The First Folio - photo credit: Jas Sansi
The First Folio - photo credit: Jas Sansi

Belonging to all the residents of Birmingham, the People’s Folio will be toured around the City in advance of the First Folio’s 400th birthday in November 2023.

Birmingham’s copy of the First Folio is unique because it is the only one bought as part of a dedicated programme for improving people’s lives through culture and education. It was purchased in 1881 for all the people of Birmingham - no matter what their background, wealth or occupation.

This uniqueness will be explored in a special BBC Radio 3 programme ‘Shakespeare’s Brum Ting’ which will be broadcast on Sunday 26 March. Presented by Professor of Literature and History at Birmingham City University, Islam Issa, ‘Shakespeare’s Brum Ting’ includes interviews with ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project Director Professor Ewan Fernie (University of Birmingham) and Project Collaborator and artist, Mohammed Ali.

Shakespeare belongs to everybody, and the Birmingham First Folio is Birmingham’s present to its citizens. It’s the People’s Folio, it belongs to the people of Birmingham and it’s therefore really important to take it out and tell people ‘it’s yours’. The First Folio tour in 2022 was the first time in its history that it had visited communities across Birmingham and what a fantastic response we had from all those who saw it, many of whom queued to make sure they set eyes on it themselves!

Professor Ewan Fernie, Project Director of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project.

In 2023, the Folio’s birthday year, it will visit:

23 April (Shakespeare’s Birthday) – Aston Hall
13 May – South Yardley Library
3 June – Dorothy Parkes Centre, Smethwick
2 July – The Core Library, Solihull
19 August – St Barnabus Church, Erdington
21 October – Bullring & Grand Central, Birmingham.

There will also be a special visit to the Library at HMP Winson Green.

To date the First Folio has visited Sutton Coldfield Library, the Black Country Living Museum, Sense Touchbase Pears, Selly Manor, Highbury Hall, Gap Arts and The Hive in the Jewellery Quarter and has been seen by almost 1500 people.

The First Folio tour is aimed at raising awareness of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Memorial Library. Founded in 1864, the collection of more than 100,000 items is both the first major Shakespeare library in the world and also the only extensive Shakespeare collection which belongs to the people of a city. Each venue or partner will connect with the Shakespeare collection – and therefore the First Folio – in a way that is unique to them and their interests.

Further community venues will be confirmed in the coming months.