Using Birmingham’s forgotten past to inspire our future
What we’re doing to unlock the first great Shakespeare library for all

Shakespeare’s Coming Home

The ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project joined with partners The Rep and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) for the premiere screening of Shakespeare’s Coming Home, a film created during 2020 and featuring 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 the 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 Adrian Lester and 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, purchased 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.

Watch the full film here: Shakespeare's Coming Home

The First Folio to visit communities across Birmingham throughout 2022

Birmingham’s copy of the First Folio is unique because it is the only one bought with the aim of improving people’s lives through culture and education. It was purchased in 1881 for all the people of Birmingham - no matter their background, wealth or occupation, and with the First Folio Tour we want to take this resource to as many people as possible.

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. This will be the first time ever that the Folio has left its home, the Library of Birmingham. You can book a place to view the Folio from 10 March.

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. Keep an eye on this website and our social media for more information on precise tour dates.

The Folio will visit more locations in 2023.

‘Everything to Everybody: Your Shakespeare, Your Culture’ exhibition

The ‘Everything to Everybody: Your Shakespeare, Your Culture’ exhibition, part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival and curated by the Royal Shakespeare Company, will open on 22 July and run until 5 November at the Library of Birmingham.

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.

Keep an eye on our website for more information over the coming months.

Shakespeare versus Birmingham: 150 new diptychs inspired by Shakespeare and Birmingham to go on show in the Shakespeare Memorial Room

Stan’s Cafe have been working with pupils from University of Birmingham School to reimagine Shakespeare’s stories in Birmingham. The resulting exhibition will see 150 diptychs go on show in the Shakespeare Memorial Library at the Library of Birmingham from 15 February until the end of March 2022.

Shakespeare vs Birmingham is the second in a series of five-community curated exhibitions created as part of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project.

Pupils were challenged to re-stage Shakespeare on their doorsteps through photography. They took inspiration from Shakespeare’s plays and then matched their own photographs with some from the amazing collection of 15,000 photographs dating from 1899 and from all over the world that are part of Birmingham’s historic Shakespeare collection. The result is a series of brilliant, often playful diptychs that speak to how Shakespeare relates to the worlds and lives of young people today.

Everything to Everybody Family Day 26 February

The ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project invites you to a free Family Fun Day at the Library of Birmingham on 26th February celebrating and sharing Birmingham’s very own great Shakespeare Library! We will be joined by Stans Café, Birmingham Centre for Arts Therapies, poet and hip hop artist Kurly, and Sword Dance to offer a full day of activities, including:

‘Make Your Own Folio’ craft

Plant Print Workshop with BCAT

Stage Combat Workshops with Sword Dance

Photography with Stans Café

Poetry and Spoken Word workshops with poet and hip hop artist Kurly

Trivia Treasure Hunt

Dress Up Shakespeare

International Shakespeare

… And more!

Including performances and talks as part of The REP Discovery Day

All activities are free, from 11am-4pm across 4 floors of the Library of Birmingham!

“The strawberry grows underneath the nettle”: new community-curated exhibition opens in the Shakespeare Memorial Room

Birmingham Centre for Art Therapies (BCAT) worked with communities across Birmingham to create a new exhibition titled “the strawberry grows underneath the nettle”, inspired by a quote from Henry V.

Created by members of the BCAT community in response to items from the Shakespeare collection, the exhibition opens in the Shakespeare Memorial Room at the Library of Birmingham on 30 November 2021 and runs until 22 January 2022.

The exhibition includes work created through a series of community workshops, delivered by BCAT in 6 libraries and other community spaces, inspiring people to connect with the Shakespeare Memorial Library and the themes of ‘growing Shakespeare’.

