Thousands of children stage Shakespeare in lockdown with Coram Shakespeare Schools Foundation

Published: Wednesday 18th November 2020

Thousands of children from over two hundred schools nationwide performed the works of Shakespeare in a unique initiative, One Night of Shakespeare, broadcast online on Friday 20 November.

In a year of unprecedented disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, Coram Shakespeare Schools Foundation (CSSF) adapted its annual festival. Children and teachers worked remotely and under Covid-secure conditions to rehearse performances that demonstrate their creativity and show that theatre lives, despite the closure of arts venues. 

The annual Festival is the flagship project of award-winning charity CSSF. In a usual year, after months of preparation, children perform on professional stages in arts venues up and down the country.  

Throughout the pandemic, the charity has worked to innovate and adapt its programme so that children can continue to gain the crucial life skills that the arts and performance give. This has included creative online CPD sessions with teachers, sending specialist theatre practitioners into schools to run workshops, and providing a wealth of resources to enable teachers to guide their students through the Festival journey and become directors in their own right. 

Schools have responded with creativity and ingenuity, filming their performances, rehearsing in bubbles and online and finding innovative ways to persevere, providing their school and wider local community with moments of joy and celebration in what continues to be an otherwise dark time.  

Primary, secondary and special schools from right across the UK participated and patrons of the charity including Harriet Walter, Hugh Dennis, Paterson Joseph, Alfred Enoch and John Heffernan helped to celebrate the achievements of young people and their teachers. 

Dan Hughes, a teacher at Melland High School in Manchester, says: "The project has been a huge positive in school and has given the pupils the opportunity to escape all the bad news and focus on their creative abilities. It will fill them with more determination."  

Ruth Brock, CSSF Managing Director, says: “This is a unique Festival in a unique year. Thousands of children from communities from every corner of the UK will lead the way and show us that out of the hardest times, children can show incredible resilience and creativity. Using our greatest writer, CSSF is giving children the skills and creativity they need for life and teachers the tools to accelerate learning. The arts prepare children for their future and help build a better society; this year, next year and far into the future.” 

One Night of Shakespeare is supported by a grant CSSF received as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure they have a sustainable future. 

Watch the One Night of Shakespeare broadcast