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"Our purpose is to unlock Shakespeare... to take him from his glass case, that he may live among us again, so that he may question, challenge and provoke us"

John Doona

Founder of the Children's Shakespeare Festivals


Extraordinary learning opportunities for KS2 classes, combining compelling
classroom drama with performance by the children on professional stages 


Image by Tom Doona Media

What are the CSFs?

Image by Tom Doona Media

 What are the Children's Shakespeare Festivals? 


The Children's Shakespeare Festivals are large-scale, inter-school festivals, which see participating teachers and their pupils explore a Shakespeare play through compelling drama in the classroom, before bringing together up to 8 schools to perform on the stage of prestigious professional theatres across the North West and beyond. In 2022/23 there are 83 participating classes from 56 schools across 14 individual festivals. 

Since the project's beginning in 2009 we have unlocked Shakespeare for more than 20,000 primary aged children, as well as many young people in special educational settings. We have worked with over 500 teachers and school staff from more than 300 schools across the region and across the UK. In 2018 we commissioned a special film to celebrate 10 years of the Children's Shakespeare FestivalsThe project was a finalist in the 'Outstanding Drama Initiative' category at the Music and Drama Education Awards in 2020.

North West Drama's team of experienced practitioners have been class teachers, local authority consultants, drama-for-learning specialists and theatre makers and we're on hand to help at every stage of the project.

Through our own original schemes of work the children come to know the power of Shakespeare's stories and explore the big, human questions he asks us. Previous CSFs have explored Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, Twelfth Night and The Tempest. Follow the link to read more about our future plans for  the CSF.


"Shakespeare knows what it is 'to be' the king, the servant, the child, the monster - and to find what is human in all of them. That is where we begin"

Edward Bond

Playwright & Patron of North West Drama


 How do the Children's Shakespeare Festivals work? 


Each Children's Shakespeare Festival comprises a maximum of 8 classes, and comprises three distinct phases: 

  •  Immersive CPD  - School staff are introduced to the drama and Scheme of Work through our renowned 26 hour residential

  •  Exploration  - School staff explore the text through delivering the scheme of work (and associated resources) with our support

  •  Performance  - School staff and pupils devise an original piece of theatre based on their learning in the classroom

Each festival takes place across two school terms. Some CSFs take place across the autumn and spring terms whilst others take place across the spring and summer terms. The performance phase is delivered alongside our brilliant partner theatres.

Generally speaking, the exploration phase takes place in the first term and the performance phase in the second. The CSF model can be adapted to meet the particular circumstances of each participating school, and through a carefully timed 'midpoint meeting' we support school staff to explore the way the project works best for them. This helps to ensure there is adequate time for both classroom delivery of the scheme of work and thorough preparation for performance, maximising the positive impact of the project for both pupils and staff.

Schools can access our Children's Shakespeare Festival Artsmark resource, to support them on their Artsmark journey, and we can deliver Arts Award (at Discover and Explore levels) for their pupils through the Children's Shakespeare Festival Arts Award.


You can find more detailed information about how the project works in our most recent Information For Schools pack. 


Image by Tom Doona Media

How do the CSFs work?
"By far the best project I have ever been involved in. An amazing experience"

Participating Teacher

#CSFDream 2021


 Which Children's Shakespeare Festivals can schools participate in? 


Whilst each festival uses our tried and tested model, each is unique and aims to celebrate the diverse creativity of the children whom the school communities serve, as well as developing teacher confidence in using drama in the classroom. We currently work in partnership with major regional theatres, to offer the following CSFs:

 New Vic Theatre Children's Shakespeare Festival 

Festival Director: Sue Harding

 Royal Exchange Theatre Children's Shakespeare Festival 

Festival Director: Sue Harding

 Derby Children's Shakespeare Festival 

Festival Director: Sue Harding

 The Lowry Children's Shakespeare Festival 

Festival Director: Matt Wardle


 Stockport Children's Shakespeare Festival 

Festival Director: Peter Kennedy


 Oldham and Rochdale Children's Shakespeare Festival 

Festival Director: Peter Kennedy



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Which CSFs?
"The care and integrity at the heart of this project produces exceptional outcomes for our pupils "

Headteacher of a participating school

#CSFMacbeth 2022

To register your interest please contact:

Matt Wardle | Creative Producer


We're always open to conversations with theatres who are interested in developing a partnership with us. If you're a theatre looking to strengthen your primary school offer, then please get in touch.

Image by Andrew Billington Photography

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 What impact do the Children's Shakespeare Festivals have? 


Underpinned by our core values, the project has four key aims:

  1. To raise pupils' aspirations

  2. To increase confidence and improve well-being

  3. To increase engagement with the arts

  4. To develop the use of drama in the primary classroom 

In order to understand how well we are meeting these aims. we've gathered evaluation data over several years. The various evaluation methods used have included feedback from pupils and teacher evaluation plus an in-depth pre and post project comparison for both pupils and teachers:

93% of pupils told us that taking part in the project made them enjoy school and learning more 

1. To raise pupils' aspirations


2. To increase confidence and improve well-being

95% of teachers told us that their pupils had clearly developed greater confidence from participating in the project


95% of pupils told us that they liked Shakespeare and wanted to find out about his other plays


92% of teachers told us that they felt significantly more confident using drama for learning than they did before taking part

3. To increase engagement with the arts

4. To develop the use of drama in the classroom

It was the best thing I've done at school and I'll never forget how good it was.
Thank you. My
class have blossomed through this project.
I have loved this project! I think it's the best thing I've done to invigorate my teaching.

*Evaluation data from 700 pupils and 24 teachers who participated in a pre/post project comparison as part of our Royal Exchange Theatre Children's Shakespeare Festivals.​ Direct quotations are taken from formal and informal project feedback and evaluation. 

Images by Andrew Billington Photography

"It was an amazing experience for me as a teacher and for my class, not only academically but the impact it has had on their personal development"

Tim Lonsdale, Participating teacher

The Lowry Children's Shakespeare Festival

#CSFHamlet 2018

What Impact do the CSFs have?
Now I will always know about Shakespeare. I'll probably become an expert!
How do schools join?

 How do schools join the Children's Shakespeare Festivals? 

Over the last 13 years the project has grown exponentially, and through the pandemic has been required to adapt in order to deliver the work safely. Despite the numerous changes we've seen within the education system, one thing remains unchanged: the compelling nature of the work. Our success is built upon a highly accessible model of involvement and our unique approach to the text through drama. There has never been a better time to join this highly acclaimed project.


Registration takes place during the autumn term each school year, but you can register your interest at any time. The project is very popular and many of our schools return year upon year. New class places are therefore limited, but we will do our very best to accommodate everyone so get in touch at the earliest opportunity.


For more information about the project (including a breakdown of what schools can expect to receive for the project fee) please see our latest Information for Schools pack.

For 2024/25 the cost of the project is £2070 (plus reclaimable VAT) for one class to participate. Additional classes are £1035.
We are sometimes able to offer discounts for schools who join together, small schools or schools in areas of greater need, for whom the cost is a prohibitive factor.

Please contact:

Matt Wardle | Creative Producer

Still undecided?

Here's a short film, designed to give an overview of the project in the words of the teachers, children and and theatres who take part.


Image by Tom Doona Media

"When we did Shakespeare, that was when I found my confidence"

Participating pupil

The Royal Exchange Theatre Children's Shakespeare Festival

#CSFTempest 2019

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