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John Bell

Recognised as a National Living Treasure, John Bell is a trailblazer in the development of Australian theatre, with leadership lessons to share of Shakespearian magnitude.

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John Bell is one of the nation’s most illustrious theatre personalities. Award-winning actor, acclaimed director, risk-taking impresario, torch-bearing educationalist and speaker on leadership; John has been a key figure in shaping the nation’s theatrical identity as we know it over the past 50 years.

A trailblazer right from his very beginnings, John founded The Bell Shakespeare Company in 1990 where he served as Director until 2015. His productions include over 15 of Shakespeare’s greatest works, which have been played to almost 2.5 million Australians.

Bell has received recognition from many bodies for his leadership and significant contributions to national culture. He is an Officer of the Order of Australia and the Order of the British Empire; has an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the Universities of Sydney, New South Wales and Newcastle; and was recognised in 1997 by the National Trust of Australia as one of Australia’s Living Treasures.

John is an unforgettable speaker. His presentations are infused with humour, surprising insights, enthralling readings and leadership lessons stemming not just from John’s incredible story of passion, trials & success but also from the minds and deeds of Shakespeare’s most notable and polarising characters.

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John Bell

Lessons on courage

February 28th 2022 Giving a voice to some of the most infamous and complex figures of our time, John Bell offers glimpses of insight into some of the most fascinating minds in history.… Read more +

Learning from Leadership

August 19th 2019 Where do we look for leaders? What do we expect of them? Where are the men and women with integrity, imagination, compassion, vision and the ability to transmit that vision… Read more +

What the Bell Shakespeare theatre company has taught John Bell about Leadership

August 8th 2016 In the 25 years he led his eponymous theatre company, actor and director John Bell has learned a lot about leadership. Here he shares his experience. Read more +
Some Achieve Greatness

Some Achieve Greatness

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Around the globe people have been crying out for “Leadership”: demanding it, begging for it. From the farcical spectacle of short-lived Australian prime ministers shoving each other through the revolving door to scandalous failures of governance in Australia's financial institutions and the moral abyss in church leadership to the mess of Brexit and the chaotic unpredictability of the Trump administration, and now the greatest leadership challenge since World War II: Covid-19. Stable, reliable, sensible leadership has been in short supply.

We often resort to the word 'Shakespearean' to explain our dramatic times. And indeed, we can learn a lot from Shakespeare about leadership – good and bad. The world's greatest analyst of human behaviour and motivation; a man well acquainted with crises of leadership in tumultuous times; a man whose dry wit, bottomless empathy enabled him to encapsulate countless valuable life lessons that still ring with relevance today.

As someone who has spent a good deal of the last seventy-something years studying, performing and directing Shakespeare's plays, John Bell has absorbed quite a few valuable lessons in life, character and leadership from the bard, and then put these to good use running two successful theatre companies. Some Achieve Greatness contains invaluable lessons on leadership, drawn from John Bell's extensive relationship with Shakespeare and his own experience as a cultural leader, illustrated with an irreverent and contemporary set of cartoons by Cathy Wilcox.

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