Havel to the Café! New bust to be unveiled on Velvet Revolution anniversary

Havel bust at University of Manitoba in Winnipeg

A bust of Václav Havel by sculptor Marie Šeborová can be found in the Irish parliament, at Columbia University and a number of other places. The latest in the series will be unveiled on Wednesday – the anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution – at Prague’s Café Slavia, one of the late dissident-turned-president’s old haunts. The person behind the series of bronze busts is Bill Shipsey of Art for Amnesty.

“It’s a place that he went to a lot. It’s a place that I think he went to during the period of time when he was not allowed to put on his plays.

“And we just thought it would be nice to do it there.

“We then made an approach to AMU [Academy of Performing Arts, owner of the building where Slavia is located] and to its new rector.

“She received us very well, she liked the idea and she thought it would be a nice idea to have it there.

“She introduced us the new owner Jozef Onderka and his wife Petra.

“They liked the idea very much and that’s how it has come to pass that it’s going into the Café Slavia.”

Could you explain the plans for a walk from Prague Castle, from the statue of Masaryk, all the way to Slavia?

“I remember after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 the slogan was, Havel na hrad – Havel to the Castle.

Café Slavia | Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International

“And I thought now we would perhaps have, Havel do kavárny – Havel to the Café.

“The procession is called Havel to the Café; having spent his time in the Castle, he’s now going back to his café.

“We thought an appropriate place to start would be at the Masaryk statue, outside his former residence in the Castle.

“So the idea is to process, carrying the bust.

“It’s open to everyone to come. We are gathering, as I say, at the Masaryk statue at 1 o’clock on Wednesday.

“Then we will move down Nerudova and the first stop will be at the Václav Havel’s Place, designed by my late friend Bořek Šípek, at Maltese Square.

“There will be readings in Czech, and one in English, there.

“From there we will walk in procession across the Charles Bridge and then the next stop is in the theatre Divadlo Na Zábradlí.

“Very graciously one of the organisers of this event is organising an event for the marchers there.

“We will go into the theatre, where we will stay for about 40 or 45 minutes, at 2:15.

“And after that we will process finally to the Café Slavia and the dedication event will start.

“It’s invitation only and we have to keep the numbers tight for understandable, Covid-related reasons.

“The dedication event will start at 4 o’clock.”

I think there have already been six copies of this bust by Marie Šeborová. Will there be any more, or is it all over now?

“There is one further one that has been made and it’s my desire and ambition to place this in Bratislava.

“Because when the Velvet Revolution happened it was Czechoslovakia, and we would very much like to put the seventh one there.

“And Marie Šeborová thinks that it should be, mercifully for the sake of the mould, the last of them [laughs].

“Because I think that if you try and push the mould any further it may not look like Václav Havel when it comes out [laughs].

“So with the seventh it’s certainly my hope that we would place it in a suitable place, similar to Café Slavia, in Bratislava, some time in 2022.”

Copies of the bronze bust by Marie Šeborová have to date been placed at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Ireland’s Dáil (lower house), the University of Manitoba, the European Parliament in Strasbourg and Columbia University in New York.