Head of the Czech Centre in London, Ladislav Pflimpfl, on some of this autumn's highlights

Ladislav Pflimpfl

This week, heads of Czech Centres from around the world are gathered in Prague to discuss where next for their cultural institutes. Amongst them is Ladislav Pflimpfl, head of the Czech Centre in London. Just before he hopped on a plane to Prague this weekend, I stopped by his London office to ask him what Czech events he had organised this autumn in the British capital:

“Only a week ago we launched our Czech Centre September-October visual arts season. We will celebrate Czech participation at the Frieze Art Fair with Tereza Bušková, Kateřina Šedá and Josef Bolf, which is the biggest Czech exhibition to date, really. However, this season also covers a lot of design. We are supporting a Czech feature, ‘In the Praise of Shadow’, at the V&A, which is dedicated to sustainable light design. And, you know, we are gearing up towards November, when we will introduce the 1989-2009 Velvet Revolution 20th anniversary season.”

And what have you got planned for that?

“Plenty of things. We’ve got debates, film screenings, documentary screenings. One of the major events I would like to mention is an event dedicated to November 17, 1989. We are showing TV footage and documentary films never seen in the UK before showing what happened on Národní Třída on that night. We expect Michael Kocáb to come to London and debate his views on the following days with the BBC correspondent who was covering those events in Prague on those days. Also we’ve got a film season - that is the traditional Czech film season at Riverside Studios - which will show the best films of the 20 years of Czech cinema following 1989.”

I know in Prague already the Polish Institute has been celebrating 20 years since the first democratic elections in Poland. Do you find that the Czech Centre is actually in competition with places like the Polish Institute, the Goethe Institute, when it stages these 20 years since the fall of the Iron Curtain events?

“Certainly yes, if you look around in London and the UK, every major institution is running an event related to the anniversary, they are also doing a lot about the war. We also have plenty of events which put this into context, we work with the Polish and the German and the Romanian and the Hungarian Institutes because we want to show it in the context of Central Europe and really world history, if you like.

“But also we have our own events which look more at what happened in Prague. And these are the events that we call ‘Velvet Revolution events’. Petr Sís from New York is showing his beautiful illustrations from the book ‘Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain’. As I said we are looking at what happened in November 1989. But yes, there is a competition and I feel there is a danger of people feeling a bit tired and a bit overloaded by the fall of the curtain events and the 20th anniversary etc. But I very much hope that we will manage to show that each of the revolutions, each of these clusters of events, had its own history, its own context, its own consequences and legacy.”