Opened in 1999, Hungarian Cultural Centre in London, a multifaceted institute provides a forum for people and ideas, enabling Hungarian artists to introduce themselves in Britain. The piece on it appeared in the December issue of Diplomacy & Trade.
“2011 has been a highly successful and colorful year in the events calendar of the Hungarian Cultural Centre,” says Ildikó Takács, Director of the institute for the last four and a half years. “The programming of the 2011 events has been largely connected to the EU Presidency of Hungary. These large-scale Hungarian events were housed in prestigious British cultural institutions,” she told Diplomacy and Trade in a last minute interview, just after she announced her departure. “It was a pleasure for me to finish my term at the time when the extremely successful and popular ‘Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century – Brassai, Capa, Kertész, Moholy-Nagy, Munkácsy’ was still on at the Royal Academy of Arts on Piccadilly.”
As the President of EUNIC London in the academic year 2010-2011, Takács represented the national cultural institutes of the EU member states at numerous cultural events. “It was a great joy for me to open the second EUNIC London dance festival, DancEUnion, at the Southbank Centre, along with Judy Kelly, Artistic Director of this prestigious cultural venue in London. Hungary was successfully represented by Company Zadam at this international dance festival and workshop series,” she notes. As the closing event of Hungary’s EU Presidency and that of the EUNIC London Presidency, the HCC – in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute and the EC Representation in the UK – jointly organized a two-day Cultural Diplomacy Seminar at the Europe House in June, on account of the EU Presidency of Poland. The HCC took the lead in organizing this seminar for the second year and even more successfully than last year. Hungary was represented by Dr. Pál Hatos, Director of the Balassi Institute in Budapest.
According to Takács, culture is an excellent way to promote a country. “For instance, Lord Aldington, Deputy Chairman of the Royal Academy Trust, former Chairman of Deutsche Bank London, said about the ‘Eyewitness’ exhibition that “it is a great show, a great national statement.” We organized or supported several high-quality cultural events, which generated a huge amount of press and an extremely positive buzz about Hungary in many circles in British society. It is important to note that if a Hungarian cultural program or exhibition takes place in a renowned cultural institution in London it is not only the British public who will see it but everyone else who visits London, and leaves for home with a very positive image of Hungary in mind. That is how we wanted to contribute to the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the EU.”
This year, London, just as the rest of the world, had her eye on Hungarian composer Franz Liszt. The HCC organized around 17 events, which focused on Ferenc Liszt. “These events ranged from classical music to world music concerts, and were performed in the Royal Festival Hall, in Kings Place, in The 606 Jazz Club – just to name a few superb venues,” Takács continues. “The most renowned Liszt biographer, Professor Alan Walker, gave an amazing lecture with Mária Eckhardt on Liszt at the Royal Academy of Music. The best Hungarian talents participated in the programs, which we organized or supported, including the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Ivan Fischer, Dénes Varjon, Dezsõ Ránki, Edit Klukon, Tamás Vásáry, Barnabás Kelemen, or the Jánosi Ensemble. My colleague, Gábor Egri was responsible for all the Liszt events as he successfully coordinated a fantastic cooperation between the Palace of Arts, Budapest, the HCC and Chrome Media, who published the audio book of ‘The Book of Liszts’ written by John Spurling, the well-known British playwright, novelist and critic. János Balázs plays Liszt on the recording as breathtakingly as he played live in the HCC at the launch of the book and the audio book.” Takács is also very proud of the Liszt concert, given by the Budapest Festival Orchestra at the Southbank Centre, and of the Liszt Festival, which the HCC organized at Kings Place in celebration of the Liszt Bicentenary in January. The last program celebrating the Liszt bicentenary by HCC is a Christmas concert on December 5.
The 2012 programming largely relates to the London Olympics 2012 and the events of the Cultural Olympiad. Some of these events will include the European sport documentary film festival organized by EUNIC London in February and the HCC screenings of various Hungarian films that focus on sports such as ‘White Palms’, ‘6:3’ or ‘Play it again Tutti’ and ‘Football of the Good Old Age’. The Budapest Festival Orchestra will be in concert again at the Southbank Centre in March, an event in which the HCC is hoping to join. There are several anniversaries the HCC is planning to celebrate next year, among these are the centenary of John Halas, the internationally renowned Hungarian animator, the centenary of Géza Ottlik, writer and translator of many of Charles Dickens’s novels in conjunction with the bicentenary of Dickens, and Zoltán Kodály’s 130th anniversary.