Sending up a balloon: Shakespeare 400

Cross-posted at Hoyden About Town

Statue of Falstaff leaning on a stone plinth, skyscrapers in background.

Falstaff on Macquarie Street

Here’s a little bit of Australian history trivia: the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death coincided with the first celebration of ANZAC day. Sydney’s Shakespeare memorialists had spent four years planning major events, including booking the fanciest theatre in town for a commemorative revue. With the changes in circumstances, that is, the war, the association donated their theatre booking and the proceeds of the charity event to the war effort instead, though the evening’s performance did still include the recitation by Dulcie Deamer of her poem expressing her conviction that Shakespeare’s spirit fought alongside the ANZACS.

Next April marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and at this point there is no organised plan being drafted in Sydney, as far as I can ascertain, to commemorate the event. Not wanting to be outdone by a bunch of Edwardians, I am proposing a Shakespeare 400 Festival. At the moment this would mean for Sydney’s city, inner west and eastern suburbs, because these are the areas I have most access to funding structures and useful contacts, but it could spread beyond.

Flier with text advertising tickets for a Shakespeare Memorial Ball at Sydney Town Hall

Flier from the 1913 fundraising ball

The broadest idea is to have a name, logo, website and social media accounts that will act as an ‘umbrella’ so that any organisation putting on an event can attach themselves to the Festival, and share information, resources and promotion opportunities. This could mean,

  • theatre companies
  • am-dram societies and drama clubs
  • schools
  • universities
  • libraries and book groups
  • historic societies
  • musical performances
  • themed comedy or burlesque gigs
  • charity fundraising parties
  • annual festivals who could link if they hold related special events (Sydney Writers’ Festival, for example)

The Festival would centre on the weekend of the 23rd and 24th April (this is the final weekend of the school holidays here in NSW, extended to a long weekend by ANZAC day), but related events throughout the year would be welcome.

So tell me, what would you like to see as part of your Sydney Shakespeare 400 Festival? Or if you’re not in Sydney, do you have an event you would like to link? What is your town or organisation doing? And how do I go about persuading Deborah Mailman to be Patron?

Bear in mind, I don’t want to see him memorialised, I want to see him used. This is about a 400-year legacy of people finding ways to transpose Shakespeare into their lives, to speak to their own experiences.

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