The British Czech and Slovak Association (BCSA) was launched by Alexander Dubcek in November 1990 and has been a registered charity since 1995. Its aim is to raise awareness of matters relating to the history, arts, literature, politics, economies and science of Britain and the Czech and Slovak Republics.
Over the years the BCSA has organised many events covering a wide range of topics that reflect its charitable purpose. They include talks by or about leading personalities, history, literature, panel discussions, film presentations, book launches and musical recitals. Most take place at the Czech or Slovak Embassies in Notting Hill Gate.
Members with their families and friends also get together for our two annual social and fund-raising events.
The 27th BCSA annual dinner was the usual convivial occasion for over 120 members and guests to gather with friends and colleagues, and to make new acquaintances at the drinks reception beforehand (Czech beer kindly donated by Budweiser Budvar).
In his welcome speech BCSA chairman Ladislav Hornan emphasised the dangers of emerging nationalism in countries across the globe, some not far from home. Brexit or no Brexit, immigration or no immigration, the important thing is that we were here, he said, people from three great nations with a long history of friendship, sitting together and enjoying the occasion and tolerating diverse opinions.
There were many raffle prizes for lucky winners: a stay in AquaCity Poprad with flights to and from London and a ‘Taste of Pieštany’ with Danubius Hotels; a stay at the Cloister Inn, Prague; tickets for the Prague Shakespeare Company, and a tour of the Václav Havel library in Prague with its director, Michael Žantovský. Dining prizes in the UK included a meal at the Moya Slovak restaurant in Oxford, dinner at the Czechoslovak restaurant in West Hampstead and a three-course meal at the Steak and Lobster restaurant in the Radisson Bloombsbury Street Hotel. Two BCSA members kindly donated prizes: a back pain package at the Spiral Stabilization Clinic in Richmond and the ever popular Remoska cooker with recipes by Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines for catering at home. Once again John Brandler donated and auctioned a contemporary artwork, this time by the Connor Brothers.
In June an informal summer garden party was held in the gardens of the Czech and Slovak Embassies with traditional entertainment and culinary delights.
The BCSA also publishes the bi-monthly British Czech and Slovak Review for its members with in-depth articles, film and book reviews, related events in the UK, coverage of recent developments in the Czech and Slovak Republics and their relations with Britain. We are very grateful for the support of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Czech Republic with its production.
People of many backgrounds join the BCSA including British individuals with an interest in the Czech and Slovak Republics. Some members are former Slovak or Czech citizens who have settled in the UK with their British partners and families. Others are Czech and Slovaks who live, work or study in Britain. Many founder members are former citizens of what was Czechoslovakia who left their country in difficult times.
Our monthly ‘get to know you’ social evenings are an opportunity for BCSA members, supporters and friends to meet. These are normally held at the Czech and Slovak Bar and Restaurant, West Hampstead, on the second Wednesday of the month.
Each year, the BCSA runs a writing competition for original writing in English on the links between Britain and the Czech/Slovak Republics (at any stage in their history), or describing society in transition in the Republics since 1989. The two winning entries are published in the Review. Entrants do not need to be members of the BCSA.
The School Support Fund was established in 2004 following our experience in helping a Czech and Slovak school affected by floods in 2002 and discovering how this made a difference to their teaching of the English language. Each year a school is selected from a short list provided by the British Council alternating between Czech and Slovak schools. These have included Czech elementary schools in Brno, Ostrov, Plzen, Tabor and a grammar school in Olomouc; two Slovak elementary schools in Kosice, one in Spisske Vlachy, another in Stara L’ubovna and a grammar school in Sucany.
In 2017 the BCSA made a donation to a school for exceptionally gifted children (Skola pre mimoriadne nadane deti a Gymnazium) in Bratislava. The school used our grant to establish an English language library.