The BBC has opened up its Shakespeare Archive to UK schools and universities so that students and scholars have access to an essential piece of British cultural heritage. This is part of the BBC's brief to educate and inform. The BBC material dates from the 1950s to now, it includes the first British televised adaptations of Othello and Henry V, classic interviews with key Shakespearean actors including John Gielgud, Judi Dench and Laurence Olivier and many of Shakespeare's famous sonnets in TV and radio broadcasts.
Thousands of educators and learners in UK schools, colleges and universities have enjoyed accessing the BBC Shakespeare archive since 2016, when the BBC launched the BBC Shakespeare Archive Resource as part of the BBC's celebration of Shakespeare's work across all its services to mark 400 years since his death. This update adds hundreds of new productions broadcast since 2016.
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.
In total the combined collection will contain nearly 1,000 items, with even more content added as it becomes available.
It will be accessible from today to all UK schools, colleges and universities that hold a licence with the Educational Recording Agency.
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.''
Sharing the Shakespeare collection with schools, colleges and universities meets the second public purpose in the BBC's Royal Charter, to promote education and learning.
Helen Foulkes, Head of BBC Education, says: "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."
The BBC Archive Centre in Perivale, West London, houses most of the BBC Archive collections across eight vaults and 60 miles of shelving containing 15 million items, along with other sites around the UK. The BBC Archive team manages a diverse range of collections and supports research, re-use and access to BBC material.
The BBC Shakespeare Archive Resource can be found at www.era.org.uk/shakespeare-archive