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Shakespeare in the Middle East

Islam's research as one of the AHRC and BBC New Thinkers aimed to continue building British national identity by celebrating Shakespeare’s impact around his 400th anniversary.

Statue of shakespeare


Dr Islam Issa

Research background

Dr Islam Issa was selected as one of the AHRC and BBC New Generation Thinkers, ten academics whose research has the potential to make a significant impact on society and whose work can be turned into programmes for the wider public.

After a four-month selection process involving a series of day-long workshops at the BBC in Salford and London, the final ten were chosen by a panel of BBC Radio 3 and BBC Arts producers, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

Dr Issa was highlighted as a leading light out of hundreds of applicants following his work examining the social impact of seventeenth-century poet John Milton’s Paradise Lost, with the intention of creating programmes about Shakespeare in the Middle East.

Research aims 

It aimed to provide a space for intercultural dialogue and understanding, particularly at a time of tension between cultures and faith groups. Furthermore, it aimed to continue building British national identity by celebrating Shakespeare’s impact around his 400th anniversary.

Research outcomes

After his formal year as a New Generation Thinker, Islam has now gone on to become a regular broadcaster for the BBC and has also written for numerous outlets including The Guardian and Times Literary Supplement. His media work has included regular contributions to Radio 3, presenting the flagship cultural programme Free Thinking, as well as Drama on 3, The Essay, The Postcard, and a Sunday Feature documentary on Shakespeare and Terrorism (2018). He also presented a TV documentary on BBC Four: Cleopatra and Me: In Search of a Lost Queen (2019), which was Pick of the Day in ten national newspapers/magazines, Pick of the Week in What’s On TV Magazine, and reviewed by The Times as “a revealing and concise corrective”.

Additional links 

Cleopatra and Me, BBC Four television documentary (May 2019; repeat December 2019, June 2020).

Shakespeare and Terrorism, BBC Radio 3 (November 2018).