A distinguished member of staff from Bradford College had the privilege of meeting King Charles, rubbing shoulders with royalty. Esther Wilkey, a lecturer in the Bradford College ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) department, received an invitation to Windsor Castle for a day dedicated to celebrating the enduring influence and contributions of William Shakespeare to UK culture.

King Charles and Queen Camilla, along with several other royals, graced the occasion. The event featured a 45-minute performance followed by a drinks reception in one of Windsor Castle’s grand halls.

Esther said: “It was just an amazing time. I spoke to the King. He talked about how much he loved doing Shakespeare when he was younger and we also spoke about what we [Bradford College] do with our students; he was really interested, friendly, and very chatty.”

Esther’s invitation stemmed from her day-to-day teaching efforts in upholding the legacy of the world’s most renowned playwright, William Shakespeare. The ESOL department at the College collaborates with The Royal Shakespeare Company (The RSC) to incorporate Shakespearean texts into the curriculum (ranging from Entry Level 1 to Level 1) for students whose first language isn’t English.

Bradford College has a commendable track record of working with marginalised communities. It was designated as the first College of Sanctuary in West Yorkshire by City of Sanctuary UK. The region receives approximately 13% of the UK’s Asylum Seekers, with Bradford being one of four primary destinations.

“I think a lot of students who come to the UK know something about Shakespeare and there’s kudos in knowing about him. We look at ways of unpicking and simplifying his texts, methods which the students can go on to use down the line for things like their GCSE English,” Esther continued.

“It’s all about cultural capital. Students can engage and really feel part of British culture; that can be so exciting.”

As well as meeting royalty, Esther also got to mix with a range of celebrities including Dame Judi Dench and Helena Bonham Carter CBE.

“It was beyond anything I ever thought it could have been. I’ve worked here [at Bradford College] for 10 years and I love my job, but I never imagined it would lead me to meet the King. I felt really proud to represent Bradford College,” Esther finished.

“We’re the only College that runs a tutorial programme like this. It was interesting to talk to another teacher there, who said that from me presenting about the work that we do, she’s used similar ideas at her college with their students.

“It’s almost a bit of a flagship concept which will hopefully get others on board and offer these opportunities to their students.”

Earlier this year, a group of ESOL students from Bradford College performed at the renowned Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre as part of Refugee Week (19 – 25 June). The United Nations High Commission for Refugees hosted the fundraising event ‘Moving Stories’ to mark the culmination of the world’s largest arts and culture festival celebrating the contributions, creativity, and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.

Bradford College offers a range of ESOL courses, with vacancies still open for 16-18-year-olds. For more information, visit the Bradford College website.