SHAKESPEARE is good for British business.
So says leading ambassador for industry Digby Lord Jones who is calling on top companies and institutions to support the arts to help open doors in promoting Brand UK.
He said: “I’m described as a champion of British business and throughout my career I’ve been proud to play that role. British manufacturing has got so much to be proud of. We make leading edge technology products across all sectors of industry, which we send all round the world. We don’t do cheap. Instead we do quality, brand and innovation. Here is the parallel with the arts in this country.
“The works of William Shakespeare offers the best in literature and poetry by means of our greatest heritage, the English language, now significantly the language the world chooses for doing business.
“British industry and British arts therefore have a synergy and a strong mutual interest in stimulating each other in furthering the promotion of brand UK. The Royal Shakespeare Company is a prime example of that excellence.
“No other nation on Earth has the opportunity to use its culture to drive its export business. In vast markets such as China and India – both countries where in business terms the English language is predominant – an entire generation, amounting to millions of young people, are being taught in school about the plays and poems of William Shakespeare.
“That’s why functions like the Shakespeare Birthday Lunch in Stratford on Saturday (April 26) have an important role to play in highlighting the vital relationship between our business and the arts. This year’s 450th anniversary celebrations of Shakespeare’s birth, together with the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016, cover a very special three years for Stratford.
“It’s vitally important for industry and our financial institutions to nurture excellence in the arts through sponsorship so we can go on showing the world we are leaders in quality, brand and innovation.”
The former Director-General of the CBI and Government Overseas Trade Minister will be presiding at the Shakespeare 450th Birthday Lunch in Stratford which will be attended by over 600 people – many of them major figures from the world of the arts and theatre and top industrialists.
The event will take place in a giant marquee next to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the banks of the Avon.
Lord Jones is also a firm supporter of the view expressed this week by Professor Ronnie Mulryne, Professor Emeritus at Warwick University and regarded as a leading authority on William Shakespeare.
Professor Mulryne said he was saddened some universities now offered degrees in English Literature that did not require study of Shakespeare’s plays or poems.
Professor Mulryne, who will be a guest at the luncheon, said: “This is a regrettable but by no means surprising situation. Many English teachers in our schools and colleges have little knowledge of Shakespeare themselves and therefore lack the skill or inclination to teach the subject. That ignorance is now embedded in our education system and will be difficult to root out, though the RSC’s Education arm, for example, does what it can for necessarily limited numbers of students.
“I regret to say the teaching of Shakespeare’s plays, whether on the page or in performance, is in decline in the UK, whereas in contrast in China there are 21 million young people studying Shakespeare. Millions more in countries including Japan and India, and across Europe, study Shakespeare’s plays at school and college.”
Another principal guest and speaker at the Lunch will be Nicholas Hytner, Artistic Director of the National Theatre, who said good arts provision in schools was essential and it needed to be written into the curriculum and delivered by specialist teachers.
He added: “If it is voluntary and extra-curricular many children will of course continue to be taken to the theatre or to join after-school drama clubs, but many more will miss out – not just on the enjoyment and inspiration of theatre and drama – but on the important learning and development that comes through participating in the arts from an early age.”
Other keynote speakers at the lunch will be Baroness Joan Bakewell, the author Hilary Mantel, the Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall and Shakespeare academic and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Life President Professor Stanley Wells.
The Shakespeare Birthday Lunch was discontinued two years ago but was rescued by industrialist Anthony Bird who has lived in Stratford all his life.