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Held at the iconic Library of Birmingham from 6pm to 8pm on Thursday 11 April and Friday 26 April, the events give potential collaborators an insight into the Everything to Everybody project being developed by the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council.

The University and Council are collaborating on a £1 million plan to revive the city’s almost-forgotten Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library (BSML) - the first, oldest and largest Shakespeare collection in any public library in the world and one of the UK’s most important cultural assets.

The project unites the Shakespeare archive with the George Dawson Collection (GDC) - a wealth of documents relating to the nonconformist preacher, lecturer and activist, who founded the Library as part of a pioneering ‘Civic Gospel’ which helped make 19th-century Birmingham the world’s most progressive modern city. 

Participants at the information evenings will visit the Shakespeare Memorial Library and see items from collection. They will also meet project team members, share ideas for activity and learn how they can help to get Birmingham’s communities involved in the project. 

Project Director Professor Ewan Fernie, from the University of Birmingham, commented:

“During this exciting Development Phase, we’re keen to talk to potential project partners and would encourage people to attend one of our free information evenings. 

“We want to reach out to Birmingham people and work together to renew George Dawson’s ambitious legacy of opening up Shakespeare and elite culture to absolutely everyone today.

“Dawson was a pioneering figure who helped to make Birmingham a real force in the vanguard of world culture. We hope to inspire people across the city to join us in revitalising this collection of global importance.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given the partners £32,700 of development funding to help progress plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant. Their four-year project aims to revitalise Dawson’s dream of creating a culture actively involving everyone in Birmingham.

A comprehensive programme of working with History West Midlands, Birmingham Commonwealth Association, Culture Central, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and other organisations and communities across the city will culminate in a major exhibition and festival celebrating Birmingham’s cultural ambition and innovation in the year of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The project builds on prestigious global partnerships with the Folger Shakespeare Library and University of Minnesota (USA), the Universities of Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the German Shakespeare Society, the world’s oldest national Shakespeare society which honoured the opening of Birmingham’s civic Shakespeare library in 1868.

It has launched regional collaborations with city communities such as Birmingham Central Mosque, Midlands’ Polish Community Association and Handsworth Ladies’ Shakespeare Society. It also identifies links with collections held in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham Midland Institute, Cadbury Research Library, Birmingham Rep, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Shakespeare Institute Library.

Anyone interested in attending can book a place by email. More information can be found here.

Article credit: University of Birmingham