Speakers: Marie-Louise Ayres (M), Mr Sem Fabrizi (S), Jane Drake-Brockman (J), Emeritus Professor Ian Donaldson (I), Professor Ian Gadd (G)
Location: National Library of Australia
M: Good afternoon, everybody. Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to your, our, beautiful National Library of Australia. I’m Marie-Louise Ayres, the Library’s Assistant Director-General, National Collections Access. As we begin I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I thank their elders past and present for caring for this land on which our building now stands and which we are privileged to call home.
I’m delighted that you’ve joined us this afternoon to hear from this rather illustrious group of people in the front row. I welcome His Excellency, Mr Sem Fabrizi, Ambassador and Head of Delegation from the Delegation of the European Union to Australia and New Zealand, Jane Drake-Brockman, Director of the EU Centre for Global Affairs at the University of Adelaide, Dr Kate Flaherty from the Australian National University and of course our two main speakers today, Emeritus Professor Ian Donaldson from the University of Melbourne and Professor Ian Gadd from Bath Spa University.
We’re gathered here this afternoon to mark two special occasions, Europe Day which takes place in just a couple of weeks on the 9th of May and celebrates peace and unity in Europe, and the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare which occurs today. This anniversary is a rare opportunity to delve into the legacy of a man whose contribution to English language and culture is immeasurable, permeating everyday speech on such a basic level that most speakers are not even aware that they are quoting his work. In fact, at a large meeting I attended yesterday we were talking on this matter and I burst into song from a Shakespeare play, and I won’t do that again today.
The Library holds a remarkable Shakespeare collection. As you would expect we have many published editions of his plays and poetry and extensive holdings of published criticism, which of course includes Kate’s 2011 exploration of contemporary Australian performances. We’re also fortunate enough to be custodians of many archival items emerging from the performance and imagined reality of Shakespeare’s plays here in Australia and relating to Australians overseas. Our pictures collection contains numerous posters advertising performances of Shakespeare’s plays; photographs of memorials to Shakespeare including some by Frank Hurley; original costume and set design sketches by actor, theatre designer and artistic director, Robin Lovejoy; sketches, paintings and photographs depicting many performances over the years including Dame Judy Dench’s turn as Perdita in The Winter’s Tale and Viola in Twelfth Night, and Katherine Hepburn and Sir Robert Helpmann as Isabella and Angelo in Measure for Measure. I could go on.
Our manuscripts collection abounds in Shakespeareana, including manuscript sheet music inspired by and for performance in the plays. We hold the extensive personal papers of John Bell spanning over 60 years, including correspondence, diaries, notebooks, production files, scripts and teaching notes. We’re fortunate enough to have not one but two interviews with Ian Donaldson here in our oral history collection and the recording of an address that he may have forgotten, but that he gave at ANU in 1976 on comedy. So like every great library we have great Shakespeare collections. If you want to explore the wealth of Shakespeare resources available across libraries in Australia and cultural institutions well you could search the Library’s Trove service. You could find the very first mention of Shakespeare in an Australian newspaper. On the 8th of September 1805 the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser includes an advertisement for an auction of a property in Prospect with the goods of a presumably unlucky householder including a set of Shakespeare’s published works. This among oh a few hundred thousand items or so you could delve into in Trove. Luckily we have Ian Donaldson and Ian Gadd here today to present a distillation of their decades and research and thought in this area rather than having to wade through that huge body of material.
So I welcome you all to the Library today and I would now like to invite His Excellency, Mr Sem Fabrizi, to open our proceedings in recognition of Europe Day and Shakespeare’s stature as a very great European and a very, very great human being. Thank you.