London’s Czech community centre Velehrad to close down
The Czech and Slovak community in London are set to lose a venue that has served as a meeting place for generations of refugees and expats. Founded by a Czech Catholic priest in Notting Hill in 1964, the Velehrad centre has provided new arrivals with accommodation and served as a place for various social, cultural and religious events. But the organization that runs the centre has now decided to sell the property, which is a move opposed by many Czech expats in the UK. I discussed the issue with Milan Kocourek, a London-based journalist and the head of the local chapter of the expat organization Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences.
What do the members of the Czech and Slovak community in London think of this move?
“As chairman of the society of art and sciences I must say that vast majority of our members in London did not like the idea. They were arguing that there are several negative points, for instance what would [Velehrad’s founder] Father Lang think of it? They were convinced that Father Lang would not be happy because he established the place.
The decision is final, the sale will go ahead – but what will happen, do you know who the new owner will be and what will happen there with the community centre?
“I don’t know anything about the new owner. Organisations which have been housed in Velehrad will have to move to a new place. A new place has not been found yet but the trustees are still looking. They are searching for a house which would have a larger community room than Velehrad. Space is required for more than 100 people to fit into one room. In Velehrad this was hardly possible. Organisations like ours, society of arts and sciences, will move to a new place once it has been found, hopefully still in central London.”
“Indeed. That will be money towards the purchase of the new house and its refurbishment for new purposes. Hopefully it will be a success but at the moment nobody seems to know where it will be.”