The Shakespeare Centre welcomed 170 people for an evening of music, dance and recitals on Saturday 28th April 2018. Organised jointly by the SBT and the Polish Cultural Institute (equivalent to the British Council), this event was intended to engage members of the local Polish community with the collections and other services of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The event was opened by His Excellency Arkady Rzegocki, Polish Ambassador to the court of St James and was hosted by Carol Rutter.
The evening explored the life and works of Jan Kochanowski, in relation to William Shakespeare, his near contemporary. An introductory lecture by Professor Barry Keane highlighted the parallel lives of these literary giants, and Anita Jones Dębska and colleagues recited an imagined dialogue between them in English and Polish. A wonderful repertoire of formal and popular music was provided by ‘Alternative Strings’ and the evening commenced and ended with Polish dancing, including a stunning performance by Annette Ornanczyk, until recently an archives trainee with the Collections Team.
The cornerstone of the evening was a display about Kochanowski, Poland’s long association with Shakespeare, and local Polish involvement with Stratford and the surrounding district – from the 18th Century to the present day. This display was co-curated by SBT and community volunteers and drew on archives from the Trust’s own collections and items loaned for the evening by the local Polish community. At the end of the event, the Ambassador presented the Trust with a donation of archives from the local community.
The success of this event required an all-out effort from many people, including the volunteers and colleagues in Hospitality, Collections, Marketing, Media / P.R., Operations, Support Services, Visitor Services, Reception and many others. This event has the potential to develop strong links between SBT and the local and wider Polish community through a shared passion for literature and history.