I noticed today that Poland’s once biggest bank had opened a branch in central London.
PKO Bank Polski has a nice shiny branch in Shaftesbury Avenue. Weird location if you ask me, but maybe there are more branches in other parts of London.
As it’s Sunday, I couldn’t go inside and check what’s on offer, but I’ll investigate and report back.
If you’re based in London – or are visiting at the end of May – this might be your biggest chance this year to sample the best Polish culture has to offer. At least in the musical sense.
Britain’s most famous violinist, Nigel Kennedy, has been in love with Poland for quite some time now. And at the end of May (29th-31st) he’s putting together a spectacular show, Nigel Kennedy’s Polish Weekend, the culmination of Polska! Year.
The Weekend will see the Krakow-based Brit performing centre stage as well as alongside his jazz and young colleagues in an eclectic offering covering big band, experimental and vocal jazz, classical, folk, and klezmer music.
And why exactly is he doing it? Here’s what he has to say about this project:
‘I’ve been living in Poland some time now and I’m well into the Polish life, from the music and football through to the warmth of the people, food, brilliant beer and vodka. Poland has an incredibly rich environment for all music and I’m sure I’ve had a much better chance to develop as a musician because of all these live forms of music that are very prevalent in Polish music.
Giving a nod to his classical roots, Kennedy leads the UK debut of his own newly founded Orchestra of Life and Chopin Super Group.
A major highlight of the Weekend is Nigel Kennedy’s World Cup Project, in which Kennedy and colleagues perform Kennedy’s own composition, a partly improvised soundtrack, to accompany a screening of the 1973 World Cup qualifying match between England and Poland, which saw England failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time. That should be spectacular.
But the weekend will also offer the chance to see live some of the biggest names in Polish music, many of whom have been featured on this blog.
On Saturday 29 May one of the hottest bands in the current Polish music scene Zakopower performs at the Royal Elizabeth Hall.
The following day on the same stage Nigel Kennedy will be joined by Kroke (pictured below) for an hour of fantastic folk music.
And if you liked my post about Anna Maria Jopek and her music, you can see her live on Monday 31st May.
In the Royal Festival Hall Nigel Kennedy’s Chopin Super Group pays homage to Poland’s greatest composer Fryderyk Chopin in a celebratory concert with a twist.
One of the highlights of the entire Weekend, the concert features performances by leading Polish pianist Janusz Olejniczak, who played the piano music in Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning film The Pianist, before Nigel Kennedy and special guests, including Anna Maria Jopek, provide contemporary interpretations of Chopin’s music.
Apart from all the performances you’ll also be able to sample some Polish food and drink, there will be family activities and violin-making workshops.
Announced on this blog just over a year ago, Polska! Year comes to an end with a bang. Hope the past twelve months have helped you discover a different side of Poland.
All images supplied by The Southbank Centre
Remember my Chopin post from a few weeks ago? Looks like London is getting ready for some Chopin celebrations too this year – just saw this in this week’s Time Out.
So glad there are more and more Polish events in London every year.
However, if you don’t want to splash out on Time Out, try the Polish Cultural Institute. They’ve created a guide to all the Chopin-related events taking place in the UK this year – you can download a free copy here.
Quite a few good Polish cultural events are taking place in London this autumn. I’ll have more details nearer the date (mid-September).
Now however, if you’re in London or visiting the city and need somewhere nice and quiet – with a bit of traditional Polish art thrown in – why not hop on the train to Forest Hill and visit the fabulous Horniman Museum and Gardens?
It’s a stunning place, where you can sit in the park with a book, admire some fantastic panoramic views of the capital, gaze at some not-too-exotic animals kept in what they call a mini-zoo or spend a lovely afternoon in the quirky Horniman Museum.
It specialises in anthropology and natural history and has a rather impressive collection of musical instruments. And for another month and a half you can also see an exhibition on Polish wycinanki – paper cuts.
What are they? Let me quote the Museum’s website:
Wycinanki was traditionally used by Polish peasants to decorate their cottages and they often depicted scenes from daily life, such as weddings or holidays.This beautiful art form is still popular and widely practised in two regions of Poland, Kurpie and Lowicz.
This is some seriously complex stuff, and if you’re into that kind of thing, I guess a trip to south London might be a good idea.
If that’s not your thing though, Horniman Gardens are still well worth the trip. If only to try and spot as many London landmarks as possible from the top of the hill…
More on the exhibition here.
Image © dalbera via Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence
But I’ve just come across a rather impressive selection of Polish places – or venues serving Polish food in some form – on a user review site Qype.
The good thing about it is it comes with user reviews and I have to say I’m so far impressed by the fact that most places got between 4 and 5 stars. OK, quite a few of them have so far been reviewed by just one person, which is hardly sufficient for a balanced review, but it’s fair to say that whenever you have an average score of 4 stars from 6 reviewers, chances are the place will not disappoint.
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I had no idea how many Polish places there really are in London. Some of them, like L’autre in Mayfair, are a bizarre hybrid of Polish and Mexican cuisine, some are serving Eastern European food in general, but the remaining ones are focused purely on pierogi, placki and bigos. Yum!
Qype also does a good job listing quite a few Polish shops in London, so whenever you have this sudden urge to get some kabanos, you know where to look for it online.
Image © Bartolo – via Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence
Polish PM Donald Tusk was in London yesterday. He was supposed to try and convince Poles living here to come back to Poland, by asking “Do you have a return PLan?’ (PL stands for Poland, of course). All that because the Polish government has launched a special site, where Poles living in the UK can get advice regarding moving their lives back to Poland.
Allegedly in the first 24 hours after the site was launched, it was ‘extremely popular’, although I would argue whether 150 questions asked in 24 hours is really that much, bearing in mind that there are anything between 500,000 and a million or even more recent migrants from Poland. But at least the government is eventually doing something useful apart from just saying ‘Come back!’.
A London-based Polish portal Moja Wyspa quotes unnamed ‘experts’ who predict that up to half a million Poles may go back home in the next few years. That’s just another finger in the air estimate – nobody really knows how many people have come to the UK from Poland in the first place, so how can they predict how many are planning, sorry, PLanning to return?! But it’s good to see someone wants to help them at last.
On an almost unrelated note, looks like Aussies are also abandoning the capital. I have certainly noticed that among my Australian friends…