Theming both the workshops and exhibition on plants found in items in the Shakespeare collection suddenly became more relevant during the pandemic, when many people rediscovered the importance of gardens and green spaces as places to meet friends and family, and for wellbeing. Participants explored plants found in key texts from the collection, such as Gerard’s Herball, a compendium of plants first published in Shakespeare’s lifetime. The exhibition includes handmade books, clay inspired by plants in the architecture of the Shakespeare Memorial Room itself, prints, creative writing and more.

Find out about the world’s first great Shakespeare library

Ever wanted to learn stage fighting? Create your own stage design? Contribute to a People’s Folio? Perform Shakespeare to your friends? And meet the founder of Birmingham’s historic Shakespeare Library, George Dawson?

The ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project and Mrs History have joined forces to deliver a Family Fun Day on 9 October, 1pm – 4pm at the Library of Birmingham as part of Libraries Week. All activities are free, some booking is required on the day.

The afternoon of activities, inspired by Victorian Birmingham, includes art, craft, performance, tours, action and an opportunity to find out about the world’s first great Shakespeare Library, right here in Birmingham. If you’ve ever wanted to learn stage fighting, create your own stage design, contribute to a People’s Folio and perform some Shakespeare yourself, then this is the day for you.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to meet George Dawson, the man who formulated the ‘everything to everybody’ ethos, as he welcomes visitors to the Shakespeare Memorial Room and explains when and why the room was created.

The full programme of activities includes: • Creative make and take activity with artist Sally Harper – create a piece of art including a stage design • Fun Fight with Historical Interpreter Mark Vance of Marks in Time – learn how to, safely, stage fight • People’s Folio Writing Activity – write or draw your favourite parts of Shakespeare’s plays to create a ‘People’s Folio’ • Performances by you – perform much loved works of Shakespeare for yourself and your friends • Impressive Expressions – choose an emotion at random from Mrs History’s lucky dip and make an impressive expression on a face template or give your best emotion performance • Meet George Dawson – actor Ash Bayliss of Shout Out History becomes George Dawson meeting visitors to the Shakespeare Memorial Room, introducing them to the space and explaining why the room was created • Everything to Everybody Trivia Trail – follow a special Everything to Everybody trail through the building and be awarded with a special completion certificate when you complete the trail

Family Fun Day visitors are invited to share their creations and performances via social media tagging the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project and Mrs History.

Happy Birthday Mr Shakespeare!

The ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project is celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday on 23 April with the release of a specially commissioned birthday music video: Like to the Lark.

Funded by History West Midlands, the Like to the Lark music and video has been created by the Ex Cathedra Education Team. Written by Dan Ludford-Thomas, it represents Birmingham’s birthday present to Shakespeare.

Inspired by the Bard, the Shakespeare Memorial Library at the Library of Birmingham, and the progressive values of George Dawson and the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project, Like to the Lark is a song of freedom and solidarity. It resonates especially as the project seeks to unlock the Shakespeare Collection and our city begins to shake off the restrictions of the national lockdown.

World's Stage films

World’s Stage, a multilingual celebration of Birmingham, Brummies and their Shakespeare, was premiered as part of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project in a special online screening on 3 February 2021. The seven short films making up World’s Stage are being released daily on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and You Tube.

Created by 27:31 and Creative Multilingualism as part of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project and featuring a company of 140 multilingual Brummies, World’s Stage features the majority of the 93 languages that are reflected in the Shakespeare Collection at the Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library.

Daniel Tyler-McTighe, a freelance theatre-maker, educator and director of 27:31, collaborated with BAFTA-winning film-makers John Roddy (Audio Basement) and Ollie Walton (Fix8Films Ltd) and production manager Laura Killeen (General Manager, The Playhouse) to create the films.

World’s Stage – film premiere

Wednesday 3 February, 7pm – 8.30pm

On Zoom, book via Eventbrite

World’s Stage to be introduced by Professor Ewan Fernie and Director Daniel Tyler-McTighe and to include a post screening Q&A.

The ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project invites you to ‘a great feast of languages’ and the world premiere of World’s Stage, a multilingual celebration of Birmingham, Brummies and their Shakespeare, in five acts.

Created by 27:31 and Creative Multilingualism as part of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project and featuring a company of 140 multilingual Brummies, World’s Stage is a series of seven short films made with community performers using the majority of the 93 languages that are reflected in the Shakespeare Collection at the Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library.

Daniel Tyler-McTighe, a freelance theatre-maker, educator and director of 27:31, collaborated with BAFTA-winning film-makers John Roddy (Audio Basement) and Ollie Walton (Fix8Films Ltd) and production manager Laura Killeen (General Manager, The Playhouse) to create the films.

World’s Stage is co-funded by the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project and Creative Multilingualism/Multilingual Performance Project (AHRC, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Reading University, Birmingham City University, Pittsburgh University and School of Oriental and Asian Studies, London).

Growing Shakespeare

Project partner Birmingham Centre for Art Therapies is developing a project called Growing Shakespeare which asks, what do you want to grow in 2021?

Growing Shakespeare will use the creative arts to uncover the stories of Birmingham’s almost-forgotten Shakespeare Memorial Library and connect them with the people of Birmingham today. People from all walks of life are invited to send in an idea, poem, artwork, photo or story of something they would like to grow in 2021. Participants can use any art form and any language. Responses will help to inform the content of live workshops planned for the Spring.

Lead artist Sarah Dyble commented: “Shakespeare wrote for the people around him, taking inspiration from everybody he knew. I’ve discovered Shakespeare’s work voiced in rap, in art, in music and in many discussions and performances in every language from Punjabi to Spanish to Arabic. Connecting with DesiBlitz, Birmingham Centre for Arts Therapies and Everything to Everybody, I hope to ensure Growing Shakespeare gives the people of Birmingham an opportunity to link Shakespeare’s works with their own stories, and share ideas about issues which Shakespeare might have discussed if he were writing plays today.”

You can email your stories, artwork, photos and ideas to Sarah:

Shakespeare, Race and Pedagogy

Shakespeare, Race & Pedagogy is a five-day, free, online event which seeks to share, celebrate, and reinvigorate approaches to the teaching and study of Shakespeare's plays.

Bringing together contributions from international scholars, teachers, students, and our multilingual communities to investigate Shakespeare's plays and their place in our classrooms. Exploring a range of mediums including translations, the Everything to Everybody collection, and British Sign Language in the classroom as exciting opportunities to teach, study, and enjoy Shakespeare's plays.

Revisiting and building upon international scholarship, research, and education, Shakespeare, Race & Pedagogy aims to challenge perceptions and address the contextual complexities of language and race, creating a dialogue between the past and the present to include and inspire our current and future scholars, students, teachers.

For more informaiton and to register please visit Shakespeare, Race and Pedagogy

‘O brave new world?’ Shakespeare, Birmingham and America

The ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project is recovering Birmingham’s unique heritage as home to the largest and oldest Shakespeare collection in any public library in the world. Recently, it has also begun to uncover the truly global influence and reach of this historic people’s Shakespeare library, which has holdings in some 93 languages.

In a special History West Midlands film and two associated podcasts, the Project Director, Professor Ewan Fernie, and ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project American International Champion, Professor Katherine Scheil, share some of the excitement of re-establishing the links between Birmingham’s nineteenth-century Shakespeare heritage and the development of Shakespeare in America.

In The Tempest, when she is faced with human society for the first time, Shakespeare’s cast-away Miranda says, “O brave new world / That has such people in’t!” Her father, Prospero, wearily replies, “’Tis new to thee.” But in the middle of the nineteenth century, George Dawson and the other founders of Birmingham’s pioneering Shakespeare library, really believed Shakespeare could play a role in regenerating culture.

Dawson regarded Shakespeare’s plays as “the newest Bible, the sweetest, truest teachings of the truths of the future that the world ever had.” When he crossed the Atlantic to visit America in 1874, he cemented relationships between British and American Shakespeareans which had lasting effects on America’s cultural institutions and landscape.

