MORE than 4,500 children from schools across York and beyond got to experience the Bard at the city's pop up Shakespeare theatre.

So far during the second year of performances at the venue at the foot of Clifford’s Tower, Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre has had 4,749 school children and their teachers through its doors, from more than 100 schools across the North of England.

Pupils and teachers from as far afield as York, Leeds, Manchester, Doncaster, Sheffield, Newcastle, Halifax, Middlesbrough, Bradford, Rochdale, Hull, Sunderland, Scarborough, Knaresborough, Scunthorpe, and Harrogate have enjoyed nine morning performances of Hamlet, The Tempest and Twelfth Night. Many of the pupils were watching Shakespeare performed live for the first time.

Of that total, 2,196 pupils were able to attend for free thanks to generous funding from private donors and charities to the Rose Bursary Scheme, which enables disadvantaged children to enjoy the thrill of live theatre in this historic setting. Every £10 donated enabled a child to attend for free through the Rose Bursary Scheme.

The season runs until Sunday 1 September, with four new productions: Hamlet, Henry V, The Tempest and Twelfth Night.

The Rose Theatre has also expanded this year to a second site in the grounds of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, with a nine week season running until 7 September, where two companies are performing the repertoire of plays from the first season in York: Romeo & Juliet, Richard III, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth.

James Cundall MBE, theatre founder and CEO of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions said: “One of our key aims is to offer comprehensive support for school groups.

"We believe that all young people should have the opportunity to attend outstanding theatre, irrespective of their cultural, social or economic background. Therefore, this year once again we ran the Rose Bursary Scheme which enabled schools who would not otherwise be able to visit Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre to apply for free tickets.”

“We hope to ignite their imaginations and open their minds to the wonderful experience of live theatre, in a setting that will also be memorable, bringing history to life.”

One of the teachers from Heworth CE School in York said: “I was a member of staff accompanying a class of Y 4/5 children from Heworth School to see The Tempest, one of whom is my daughter, who said: "It was amazing!! I really understood the story and I LOVED the set and the songs! My favourite character was Trincolo, but I also really liked Ariel.

“As a staff member I thought it was an outstanding production and really accessible for the children who were watching it. The children were engrossed throughout and loved the whole experience: the setting, the staging, the costumes, the music - everything!”

The pop-up Shakespearean theatre is constructed using state-of-the-art scaffolding technology, corrugated iron and timber. Inspired by the Rose Theatre of 1587 in London’s Bankside, SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE THEATRE houses an audience of 900, with 560 seated in three covered tiers around an open-roofed courtyard with standing room for 340 ‘groundlings’.