Wednesday, May 15, 2019

New Chiefs Take Over at Czech Centres in London and New York

The Czech Centres in London and New York are getting new directors this spring, with Přemysl Pela assuming control in the UK capital and Miroslav Konvalina taking the helm in the Big Apple. We spoke to both before their departure for the key branches of the Czech Republic’s cultural diplomacy network in the English-speaking world. 

The Czech Centres network comprises 24 branches around the world, the Czech House Moscow and a headquarters in downtown Prague.

Přemysl Pela, photo: ČTK/Michal Krumphanzl
Pela image from article

It was at the latter venue that the new directors of the Czech Centres in London and New York were introduced this week. 
Přemysl Pela, who actually leaves for the UK today, is taking over at the Czech Centre London from previous director Tereza Porybná. 
Mr. Pela is in fact a former head of the Czech Center New York, but more recently he has overseen the project Czech Innovation Expo at the organisation’s HQ. 
“My vision is really to bring to the UK some of the best… not only Czech art, from the culture scene, but really to present the Czech Republic as a very stable partner and democratic country but also as an environment which is creative and innovative and open to new ideas. 
“I think the Czech Centres are in a very unique position to be part of public diplomacy. Public diplomacy [JB emphasis} is nothing else really than presenting the Czech Republic, the positive image of the country, abroad.” 
Replacing Barbara Karpetová at the helm of the Czech Center New York will be Miroslav Konvalina, who begins his four-year term next month. 
“Our mission is very clearly defined and it is to bring the best from Czech Culture to the United States. 
Miroslav Konvalina, photo: ČTK/Michal KrumphanzlMiroslav Konvalina, photo: ČTK/Michal Krumphanzl“We have a great venue, the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan. We also have contacts built over 30 years. 
“But also we have an ambition to be just a gateway to the United States: to Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and such Czech Centres as the one in Houston.” 
Mr. Konvalina in the past headed Czech Radio’s main station Radiožurnál, following a stint as a reporter in America. He says the latter experience will stand him in good stead in his new post. 
“I used to be a foreign correspondent in the United States, stationed in Washington but also with an office in New York. 
“It helps a lot, because these are contacts going on for 15 or 20 years and right now they are really helpful.” 
Mr. Konvalina is already looking forward to this autumn, when he and his staff will hold a series of events to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. 
For more on the programmes of all branches of the Czech Centres network go to
“We would like to have an exhibition prepared by the National Museum. Also there will be a performance of Audience by Václav Havel with [actors] Jakub Špalek and Jan Potměšil. 
“And finally we are preparing a great gala concert with Spirituál kvintet.”

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