The Polish Heritage Society
Restoration of Chopin Statue at Royal Festival Hall – May 2011
A bronze statue of Fryderyk Chopin which stood for more than 10 years outside the Royal Festival Hall on London's Southbank will be unveiled in its freshly restored state by the Duke of Gloucester on 18th May, 2011.
The statue was originally given to the UK government in 1975 in recognition of the contribution made by the British nation during World War II. Ordinary Polish people in the UK and in Poland contributed to the public subscription for the statue. The ensuing competition held among Polish artists,for the design of the statue, was won by the sculptor, Bronislaw Kubica.
The statue had symbolic significance for the Polish people as it contained an urn with earth from Chopin’s birthplace at Zelazowa Wola, in Poland. The music of Chopin is regarded as the highest expression of Polish patriotism and an emblem of Poland’s historical struggles.
The unveiling will be followed by a recital in the Southbank Centre's Purcell Room given by Alexander Ardakov, a pianist with Polish roots as his mother came from Lodz. The recital is free of charge and tickets are available on a a 'first come first served' basis.
The statue was originally unveiled on 26th February 1975 by HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, the mother of the present Duke of Gloucester. It was removed for safe-keeping during development works on the Southbank but, for various reasons, was never returned to its intended new home in the complex and remained instead in a storage facility.
To mark the bicentenary of the birth of the composer in 2010, The Polish Heritage Society, with the support of The Polish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, HE Barbara Tuge-Erecinska, proposed that the statue be renovated and finally returned to its original home near the banks of the River Thames. The Southbank Centre and its Chief Executive, Alan Bishop, responded positively to the proposal. In October 2010, the statue was carefully packed and transported back to Poland to be restored to a condition fit for public display. This work was organised by PHS. The transport costs were donated by Polish Transport Company PKS.
The restoration of the statue will also be a significant memorial to one of the most prominent Polish musicians teaching and playing in London in the 1970's — Professor Stefania Niekrasz, President of The Association of Polish Musicians abroad. At the age of nine, it was her vow to devote her life 'to telling the people of the world about her beloved Poland through the power of music', in particular the music of Chopin. It was her dream to see a monument of Chopin erected on the South Bank, for which a site was agreed and allocated by the then Greater London Council.
Professor Niekrasz passed away in London on 26th September 1973. Her funeral took place in Warsaw on October 19th. One year later on the first anniversary of her death, Requiem Masses were held across the world in London, Warsaw, Rome, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, America, Australia, Africa and New Zealand. In the same year, her dream of a monument to Chopin was realised and dedicated in her memory. As the Westminster News said in 1974: 'As the best ambassador Polish musicians could wish to have abroad is striving for a permanent reminder of Chopin's work, perhaps one day a similar tribute to her work will be made.'
Click here to see a translation of an article from the Polish-language UK newspaper Dziennik Polski about the Chopin statue (reproduced by kind permission of the newspaper).
Dr. Andrew Meeson (in the light coloured coat), talks to the press as the Chopin statue is carefully wrapped and taken away for restoration in Poland.