Leading actors perform at Guildhall’s ‘open mic’ Shakespeare day

A ‘drop in’ event to encourage people to perform their favourite piece from Shakespeare’s plays will be opened by recitals from actors Simon Russell Beale and John Heffernan.

‘Speeches, Soliloquies and Songs from Shakespeare’ at the Guildhall on Tuesday 10 May forms part of the City of London Corporation’s series of events to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, who lived and worked in the Square Mile.

A stage will be set up in Guildhall Art Gallery’s Basinghall Suite with a lectern and a free standing microphone to enable people to read, recite or perform their piece. Participants are invited to sign up for the free event by emailing or calling 020 7332 1868.

Simon Russell Beale, whose roles have included Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth, Richard III, Malvolio, Iago, Benedick, Leontes and Falstaff, will open the event at 10am with two pieces of his choice. Widely regarded as one of the finest stage actors of his generation, he graduated from the City of London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 1983. John Heffernan, who trained at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, will open the afternoon session at 1.30pm with his two pieces. Most recently seen in Dickensian, Luther, Ripper Street and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, his stage credits include King Lear, Richard II, She Stoops to Conquer and Major Barbara, and the title roles in Oppenheimer, Edward II and Macbeth.

Sara Pink, Head of Guildhall Library, said:

My colleagues and I are delighted that Simon Russell Beale and John Heffernan, two of our most talented and versatile actors, will open ‘Speeches, Soliloquies and Songs from Shakespeare’ with exclusive performances, before handing the stage to members of the public, including City workers and residents, regular theatregoers, and budding actors. We are looking forward to watching a wide range of rousing speeches, reflective asides to the audience and hopefully, a few songs.”

Damian Lewis, the Homeland and Wolf Hall actor and Guildhall School of Music & Drama graduate, and Alan Hollinghurst, who won the 2004 Man Booker Prize for The Line of Beauty, opened Guildhall Library’s ‘Complete Reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ in April 2014 to celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.



Photographers who would like to attend the photo calls with Simon Russell Beale at (approx) 9.45am and John Heffernan at (approx) 1.20pm are asked to contact Andrew Buckingham (see below) for accreditation. In order not to distract Simon Russell Beale and John Heffernan or upset the audience’s enjoyment of the event, photographers and members of the audience are asked not to take photographs during the opening recitals.

Dr Peter Ross, Principal Librarian at Guildhall Library, will host ‘Speeches, Soliloquies and Songs from Shakespeare’ and is available for media interviews. Please contact Andrew Buckingham (see below) for more details.

The event will be held in the Basinghall Suite at Guildhall Art Gallery, EC2. The morning session will run from 10am to 12pm and the afternoon session will run from 1.30pm to (approx) 3.30pm.


Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer, City of London Corporation

Tel: 020 7332 1452 / Mobile: 07795 333 060



The City of London Corporation is a uniquely diverse organisation. It supports and promotes the City as the world leader in international finance and business services and provides local services and policing for those working in, living in and visiting the Square Mile. It also provides valued services to London and the nation. These include the Barbican Centre and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama; the Guildhall Library and Art Gallery and London Metropolitan Archives; a range of education provision (including three City Academies); five Thames bridges (including Tower Bridge and the Millennium Bridge); the Central Criminal Court at Old Bailey; over 10,000 acres of open spaces (including Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest), and three wholesale food markets. It is also London’s Port Health Authority and runs the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow. It works in partnership with neighbouring boroughs on the regeneration of surrounding areas and the City Bridge Trust, which it oversees, donates more than £15m to charity annually.


Guildhall Library (Aldermanbury, EC2) is a library of London history, the largest library collection in the world devoted to the history of a single city. The Library values London’s history and traditions, offering a modern library space, open to all with access to e-resources and e-books, alongside access to its extensive printed books collection. The library’s collections (including rare books and manuscripts) are available to everyone - and members of the public do not need to join the library or make an appointment to consult its collections. For more details, please visit