1969-90 Culture and Entertainment

Opening of the 'Gospoda', March 1972
Opening of the 'Gospoda', March 1972

Entertainment at the Polish Centre was principally provided at the "Akademie", held to celebrate national historical events. It also included the regular receptions held at Christmas, Lent, the Monsignor's "Imieniny" (Patron Saint's Day) (after 1986 also that of Father Marian Flis), and Easter. There were also occasional visits by choirs and traveling theatres from other centres.

The "Akademie" have been mentioned in the previous chapter, so space can now be given to the receptions and performances. Food and drink has always featured prominently at all Polish festivities, but in Leamington Spa it has also been exclusively traditional, served hot and free to all members and guests, throughout the Polish Centre's history. The first "Oplatek" Christmas party in the new Centre was held in the clubroom on 28th December 1969, and the first "Zapusty" (Lent party) and "Swiecone" (Easter party) in 1970. In the early days these celebrations took place on Sundays in the early evening, so as not to disturb activities in the Club. Once the basement had been converted to form the "Gospoda" function rooms in 1972, by Polish architect Monika Lewandowska, the timing became more convenient, immediately following the Sunday mass. Monsignor Jozef Golabs' "Imieniny", was the first event at the "Gospoda", and photographs taken on that occasion appeared in the local press. From that time until 2002, every reception of the "Kolo" took place there. These are now held in the 2nd floor function room. None of the numerous receptions could have taken place without the work of the "Kolo Pan" ladies committee. Their work is described in a separate chapter.

Supporting Polish culture has always been one of the main aims of the "Kolo" and the Polish Centre, but little could be done in the first two years, owing to financial constraints. That's why the first cultural event at the Polish Centre, which was not linked to national celebrations, was the series of Mickiewicz Evenings, celebrating Poland's greatest poet, and organized by the then chair Stanislaw Czarzasty in 1970. People came to hear recordings of the epic poem "Pan Tadeusz", and to enjoy a cup of tea. The following year artists from outside Leamington Spa were invited. In April 1971 the "Kolo Dramatyczne" from Cambridge, staged "Podwieczorek przy mikrofonie", and the "Kolo Amarorskie" from Derby performed for Christmas. Films were also very popular, and were screened every 2 months, including the hit "Pan Wolodyjowski".

In January 1972 an exhibition of paintings by Worcester artist Jarkowski, was held in the clubroom. 3 paintings were bought for the centre, including one of Monsignor Jozef Golab.

A year later there were performances by theatre ensembles from Cambridge, Derby and Coventry, as well as a New Year's Eve concert by Stanislawa Horwat. The theatre ensemble from Derby made several more visits to Leamington Spa, until the mid 1970s. Later theatrical performances were combined with "Akademie", the exception being poetry recitals. In 1986 Stefan Jankowicz read his translations of Petrarch's sonnets. Attendance was surprisingly high, despite the rather difficult subject matter, which is why the poet Ilinska was invited to perform her works on 29th November 1992.

In May 1992 the "Kolo" became a member of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain. Jan Mokrzycki, the then chair, was elected to its Council. The Polish Centre subsequently gave considerable support to the Federation. When the Polish Dance Festival was held at the Spa Centre on 6th-7th February 1993, 50 dancers were put up at the Centre, and on the second day a dinner was held for the honoured guests. These included former President in Exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, the chair of the Federation Zygmunt Szkopiak, the chair of the SPK Polish Ex-Combattants Association Czeslaw Zychowicz, and the Polish Consul M. Pedzich.

It's worth mentioning that the whole cost of the cultural activities was borne by the "Kolo". This is unprecedented in Polish communities in UK.