Friends of Czech Heritage shortlisted for the ILUCIDARE Special Prizes 2020
Updated: Jul 5
The 6 shortlisted projects for the ILUCIDARE Special Prizes 2020 are:
Smart Heritage City, FRANCE/PORTUGAL/SPAIN
St John’s Bulwark, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, THE NETHERLANDS
TYPA - Estonian Print and Paper Museum, Tartu, ESTONIA
Heritage-led international relations
Archaeology for a young future, ITALY/SYRIA
The Friends of Czech Heritage, UNITED KINGDOM
The Oppenheim House, Wrocław, POLAND
Peter Jamieson, Chairman of The Friends of Czech Heritage, writes...
The Friends of Czech Heritage is a UK charity. It was founded in 2007 in response to the perceived neglect of the rich diversity of buildings and associated heritage, which had suffered grievously as a result of recent political upheaval and with the intention of offering UK experience and support and to give encouragement. We select our projects on their heritage merits with the aim of keeping them relevant to the community and to serve the people today.
We have a membership of 250 and a very wide group of supporters both in the UK and abroad especially in the Czech Republic, where we have support from government organisations, NGOs and many individuals. All our limited funds are devoted to the stated ‘objects’ of the charity, which are: "The advancement of education by the preservation and restoration of buildings, gardens, parks, and other sites (including their contents) of historic or architectural importance in the Czech Republic for the benefit of the community at large."
Since our foundation we have developed a strategy, which has three branches: we provide small grants to enable conservation projects to commence, we run volunteer working parties and we engage in promotional activities in all aspects of the furtherance of heritage concerns. We have given grants for more than 40 projects and organised 28 volunteer working parties which have amounted to 1000 man days. We have attended conferences, involved local Czechs in our work and helped to make connections between organisations with similar interests. Our success may be measured by the response to our support - whether giving a grant or providing volunteers has given an impetus to a project. Beyond this, there have been occasions when our continued support has helped to turn the tide and given renewed momentum to a project. For example, this was the case at the chateau of Uherčice in Moravia, which was in a ruinous state at the time of the ‘Velvet Revolution’. We have given grants for a number of projects there and a successful application was subsequently made for an EU grant. The future of the chateau is now secure. Similarly, a modest grant to the community at Petrovice in northern Bohemia for the restoration of the stained glass windows in their roofless church, which they were valiantly bringing back to life, was shortly followed by the news that the roof, lost in the 1980s had been replaced. Encouragement is vital.
Both our founders have received awards for their contribution to the conservation of Czech heritage. Barbara Peacock received an award from Czech Tourism, which was followed in 2017 by one from the British Prime Minister Theresa May, and Ian Kennaway, has received an award from the National Heritage Institute of the Czech Republic. Eva Jiřičná, our patron and an internationally renowned Czech architect and a keen supporter of our objectives has said: “I was very moved to discover that a group of British people, with no direct links to my home country other than admiration for its beauty and historic treasures, wanted to lend a hand and make sure the future generations could enjoy and learn from our rich traditions.”
The Friends operate in what one British Prime Minister referred to as ‘a far away country about which we know nothing’. The Friends aim is to bring to the attention of others the importance of the vast heritage that lies in the Czech lands and to help secure its future.
The charity was founded by Barbara Peacock, an architectural historian and Ian Kennaway, formerly Director of the Regions at the National Trust. Following the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in 1989 both had been aware for some years of the variety, quality and sheer number of historic buildings that existed in the Czech lands often in dire conditions. They had met many curators and owners who were immensely enthusiastic and determined to restore the damage of the past. The first steering group meeting took place in 2006 and the launch of The Friends took place in October 2007 at the Czech Embassy in London hosted by the Ambassador.
Since 2007 we have carried out a programme of education and promotion of Czech heritage by organizing over 60 events in London including presentations, talks, visits, wine tastings and exhibitions with the cooperation of the Czech and Slovak Embassies. Our talks have included presentations by both Czech and British specialists on a wide variety of topics - political, cultural and historical issues, ranging from the history of the Charles Bridge in Prague and the development of the Baroque theatre to the pre-war relations between Britain and Czechoslovakia.
We publish a regular Newsletter, which deals with heritage issues in depth and gives news of our work and events. This is supported financially by the Czech government and is sent to our supporters in the UK, the Czech Republic and elsewhere. Our website and Facebook pages also carry up-to-date information about our activities.
We have developed a wide range of contacts in the Czech Republic at government and local level and have responded to a wide spectrum of owners seeking our help. We have a close working relationship with the National Heritage Institute (NPU) with whom we have carried out a number of projects where The Friends have given a grant. At a local level we have supported restoration initiatives with grants often where a small group is struggling to start a project. There are occasions where we are unable to provide either financial or volunteer support but are able to help through advocacy. For instance, the importance of the Low-Beer family to the cultural history of Brno has been recently highlighted by a family reunion hosted by the city in 2017. There are a number of components here: the world-famous Tugendhat Villa and nearby Arnold Villa, empty and in poor condition but once occupied by the Low-Beer family. We have been able to help the local initiative to restore the Arnold Villa. The Low-Beer factory, once the scene of Schindler’s ‘rescue’ of his Jewish workers lies empty, and the family is developing a plan to form a memorial there, which is supported by The Friends.
Our policy is to give small grants so that we extract the maximum result. Our work continues.
Further information on The Friends' work and a full list of projects supported by The Friends can be found at www.czechfriends.net.