Thursday 29 October 2015


Two Belfast productions will be part of a global celebration of William Shakespeare.

Performance artist Amanda Coogan, and Belfast theatre company,  Terra Nova Productions, will be part of British Council’s Shakespeare Lives campaign — a major global programme for 2016, celebrating Shakespeare’s works and his influence on culture, education and society on the 400th anniversary of his death.

The global project, which will launch at the Houses of Parliament in London today (October 29), is also supported by the GREAT campaign and will see over 140 countries around the world get involved throughout the year — through exhibitions, unique online collaborations, public readings, conversations and debates and educational resources for classrooms.

As part of the celebration, Dublin-born artist but now Belfast resident, Amanda, will present her new multi-media work, You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio, a combination of sign language, performance, digital sound and live Instagram streaming. 

Working in collaboration with Deaf communities in Northern Ireland and South Africa, different Shakespearean plays will be woven together into a performance that empowers both participants and audiences to take a fresh new look at Shakespeare’s works.

Speaking about the project, Amanda said: “Through the British Council I was able to spend two weeks in South Africa in June, and while there, was really inspired by the story of the Robben Bible. The complete works of Shakespeare were smuggled on to Robben Island Prison — home to liberation leaders and activists including Nelson Mandela, and the book became one of the most treasured documents on the island.

 “For this piece, I have chosen to base it on a line from Macbeth — ‘All the perfumes of Arabia couldn't make my little hand smell better’ — and will use four different performers, including a Deaf actor, to weave three different scenes together in 40 minutes.”

The project is still in development, but as part of this year’s Ulster Bank International Arts Festival, audiences can see how it’s progressing with a performance at the Golden Thread Gallery this Saturday (October 31).

Meanwhile, Terra Nova Productions will produce The Belfast Tempest, one of the largest Shakespeare productions Belfast has ever seen. 

Inspired by the history of the great port city of Belfast, the play will feature local and international actors, with special emphasis on Asia and the 56 nations of Africa and the Caribbean.

Supported by British Council, Belfast City Council and Arts Council Northern Ireland, the project will bring together more than 230 community cast members to join professionals from around the world for a truly international and cross community event staged at Belfast's docks, and one of the largest Shakespeare productions this city has ever seen. 

Taking place from April 20-23, 2016, the production aims to promote community engagement not only on stage, but behind the scenes, with 680 participation opportunities, including through set building, costume making and master-classes.

Andrea Montgomery, artistic director of Terra Nova Productions, who will be attending the launch in London today, said: “Terra Nova has always been an intercultural theatre company and since its inception in 2007, has aimed to bring local and global collaborations together.

 “This version of the Tempest however, will be a real Belfast version and take us through three stages of Belfast’s history — from its formation in the 1600s, to its industrial heyday in the late 19th century, finishing  up in modern-day Belfast.”

Also speaking about the launch of Shakespeare Lives was David Alderdice, Director, British Council Northern Ireland.

He said: “Four hundred years after his death, Shakespeare remains one of our greatest literary exports. His works have not only inspired the broadest range of artistic endeavour and motivated political change, but also given people from all walks of life a platform for self-expression through the genius of his language.”

For more information on Shakespeare Lives visit, and follow #ShakespeareLives


Notes to Editor

- Amanda Coogan will perform at the Golden Thread Gallery this Saturday, October 31 at 1.00pm – tickets available at She plans to take You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio on tour, including shows in Belfast and South Africa. 

- For the launch ofhe Tempest, Terra Nova will be hosting a number of information sessions:

  • 13 Nov - launch of the Community Engagement programme 1-3 pm at T13 
  • 15 & 16 Nov - info sessions at 'Contained' (container pop up village under the motorway overpass near custom house square) about how the community can get involved, especially information about joining the choir, and volunteering: backstage, set building, costume making and more.


Other major highlights in the programme include: 

• A mass participation digital campaign, Play Your Part, launched on Twelfth Night in January 2016 to support VSO’s fundraising for their work in education;

• The British Council and BBC Arts are collaborating with key cultural partners to showcase the best of modern British Shakespeare for international audiences. This includes an online ‘Shakespeare Day Live’ on 23 April 2016 and a six month ‘Shakespeare Lives’ online festival;

• A schools pack created in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company and available in translation. The pack will explore themes of global citizenship through Shakespeare’s plays and characters such as leadership and power, identity, equality and justice. Distributed to 32,000 schools in the UK and 100,000 schools worldwide with access to video clips from RSC performances; 

• New interactive materials for English language learners of all ages, including a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, exploring the relevance of Shakespeare on the FutureLearn platform; 

• A global touring programme in association with the BFI, the largest ever organized by the British Council, of twenty great interpretations of Shakespeare's works for the cinema from the BFI National Archive, including Silent Shakespeare, Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948), Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968) and Richard Loncraine‎'s Richard III (1995) starring Ian McKellen, who is also spearheading the BFI’s Shakespeare on Film season starting in April. 

• National Theatre Live Shakespeare films will also be made available globally alongside screenings of historically-acclaimed and ground-breaking contemporary Shakespeare productions, including the international premiere of the film of Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre’s Hamlet starring Maxine Peake.

• Commissions from cutting-edge artists from the UK’s creative sector including Viktoria Modesta, David Wilson and a collaboration with SBTV and UK grime artists who will create their own personal responses to popular Shakespeare moments to inspire young audiences globally to explore his work and enter a creative competition to submit their own response to Shakespeare. These films will be available to view online as well as potentially being showcased at film festivals throughout the year;

• A series of essays written by leading contemporary figures will explore  Shakespeare’s enduring importance and relevance today and for future generations;

• A series of literary translation workshops around the world in partnership with Shakespeare’s Globe, the British Centre for Literary Translation and Writers’ Centre Norwich which bring together translators, writers, actors, directors and academics to explore the cultural and linguistic challenges and complexities of translating Shakespeare’s plays and poetry.

• Other initiatives include leading UK and international poets invited to respond to Shakespeare’s sonnets in new ways; Meera Syal and Steven Berkoff at the Emirates Literature Festival in UAE; Tim Crouch in Malaysia and New Zealand; The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company delivering a series of workshop tours, live performances and professional development programmes across Sudan, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia; a new production of Romeo and Juliet created by Graeae Theatre Company and Dhaka Theatre, Bangladesh, through a long-term training programme with disabled adults.


About the British Council

British Council Northern Ireland creates international opportunities for the people of Northern Ireland and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. Our 7000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.  A quarter of our funding comes from a UK government grant, and we earn the rest from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for, and from partnerships. For more information, please visit:

You can also keep in touch with British Council Northern Ireland through, and

For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley, Communications Manager, British Council Northern Ireland

T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI  Facebook: