Thursday, 04 August 2016
  • US Secretary of State John Kerry and Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka are among authors 
  • The British Council has commissioned the unique collection of essays, entitled ‘Living Shakespeare’, which explore current global issues through the lens of Shakespeare’s works
  • Topics include responding to extremism; female empowerment in India; racial conflict in South Africa and thoughts on what it is like to live with a disability. 

London, 4 August 2016 – The British Council has unveiled a unique collection of essays entitled ‘Living Shakespeare’ as part of its Shakespeare Lives programme, which is a global celebration of the influence of William Shakespeare on culture, language, education and society. Each essay is authored by an international public figure and explores a current issue through Shakespeare’s work, demonstrating his continuing relevance in to the 21st century. 

Each author was invited to write from a personal perspective, and the diverse set of contributors draw on contemporary social, political and emotional experiences to make comparisons with Shakespeare’s works. 

Alongside John Kerry, other authors include Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka; Bollywood actress Kalki Koechlin; Ahlem Mosteghanemi, the most popular writer in the Arab world; renowned South African director and actor John Kani; and deaf solo percussionist Evelyn Glennie

British Council Chief Executive Ciarán Devane says: “The core themes of Shakespeare’s plays – identity, power, faith, meaning, humanity itself – resonate across generations today, and are central to our culture. In this respect the presence of political and emotional insight is no surprise. Indeed, it seems that whatever facet of humanity is sought, it may be found in Shakespeare’s works.”

Kerry’s essay ‘As You Like It: The Inspiration of Comedy’ reveals: “For those of us who strive to bring peace and security to the world, these plays provide a guiding path and encouragement that with will, determination and faith, we can find resolution to the most complex, and even absurd situations.” 

The British Council is working in partnership with the BBC and the Open University on this project. The BBC World Service is making a series of short films with some of essayists including Kani, Koechlin and Glennie, supported by free-to-access online learning resources from the Open University. The entire essay collection will be launched at the World Shakespeare Congress (31 July – 6 August) in the United Kingdom and given to all the international delegates.  


Notes to Editor

For further information please contact:

Ola Tanani, Corporate Communications Manager, British Council Egypt



About the British Council

Shakespeare Lives 2016 is a global celebration of the influence of William Shakespeare on culture, language, education and society.

The British Council, the GREAT Britain campaign and an unprecedented number of partners will commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death with a series of initiatives including a unique online collaboration, performances on stage and film, exhibitions, public readings, conversations, debates and educational resources that people around the world and of all ages can actively join in with from January to December 2016.

GREAT/British Council Shakespeare Lives targets: to reach half a billion people and £60m ROI (on £2 million from the GREAT Britain Campaign which the British Council has matched with £2 million, both spread over two Financial Years). 

Open University:

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 180,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.

The OU was given an overall satisfaction rating of 90% in the latest National Student Survey, making it one of only three Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to consistently score 90% or above every year since 2007. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

The OU has a 42 year partnership with the BBC and has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to co-producing prime-time series such as The Hunt, Life Story, The Bottom Line, Britain’s Great War, I Bought a Rainforest and Business Boomers. In 2013/14 OU co-productions were viewed by 220m people in the UK which prompted more than 600k visits the OU’s free learning website, OpenLearn:

Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which received 5.2million unique visitors in 2012/13, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 66 million downloads.    For further information please visit:

BBC World Service:

BBC World Service delivers news content around the world, on radio, TV and digital, reaching a weekly audience of 246 million. As part of BBC World Service, BBC Learning