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BBC opens Shakespeare archive

May 17, 2021

The BBC has made hundreds of its Shakespeare programmes available for free to schools, colleges and universities across the UK.

Hundreds of hours of radio and TV productions, interviews and programmes – spanning more than 70 years – are being released, catering for primary school children right through to postgraduate students.

The collection includes vintage content, comedies including Monty Python and Upstart Crow; plus The Hollow Crown starring Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston; Russell T Davies’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Horrible Histories.

Other highlights in the collection include:

  • The 37 classic productions in the BBC Television Shakespeare series
  • An Age of Kings, the 15 part series of the RSC’s Shakespeare history plays
  • The RSC’s production of As You Like It, broadcast in 1963, starring a young Vanessa Redgrave as Rosalind
  • The earliest surviving production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from 1958
  • Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens in a 1967 production of Much Ado About Nothing
  • A ballet based on The Winter’s Tale performed at the Royal Opera House
  • Shakespeare Re-Told adaptations including Much Ado About Nothing with Billie Piper and Macbeth with James McAvoy
  • BBC Four’s 2010 film Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart
  • The RSC’s 2009 production of Hamlet with David Tennant in the title role

Peter Rippon, Executive Editor, BBC Archive, says: “The BBC’s Shakespeare collection offers a fabulous insight into how interpretations and performances have evolved. It also gives us a glimpse of early performances by some of today’s most famous actors. The demand for audio and video content in education is growing sharply and this partnership with the ERA is a brilliant way for the BBC to open its precious archive in new ways.’’

Helen Foulkes, Head of BBC Education, added: “The BBC prides itself on its contribution to educating the nation via BBC Bitesize and BBC Teach. In offering teachers the chance to view some of our greatest actors bring Shakespeare to life in the classroom, this partnership will provide an ideal complement to the extensive Shakespeare study resources we provide online.”

The collection is brought together through the ERA’s website to offer educators a streamlined, searchable platform from which to view the vast archive of BBC TV and radio productions.

Helena Djurkovic, CEO of ERA says: “We are delighted to be partnering with the BBC to provide access to such a wealth of brilliant resources through our video streaming platform. Educators and students will be able to easily search a vast range of fantastic and historically important BBC broadcasts to support teaching, learning and research. From riveting productions dating back to the 1950s to contemporary interpretations and critical analyses of Shakespeare’s work, this BBC Archive is a clear illustration of the immense educational value of broadcast recordings to the education sector.”

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