Rotherham kids love Shakespeare

Rotherham Shakespeare Festival
Rotherham Shakespeare Festival
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Rotherham youngsters are embracing Shakespeare once again at a festival celebrating the work of the Bard.

Open Minds Theatre Company’s annual Rotherham Shakespeare Festival has returned for another year of striking performances, breathing new life into the works of Shakespeare.

Open Minds has worked with 2,500 children in local schools to produce 14 exciting performances of some of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays, which are currently being performed at the Magna Centre.

A spokesman for the company said: “The Shakespeare Festival puts Rotherham on the map because of its love and appreciation for the works of William Shakespeare.

“One could search the globe and they wouldn’t find another festival quite like this.

“Rotherham was once described as ‘culturally impoverished’ but the continued success of the Shakespeare Festival highlights just how false this statement is.

“Rotherham’s appreciation of culture is alive and well.”

The festival has involved thousands of children aged four to 18 in schools across the borough since it was established in 2009.

Many of them are children for whom English is an additional language and who come from families who don’t traditionally engage with the arts.

Open Minds reckons that they gain new skills and improve their literacy, as well developing their understanding of the works of Shakespeare.

The spokesman added: “They find their own unique voice by immersing themselves in these timeless stories and producing new and exciting ways of telling them.

“Open Minds Theatre Company is passionate about instilling in young people the skills and confidence to take on the task of performing Shakespeare in front of a large audience, including children with profound and multiple learning disabilities and those who have experienced trauma in their lives and are now in care.

“A teacher said, ‘We have some really challenging children. Children who do not engage with the curriculum.

“‘One particular child who was reluctant at first has taken on a lead part. It is fantastic to see how much his confidence and his overall development has progressed’.”

A looked-after child in care who has had a traumatic childhood has seen her confidence and self-esteem grow through the festival.

She said: “The best thing that has ever happened to me is doing Shakespeare. Before, I couldn’t do anything; now I look at everything and I think, ‘I can do that’.”

A performance of King Lear on June 30 which coincides with national Speak like Shakespeare Day will be attended by guests including Jacqui O’Hanlon, director of education at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The festival runs until mid-July.