Entertainment: Cover-up boosts Shakespeare attractions

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust brought in Willoughby PR ahead of the launch of Anonymous, a film claiming that William Shakespeare had not written any of the plays attributed to him.

Stunt: cover-up boosts Shakespeare attractions
Stunt: cover-up boosts Shakespeare attractions

Campaign: The Great Shakespeare Cover-up
Client: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
PR team: Willoughby PR
Timescale: October 2011
Budget: £2,500



  • To use the launch of Anonymous to engage with people who have shown an interest in Shakespeare
  •  To bring Shakespeare and the trust to the fore of popular culture, encouraging debate.


The team visualised a world without Shakespeare. This included getting 45 pubs in the UK named after the Bard to cover up their signs 'in protest', while road signs mentioning him were also covered.

Ahead of the film's premiere, the stunt was sold in to national broadcast journalists, who were invited to visit a Shakespearean expert at the trust on launch day, when the world-famous Gower Memorial statue in Stratford was covered with a white sheet.


Coverage included a live broadcast by BBC Breakfast, as well as CNN and Russia NTV. The story featured 224 times during five days across UK regional and national print, radio, TV and online.


In 2011, visitor numbers to birthplace properties rose by 41,477 compared with 2010.

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