While Fernie and Scheil’s new article on Shakespeare, Birmingham and America uncovers much of this lost history, it also shows that Dawson’s visit to the States exposed serious limitations to his “everything to everybody” ethos – limitations it is vitally important to acknowledge and move beyond today in favour of making culture more equal and inclusive.

Download the materials here: History West Midlands website

Be Not Afeard: the isle is full of noises

Ex Cathedra, in partnership with the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project and Birmingham Music Education Partnership, have launched Singing Playgrounds for all Birmingham primary schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Ex Cathedra has reimagined its award-winning Singing Playgrounds for these times to enable Key Stage 2 children to play safely through singing in the playground, reclaiming Birmingham’s unique Shakespeare heritage for themselves.

This unique, free, singing programme will offer every Birmingham primary school access to an online resource comprising a series of lessons and (circa 50) films in which the Singing Playgrounds team will be in the classroom via the whiteboard facilitating and guiding children and teachers.

Children will be enabled to sing and play through singing, share their own singing games from their own families and cultures, and to create and compose their own singing games in their own responses to Shakespeare’s words.

Singing together releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, and cortisol (stress) is reduced. Feelings of isolation are reduced. Singing-play is a very special way for children to improve their wellbeing, develop musicianship and vocal skills as well as personal and social skills.

Birmingham primary schools should visit the Singing Playgrounds website to sign up for the ‘Birmingham Programme’ with their school email address.

Singing Playgrounds is free to all Birmingham primary schools.

Dynamic Duos, Impressive Expressions, Victorian Letters & Playbills

The ‘Everything to Everybody' Project and Mrs History present four fun, free resources for children and their families this half-term. The resources, which can be used at home, individually or as part of a family group, introduce children and young people to one of Birmingham’s hidden treasures, Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library.

The first of ten resources, designed especially for the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project, are aimed at families with primary school age children, although they could be adapted for older children. Covering Dynamic Duos, Impressive Expressions, Victorian Letters and Playbills, children are invited to draw their own comic strips, create theatrical masks, write to a family member, and design an advertisement for their own family show!

Rachel Hunter Rowe of Mrs History said: “Our aim is to produce resources that introduce many of the themes, personalities and physical objects associated with the Shakespeare collection, to a family audience. We are keen to reveal to younger audiences the significance of the formation of the Shakespeare Memorial Library in the context of Victorian Birmingham. We also hope to draw links between Shakespeare’s plays and aspects of the primary curriculum. This way, the themes of the resources will be familiar enough to children and young people that they can confidently, actively lead the experience with the adults.”

‘Everything to Everybody’ Project Director, Professor Ewan Fernie commented: “These resources are a wonderful and engaging way for children and young people to begin to explore the publicly-owned treasures held at Birmingham’s Shakespeare Memorial Library. We’re delighted that the brilliant Mrs History have created activities which can be downloaded at home during the pandemic, alongside resources which will open up Birmingham’s great and neglected Shakespeare heritage for children when we’re able to invite them back inside.”

Families downloading the resources are encouraged to share their artworks, letters and designs tagging the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #EverythingtoEverybody.

Mrs History are one of a host of community partners working as part of the 'Everything to Everybody' Project to work with Birmingham’s communities to explore, interrogate and improve the World’s first great Shakespeare Library.

Download the Mrs History ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project resources here: Case Studies

Study with us!

The 'Everything to Everybody' Project is offering a Collaborative Doctoral Award through the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Partnership.

The proposed research will test and refine the case the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project is making for Birmingham’s uniquely democratic Shakespeare heritage. Its particular contribution will be to provide a full-length scholarly analysis of the 150-year history of the first great Shakespeare library in the world.

Find out more about the award and how to apply here: Midlands4Cities Find A Project