STUDENTS from across the UK and from every school type will take part in the world's largest youth drama festival this autumn, run by award-winning cultural education charity Shakespeare Schools Foundation (SSF).

Local primary and secondary schools will be performing at Storyhouse Chester on Monday, October 15.

SSF has recruited nearly 900 schools nationwide to perform as part of its annual festival, which sees young people take on the challenge of performing abridged Shakespeare plays on professional stages.

Up to 30,000 students will perform in one of 128 professional theatres across the UK between October and December.

Actor and comedian Hugh Dennis, a patron of SSF, says he is amazed by the impact of the festival.

He said: "The enjoyment the children who take part show and the sense of confidence they gained from both performing and working with the words is palpable, and will surely help them both now and in later life."

SSF targets students and communities who stand to benefit the most from engagement with the arts. Instilling self-esteem, communication and teamwork skills, students are prepared for the next stage in their lives.

A total of 65,000 people watched festival performances in 2017.

Shakespeare Schools Foundation's chief executive Ruth Brock said: "Many of the young people performing - like many of us at school – have initially found Shakespeare boring or difficult or thought it's not for them.

"But working with us, they've learnt to tell these 400 year old stories to new audiences, discovered beautiful language and discovered that the themes of heartbreak and friendship, jealousy and corruption, war and love are as relevant now as they ever were.

"Shakespeare, in short, helps us to live life better and teaches us all more about what it means to be human. In giving children and audiences new experiences, we know that Shakespeare has the power to transform lives."

This year the charity celebrates its 18th birthday. Since 2000, its work has transformed 300,000 young lives.

To mark the anniversary, SSF is launching This Isle is Full of Noises, a digital campaign to share stories from 18 different people who have been a part of their work – from pupil to teacher, parent to donor.

Representing places and perspectives from across the UK, the stories reflect the charity's belief that Shakespeare, and the arts, are for everyone.