Cisco and the Royal Shakespeare Company stream play to schools

Cisco, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Ravensbourne College teamed up to stream a play to 9,000 students via academic network Janet

Cisco has joined forces with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) to bring Shakespeare to thousands of students across the UK, with the aim of bridging the gap between the digital and creative industries.

Hosted by Ravensbourne College, the play I, Cinna (The Poet) was streamed via the UK education and research network JANET to almost 9,000 students in 533 classrooms across the country. Ravensbourne is one of Cisco's National Virtual Incubators (NVIs), which connect into other centres around the country and are supported by JANET.

The college supplied a team of students to film and edit the play as part of their college courses. Two further teams were recruited to build and manage the website and live Q&A.

After the play, which is a specially commissioned World Shakespeare Festival (WSF) production by Tim Crouch, inspired by William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a live Q&A took place with the director, children’s author Malorie Blackman, and actor Jude Owusu who played Cinna. The Q&A was hosted by television presenter Connie Huq.

“With the help of the world class talent at Ravensbourne and the reach of Janet, we want to use the I, Cinna project to inspire all the kids in the UK about the relevance of Shakespeare today, but also the amazing possibilities of digital and social media and the excitement of IT as a career choice," said Neil Crockett, managing director of Cisco London 2012.

“That inspiration will help drive the talent that this innovative sector needs to help lead the UK’s economic growth and build a brilliant future for Britain,” he added.

Jacqui O’Hanlon, director of education, Royal Shakespeare Company, said its aim is to connect young people with Shakespeare in ways that excite and inspire them. 

We want to use the I, Cinna project to inspire kids in the UK about Shakespeare, the amazing possibilities of digital and social media, and the excitement of IT as a career choice

Neil Crockett, managing director, Cisco London 2012

“Through this innovative collaboration with Cisco, Ravensbourne and Janet, we have been able to reach schools across the country that otherwise would never have access to our work, and we’ve been able to do that because of the new technologies our partners have brought with them," she said.

“We’ve had some amazing reactions from students and teachers, and we’re delighted that so many young people got their first taste of Shakespeare through the I, Cinna (The Poet) webcast,” added O'Hanlon.

Dr James Morris, subject leader, BA (Hons) Web Media, at Ravensbourne, said it had been an incredible project for Ravensbourne. 

I, Cinna pulled together students from a very wide range of courses at the institution into one collaborative whole. It was very exciting to combine digital film-making with live TV studio production, web design and social media management. This was a true multi-platform project that wove much greater participation and engagement into the traditional dramatic form," he said.

“Its enormous success with schoolteachers and students alike evidenced just how powerful this blend of media can be. We look forward to working on further projects that build on the incredible innovation of I, Cinna,” added Morris.

Tim Boundy, applications development team manager of Janet, said the firm was thrilled to be able to assist in streaming the RSC I, Cinna performance to schools. 

“It has been great to work with all the partners in this project and it is also wonderful to be instrumental in linking an institution such as the Royal Shakespeare Company with so many schools across the country. With Ravensbourne as the live venue on Janet, and the Janet connection to all the local authorities for schools, it made perfect sense for us to be involved in the project and to support the video delivery," said Boundy.

“We also plan to use the new streaming infrastructure for other educational projects, including enabling the National Student Television Association (NaSTA) to offer live streaming channels to all the UK student TV stations.”

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