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Sutton Coldfield to host rare Shakespeare treasure during festival

Sutton Coldfield residents will get a rare opportunity to see a world treasure, first-hand as part of a special arts festival next month.

 Gloriana Living History
Gloriana Living History

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield is hosting an event in the town's library to see an original Shakespeare First Folio, the first collected works of William Shakespeare, published 399 years ago. Appropriately, this will take place on the Bard’s birthday, April 23.

It is being displayed, as part of the Shakespeare in Sutton festival, thanks to FOLIO’s collaboration with the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project, an ambitious celebration of one of the UK’s most important cultural assets: the vast Shakespeare Memorial Library housed within the Library of Birmingham.

Birmingham’s copy of the First Folio is unique because it is the only one bought with the aim of improving people’s lives through culture and education.

The First Folio held by the Shakespeare Memorial Library. Credit: Everything to Everybody

It was purchased in 1881 for all the people of Birmingham – no matter their background, wealth or occupation and with the First Folio Tour we want to take this resource to as many people as possible.

As part of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project, the First Folio is touring across Birmingham over the next two years, but its very first outing is to Sutton Coldfield Library. The tour then continues through to October with stops at a range of locations including the Black Country Living Museum, Sense Touchbase Pears, Selly Manor, Highbury Hall, Gap Arts and The Hive in the Jewellery Quarter.

In order to ensure as many people as possible can view the Folio, which will be open on the page of Henry IV part 1 which mentions Sutton Coldfield, people are advised to book a timed slot to visit Sutton Coldfield Library on April 23.

The day will also see historical dance and music performances, a family puppet making session, a display of costumes from the Royal Shakespeare Company and other activities suitable for all ages to have fun with Shakespeare.

It is just one of more than 20 events in nine different venues around the town across April.

There will also be film showings and the chance to meet Falstaff, music performances and a newly commissioned map of Sutton in the time of Shakespeare, spoken word and street theatre, community group collaborations, costumes, competitions, local history events and online literature talks.

Booking is now open for all events and activities which runs from April 9-30 and there are more than 400 free tickets for different events were booked in the first weekend after publishing the full programme.

FOLIO’s festival kicks off on April 9 with creative writing and spoken word performance workshops in Sutton Coldfield Library, with participants able to take open mic slots at Mouthpieces, a spoken word special in Highbury Theatre, on April 29, with headliners including Jemima Hughes and Dreadlock Alien.

Shakespeare in Sutton

A brand new map of Sutton in the time of Shakespeare by Sutton Coldfield born children’s book illustrator John Shelley will be on display in the Gracechurch Centre, whilst local expert Dr Mike Hodder will give a talk at Holy Trinity Church on April 20 while there will be a guided walk, meeting at Vesey Gardens on April 30, on the same topic.

Shakespeare experts Dr Simon May and Ella May McGrail will be giving online talks about different aspects of the plays of the greatest writer in English.

Local theatre groups The Highbury Players and Raw Talent Youth Theatre will be performing their own takes on the bard. Sutton Coldfield Movie Maker’s brand new feature film, Falstaff - a Naughty Knight in Sutton Coldfield - will receive its premier during the festival.

Liz Parry, FOLIO Trustee, said: “Although the main focus is Sutton library, one of the lovely things about the festival is that events are happening in several different places, giving people an opportunity to see parts of our town that they may not have visited before.”

Fellow Trustee Jenny Wilkinson added: “I am particularly excited by the wide range of different activities we have on offer - written and spoken word, art, music, dance, drama. There really is something for everyone.”

Noran Flynn added: “The Shakespeare festival is bringing a range of exciting activities to Sutton Coldfield that will be accessible to everyone. It is amazing to think our town featured in Shakespeare’s writings and that we are now celebrating that in 202.!”

The full festival programme can be found at shakespeareinsutton.org.uk

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