The project marks unprecedented collaboration between three foremost Anglo-Polish organizations in the UK. It has been conceived by the Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK), also known as the Polish Centre, and is delivered in partnership the Polish Cultural Institute in London (PCI) and Ognisko Polskie (Polish Hearth). This is the first time that these three UK organizations have joined forces in this way, which underlines the importance of the project.
POSK (Polish Social and Cultural Association) is the largest Polish Cultural Centre in the world (outside Poland). Its extensive premises in London offer a range of cultural resources and visitor facilities such as a theatre, cinema, jazz café, bookshop, contemporary art gallery space, newly refurbished atrium suitable for concerts, ample rooms for hosting events, a bistro, two restaurants and one of the largest Polish Libraries outside Poland. The latter features internationally significant holdings of Anglo-Polish publications and archives, including the Joseph Conrad Collection of manuscripts, memorabilia and first editions. POSK also owns an extensive art collection. It provides premises and meeting rooms to several Anglo-Polish organizations such as the Józef Piłsudski Institute and the Joseph Conrad Society.
POSK is a registered charity (no. 236745). Its mission statement is to: ‘develop and encourage a greater mutual understanding and a greater degree of intellectual co-operation and cultural intercourse between persons…of Polish extraction…on the one hand and the other people of the United Kingdom on the other hand’. Established in 1964 when Poland was under the Soviet rule, POSK obtained funds for its extensive building from donations made by the Polish community of Great Britain (including private individuals as well as numerous Polish organizations). Its avant-garde brutalist premises, designed by M. F. Grzesik in 1971, are considered a notable exemplar of modernist architecture and feature in numerous architectural surveys such as Owen Hatherley’s Modern Buildings in Britain: A Gazetteer. POSK is committed to joining forces with other strategic organizations to raise the profile of Polish culture and Anglo-Polish relations amongst UK’s diverse audiences to the benefit of all participating partners. POSK is also seeking to create an engaging, culturally relevant and welcoming platform for Poles as well as Britons. It is particularly devoted to the value of heritage in fulfilling its organizational objectives.
The Polish Cultural Institute
Based in London, the Polish Cultural Institute is dedicated to nurturing and promoting cultural ties between the United Kingdom and Poland. It brings Polish heritage and contemporary Polish culture to Britain’s multicultural audiences, particularly in London and seeks to find connections between Polish and British culture and heritage. It also works to develop collaborations and build bridges between key cultural institutions in Poland and the UK. Flagship projects supported by the Institute include, amongst other, festivals such as the annual ‘Kinoteka’ film festival and ‘Shakespeare & Poland’ at the Globe, art exhibitions, such as the recent ‘Conversations with God: Jan Matejko’s Copernicus’ at the National Gallery and ‘Young Poland: An Arts and Crafts Movement (1890 – 1918)’ at the William Morris Gallery and public art – such as the unveiling of the statues of Irena Sendler in Newark and Jan Kochanowski at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Stratfordupon-Avon, and ‘They Went to Sea’, an interactive mural by Jola Kudela in Donacaster.
Ognisko Polskie (Polish Hearth)
Ognisko Polskie – the Polish Hearth is a Members’ Club was founded in 1939. There was a significant Polish Émigré Community living in the British Isles long before the outbreak of the Second World War. Plans had already been drawn up to create a “Polish House” and club in Central London. However, it was after the events of 1st September 1939 that, with the support of the British Council, the property at 55 Princes Gate on Exhibition Road was rented and Ognisko Polskie – The Polish Hearth – was established.
The official inauguration took place on 16th July 1940, and included addresses by The Rt. Hon. The Lord Halifax, then the Secretary of State, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent and His Excellency Generał Sikorski, Prime Minister and Commandar-in-Chief of the Polish Forces.
From its earliest days, Ognisko Polskie embodied all aspects of the Polish Émigré community as well as nurturing and developing British-Polish relations. Ognisko Polskie was from its very beginning at the centre of every aspect of Polish life in London. All significant events in the Polish cultural calendar were, and continue to be celebrated here. This is where everyone can come to meet and be part of the community and Polish traditions and culture and enjoying Polish cuisine at its acclaimed restaurant.