The film was created during 2020 and features an intergenerational community cast, as well as special guests Adrian Lester and Frank Skinner to celebrate Birmingham’s uniquely democratic Shakespeare heritage.
Shakespeare’s Coming Home sees pages from Shakespeare’s First Folio fly into Birmingham Rep and the Library of Birmingham as an intergenerational cast – made up of volunteers from The Rep’s various learning and participation projects - perform the ‘seven ages of man’ with scenes from across Shakespeare’s plays incorporating different languages and British Sigh Language. The film triumphantly demonstrates the power of Shakespeare to leap off the page and directly address our contemporary lives and moment.
The film opens with actor Adrian Lester and comedian Frank Skinner introducing the viewer to Birmingham’s 1623 First Folio. The only First Folio in the world bought as a vision of comprehensive culture, bought for the people of Birmingham, it is stamped ‘free libraries of Birmingham’ and was part of the Council’s aim to provide accessible education for all citizens, not just those from wealthy backgrounds.
In ‘Shakespeare’s Coming Home’ Frank Skinner is incredulous, “Shakespeare? In Birmingham?” to which Adrian Lester responds: “Birmingham was and is home to the first great Shakespeare Library in the world, established in 1884, and it remains the largest Shakespeare Collection held in any public library anywhere.”
Professor Ewan Fernie, Project Director of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project and Chair of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Birmingham, said: “Shakespeare’s Coming Home was filmed on the verge of lockdown in 2020 and it’s such a pleasure to be able to share it at last with the people of this great city. Thanks to Artistic Director Sean Foley, its special guest stars, its fabulous community cast, the brilliant Birmingham Rep and the mighty Royal Shakespeare Company, it’s the perfect promo for the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project.
“Over the course of the rest of the year, we’ll be bringing the first Folio to a venue near you, and inviting you to one of the exciting exhibitions of this Commonwealth Games year, at our home in the fabulous Library of Birmingham.”
Sean Foley, Artistic Director of The Rep and Shakespeare’s Coming Home commented: “Creating ‘Shakespeare's Coming Home' was a real partnership between ourselves at The Rep, our amazing community cast, the RSC and of course Adrian Lester and Frank Skinner. Adrian and Frank proved to be a natural double act, and their presence has made everyone start to understand the incredible untold story of Shakespeare and Birmingham. Yes, Birmingham! The world’s first great people’s Shakespeare library - literally next door to The Rep - belongs to everyone in the City, and Shakespeare and his works are now being brought to life for everyone by the brilliant ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project.”
At the film premiere, the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project announced its forthcoming First Folio Tour and its part in the Birmingham 2022 Festival, the major exhibition: ‘Everything to Everybody: Your Shakespeare, Your Culture’.
The First Folio Tour will begin at Sutton Coldfield Library, as part of FOLIO Sutton Coldfield’s celebration of William Shakespeare’s birthday on the 23 April. The tour continues through to October with stops at a range of locations including the Black Country Living Museum, Sense Touchbase Pears, Selly Manor, Highbury Hall, Gap Arts and The Hive in the Jewellery Quarter. The Folio will visit more locations in 2023.
The ‘Everything to Everybody: Your Shakespeare, Your Culture’ exhibition is curated by the RSC on behalf of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival. Opening on 22 July at the Library of Birmingham and running until 5 November, the exhibition invites audiences to immerse themselves in the unique story of the People’s Shakespeare Library – home to more than 40,000 volumes, 17,000 production photographs, 2,000 music scores, hundreds of British and international production posters, 15,000 performance programmes and 10,000 playbills.
The exhibition will encourage visitors to ask themselves what culture means for them with interactive exhibits encouraging visitors to share their culture, make their mark and create their own version of a Library. Visitors will be welcomed to the exhibition, in a specially commissioned short film made with the young people of the city.
The exhibition will also feature a brand new spoken-word piece, recorded especially for the ‘Everything to Everybody: Your Shakespeare, Your Culture’ exhibition by Birmingham’s Poet Laureate Casey Bailey and of course, the First Folio itself will be on display.
Geraldine Collinge, Director of Creative Placemaking and Public Programme, Royal Shakespeare Company said: “We are excited to bring the Birmingham Shakespeare collection to life through this new exhibition as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival. People associate Shakespeare with the RSC’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, but few realise the connection with Birmingham.
"The exhibition tells the surprising and radical story of the creation of the first public Shakespeare library, alongside a strong social impact now and legacy for the region. We can’t wait to share it with local communities and those visiting from further afield.”
The ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project is a collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council, with funding contributed by National Lottery Heritage Fund and History West Midlands. ‘Everything to Everybody’ will give this uniquely democratic Shakespeare heritage back to people and communities across Birmingham. To achieve this, ‘Everything to Everybody’ is working in conjunction with anchor institutions and grassroots organisations across Birmingham.
Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham said: “Our partnership with Birmingham City Council is breathing new life into George Dawson’s ambitious legacy of opening up Shakespeare and elite culture to everyone.
“Dawson was a pioneering figure who helped to make Birmingham a prime force in world culture. He was also an inspiration for our founder Joseph Chamberlain, who established the University of Birmingham as England’s first civic university in 1900.
“As the eyes of the world focus on the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, we hope that ‘Shakespeare’s Coming Home’ will inspire people across the city and wider region to connect with the First Folio tour and the Birmingham 2022 exhibition – revitalising George Dawson’s dream for our communities and placing our city in the global spotlight.”
Cllr Jayne Francis, Birmingham City Council Said: “What a fantastic way to bring this project to life. The Bard wrote for everyone and ‘Shakespeare’s Coming Home’ is a brilliant way of making his works accessible and meaningful to communities across the city, of all ages and backgrounds.”
Shakespeare’s Coming Home was created by Birmingham Rep, in association with the RSC as part of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project.
The First Folio Tour will take place throughout 2022 and 2023 and visit venues across Birmingham.
Everything to Everybody: Your Shakespeare, Your Culture is curated by the RSC on behalf of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project and is presented by Birmingham 2022 Festival. The exhibition runs from 22 July – 5 November. Keep an eye on social media for more information over the coming months.