Company, the UK’s first all-black, all-female Shakespeare Theatre company; Shakespeare in Yosemite, which uses Shakespeare and theatre to campaign for environmental awareness; the creators of the ‘Teaching Shakespeare to D/deaf Children Project’, Dr Abigail Rokison-Woodall and Dr Tracy Irish; and Dr Mackenzie’s Beyond the Walls Theatre Company, which provides opportunities for released prison inmates. There will also be sessions on race, sexuality and disability, hosting established academics, practitioners and authors in these fields from the UK, US, Canada, and South Africa, including Sir Tom Shakespeare.
The whole Festival is free and online! Just register once and select which sessions or events you wish to attend. For the full schedule and booking (which is quick and easy), search for the Equality Shakespeare Festival online or in Eventbrite or use this link:
Dr Chris Laoutaris is the author of the Tony Lothian Prize-shortlisted Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle that Gave Birth to the Globe (Penguin), and will shortly release two further books: Bleed and See, a poetry collection shortlisted for the Eric Gregory Poetry Awards, to be published by Broken Sleep Books in October of this year, and Shakespeare’s Book: The Intertwined Lives Behind the First Folio which will be published by William Collins in 2023.