UCL News


20 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, is it time to re-shape politics once more?

28 May 2009

Conference: "SOLIDARITY/Solidarities - Children of the Revolution" Date: 5-6 June 2009 Location: Christopher Ingold Auditorium, UCL Chemistry Building, 20 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AJ UCL's School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies (SSEES) will host a conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1989 democratic revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, featuring speakers such as Professor Mary Fulbrook, journalist Neal Ascherson, former politician Jan Urban and influential publicist Slawomir Sierakowski .

As the world starts to accept the need for radical change in order to tackle contemporary issues such as global warming and a deepening financial crisis, the conference will focus on the lessons that can be learnt from the last time Europe underwent such enormous change and reorganisation.

On 4 June 1989, the bi-polar political world of opposing communist and capitalist systems began to change forever as Solidarity candidates were allowed to run in Poland's parliamentary elections. Their success ended 41 years of Communist Party rule and marked the beginning of a swift process which saw the fall of the Berlin Wall just five months later, and ultimately, the complete restructuring of Europe.

Exactly 20 years later, the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (UCL SSEES) will host 'SOLIDARITY/solidarities', a two-day conference asking how ordinary people were able to change the face of Europe forever and whether their actions left a legacy that could be built on in the 21st century. The conference is the inaugural event in the 'Children of the Revolution 1989-2009' season, a series of events being coordinated by the Polish Cultural Institute in London in collaboration with UCL, the Tate Modern and the Victoria & Albert Museum. The programme is being supported by EUNIC-London, The European Commission Representation in the UK, the M.B. Grabowski Fund and POLSKA! YEAR.

"Before 1989, communism was imagined to be an immutable, permanent structure," says Dr Tim Beasley-Murray (UCL SSEES). "For years, nobody was able to see how things could ever change - but in just a few short months during 1989 the revolutionary tides swept everything away. The individuals who made these enormous changes happen were normal people. They didn't possess the weaponry or apparatus of the state, but crucially they did have a collective power and legitimacy that could not be resisted by military force.

"Today, society is preoccupied with questions about climate change, increasing globalisation and a deepening financial crisis," continues Dr Beasley-Murray. "It seems that in order to tackle the issues, another radical re-imagining of the political landscape could be in order. This conference will give us an opportunity to re-visit the legacy of 1989 and ask whether 'solidarity' could be the way that people make this happen. Remembering '89 should not be about sentimental nostalgia for a time when the possibilities seemed endless, but rather it should be about learning from history before deciding how to change things for the better this time around."

The conference will bring together scholars, journalists, activists and artists to reflect on their personal experiences, to explore the theoretical modes of the revolution that emerged and to reassess the concept of solidarity and its relevance for political action today.


Notes for Editors

The conference will take place at UCL on the 5-6 June.

A full programme can be seen at http://www.ssees.ac.uk/solidarityconf.htm

If you wish to attend the event or request an interview with a spokesperson, please contact Dave Weston in the UCL Media Relations Office (d.weston@ucl.ac.uk or +44 (0) 20 7679 7678).


Tickets cost £35 for one day and £50 for two days, and are inclusive of refreshments and admission to the evening receptions. Concessionary rates of £18 per day and £25 for two days are available.

About UCL: Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. UCL is the seventh-ranked university in the 2008 THES-QS World University Rankings, and the third-ranked UK university in the 2008 league table of the top 500 world universities produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. UCL alumni include Marie Stopes, Jonathan Dimbleby, Lord Woolf, Alexander Graham Bell, and members of the band Coldplay. UCL currently has over 12,000 undergraduate and 8,000 postgraduate students. Its annual income is over £600 million.

For more information see: http://www.ucl.ac.uk

EUNIC London is part of the global EUNIC network. Established in September 2007, it is an association of 11 cultural institutes of EU member-states represented in London. It has taken shape in a 'natural' way, based on the experience & partnership spirit shared by many cultural institutes which go back a long way in London. It started and have stayed informal, bureaucracy-light and committed to joint-working on creative projects which show Europe's extraordinary richness and diversity in arts, culture and language. EUNIC London's main focus themes look at Intercultural Dialogue and Multilingualism. EUNIC London is now 22 members and associate-members who share knowledge and resources on a common European agenda. Its Charter positions EUNIC London as a flexible association open to work collaboratively with British and international organisations. Institutes and embassies involved in the project Children of the Revolution 1989-2009: Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria London, Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in London, Czech Centre London, Estonian Embassy in London, Goethe-Institut London, Hungarian Cultural Centre in London, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania and Lithuanian Embassy in the UK, Polish Cultural Institute in London, Romanian Cultural Institute in London.

For more information see: http://www.eunic-london.org/home.html

The European Commission has offices, called Representations, in all the Member States of the European Union. The UK Representation is in London; there are also offices in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Their chief duties are: speaking for the Commission as its voice in the UK, this includes providing background briefings for the media as well as on-the-record comment on issues relevant to the Commission; reporting back to the Commission in Brussels on political, economic and social developments in the UK; providing information about the European Union across the UK through recognised outlets such as public libraries, business advice centres and education services. The cultural section of the EC Representation in London is responsible for liaising with EU member states' embassies, institutes of culture, and arts organisations, and in developing joint cultural projects. Also, manages the Representation's cultural events; runs its gallery, and edits its culture newsletter. Its website www.europe.org.uk brings together contact details for organisations in the UK regions, from local authorities to universities, business support agencies to libraries, who find it useful to work together on European issues to serve the needs of their customers more effectively. The site also aims to raise awareness of how the European Union affects the UK and to demonstrate how its citizens can both benefit from, and influence, what happens at a European level. One of its sub-sites, www.europe.org.uk/1989, brings together information about various projects aimed at celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain organised around the UK.

For more information see http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom and http://www.europe.org.uk/1989/

The Polish Cultural Institute in London is a non-profit organisation associated with the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dedicated to promoting Polish culture in Britain. The aim of the Polish Cultural Institute is to bring contemporary Polish culture to a wider British audience. Its programme covers art, film, theatre, music, literature and videogames, with events organized in leading venues across the UK.

For more information see: http://www.polishculture.org.uk

POLSKA! YEAR to commence in spring 2009 and to be continued in 2010 is a joint initiative of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. POLSKA! YEAR comprises over 200 projects introducing the most interesting achievements of Polish culture and works of the most outstanding Polish artists to the British public. The purpose of the Year is to bring communities of Poland and Great Britain closer by strengthening cultural relations, establishing new contacts between Polish and British artistic institutions, artists and organisers of cultural events. The cultural programme of POLSKA! YEAR is coordinated by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute - a government institution in charge of promoting Polish culture abroad and initiating international cooperation in the field of culture. The programme is organised together with the Polish Cultural Institute in London.

For more information see: http:// www.polskayear.pl