50 Treasures – Number 3.
On World Humanist Day, the Everything to Everybody Project asks if culture can reconcile differences between diverse people and communities in a contemporary city like Birmingham, now home to over 180 nationalities? Back in 1864, the founders of Birmingham’s Shakespeare library felt the Bard might bring people together in an increasingly complex world.
George Dawson said: “We know that for humanity there is now a world-wide religion, the religion, not of the Greek or Jew, the rich, or the poor, or the sage, but the religion for Man (and, we would add, women); the religion of human nature.”
Today, reflecting nationalities – and people – from across the globe, Birmingham’s Shakespeare collection contains around 100,000 objects in 93 languages. It includes hundreds of Shakespeare production posters from across the twentieth century, covering amateur, professional and school productions and showcasing the range of human responses to Shakespeare.
The poster collection very visibly demonstrates the global reach and impact of Shakespeare’s work. Take the Russian poster advertising a Shakespearian Evening at the Kirov Palace of Culture in St Petersburg on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, donated we believe to the Birmingham Shakespeare Library during a visit by a cultural delegation from the Soviet Union in 1964.
Closer to home, schools from across the UK sent their production posters for inclusion in the world’s then leading Shakespeare library, the 1930s Art Deco examples from Wintringham Secondary School in Grimsby are remarkable and especially prized.
As a whole, it is a collection of posters which turn Shakespeare into a magical kaleidoscope of different fonts, languages and images, providing an indication of how traditional culture can be fabulously renewed in today’s multicultural society.
Follow the Everything to Everybody Project on Twitter @E2EShakespeare, Facebook @e2eshakespeare and Instagram @e2eshakespeare to take a look at the collection of posters for yourself.
Everything to Everybody Project – International Poster collection in the stores at the Library of Birmingham. Photo by Alex Parre