The Shanghai Hotel 2

I first went to Boleslawiec 10 years ago. Before that I had never heard of the place despite the worldwide reputation of its pottery.  The town and its potteries were given to Poland in 1945.  Until then it had been the prosperous industrial town of Bunslau, the name that still appears on German road signs. How I came to know about Bunslau was thanks to a change of government in Poland. In 2001 my cousin called me to the Ministry of Culture. It was clear the government would fall and there was money still in the coffers waiting to be spent.  The man in charge of music asked me if I could come up with a project for Boleslawiec: there was an unused theatre which needed to be used. He could give me 50.000 pln.  I suggested an opera project for children. He signed.  Thus, for two years I went there quite frequently and fell in love with the town, the countryside and the extraordinary historical legacy of that part of the world. Before my return last week I had had a hankering desire to return there.


The taxi took me to Wroclaw Glowny and left me at the temporary entrance. The magnificent 1850s structure is undergoing a long awaited and much deserved renovation thanks to EU funding. The huge glass canopies and the palatial neo-gothic main building were in the most appalling state. Although they must have sustained considerable damage during the war and especially during the Russian siege of the city, they gave the impression that nothing had been done to them since the Germans pulled out. The physical and moral squalor of the place nine years ago was such that I once saw a drunk copiously urinate in the main hall without anyone blinking an eyelid.


The train ride to Boleslawiec took longer than I remembered. The 50 miles or so took 90 minutes, painfully slow even though we stopped at every halt on the line. The train was uncomfortable and there were no lavatories. However, the ticket only cost 15pln which is almost a bus ride in London. From the windows it is clear that improvements have come to the villages. Many houses have been decorated even though a surprising number of fine buildings remain in ruins. The smallest of stations has been refurbished, though at some the refurbishment has been too much for the local vandals to stomach. Already platform benches have been wrecked and new fences broken. Agreed, none of the renovations look as if they will stand the test of time for long but the accelerated process is regrettable.  What will happen the usual ravages of time have taken their toll?


The last flat and boring stretch of the journey to Boleslawiec, from the splendid town of Legnica, which the Russians did their best to ruin with post war blocks of flats and offices, seemed interminable. But slowly signs Boleslawiec came into view. As we drew into the station I was surprised to see how little had changed. The 19th century factory opposite remains in partial ruins though the excessively long platform has been renovated. So too has the station building, an average sized neo-classical building,  repainted in a sensible uniform shade of beige. I was most anxious to see the ticket hall which I remembered was decorated with sea-green coloured tiles defaced by generations of graffiti. I could only imagine the original effect. For some reason in my mind I found it alluring, mysterious and unforgettable.



The Shanghai Hotel1

Last Wednesday I was booked for a training job in Wroclaw. It’s been nine years since my last visit to Wroclaw and I was interested to see how it has prospered. I flew down. The airport has a new yet to be opened terminal and a new empty road leading towards the city centre. That’s where the good news seemed to end. My hotel and the location of the training were on the periphery. The roads that my taxidriver took are no better than they were nine years ago, thinly tarmaced, sometimes cobbled.  The increase in traffic has made them almost impassable.

80 pln later we arrived at a new and functional group of buildings, partly offices, partly sports centre. The taxi driver assured me that there was a hotel somewhere inside.

There was. Four or five rooms set aside. However, no room had been set aside for me. I rang the organiser. “Didn’t they get my email?”  He spoke to the receptionist.


 I was shown up to a room in keeping with the rest of the building. Functional, except the internet connection did not work. Then the call arrived. The organiser announced that the training was cancelled. I could go home. Hardly at 6pm. There are neither trains nor planes to Warsaw by the time I could get to them. The excuses flowed. “The client is usually very reliable. Don’t worry, they will pay. We will make a new date as soon as possible. An unforeseen circumstance”.  I was doubtful.

“Anyway, my wife is about to give birth prematurely and I am finishing building a house. It’s not usually like this. Believe me.”

I wished him luck.

“Oh, could you pay the hotel bill. Send me the bill.”


Despite the sparse economic modernity of the building, the restaurant was a welcome contrast. Homely. Old world rural. Italian. A calorie counted menu. Excellent food. The best panna cotta I have ever tasted though not calorie counted. Drinkable house wine. Not cheap but worth every penny and a cheerful end to a not very agreeable day.  I charged the bill to my room.


During the dinner at which I was accompanied by Paul Johnson’s essay on women authors “Shall we join the Ladies,” I decided I would use my spare time to revisit Boleslawiec.

A description of George Sand is worth quoting. When asked by her if her famously large bum looked big in a particular bombazine, Gustave Flaubert, a rude Norman, replied,” Madame, your bum would look big in anything.”

Twój glos sie liczy! petycja/edukacja-i-innowacyjnosc-dla-spoleczenstwa-polskiego


Polacy to kreatywny naród!

Co jednak robimy, żeby rozwijać tę kreatywność?

Według osób takich jak minister Michał Boni czy profesor Michał Kleiber, bardzo niewiele. W rzeczywistości, jako naród, jesteśmy na szarym końcu jeżeli chodzi o innowacyjność przedsiębiorstw. Tak, na samym końcu. W naszych szkołach nie uczy się kreatywności, nie ma też doradztwa zawodowego dla młodzieży. Brakuje również miejsca dla sztuki i muzyki.

Dlaczego? Nie z powodu pieniędzy: festiwal im. Ludwiga van Beethovena, kolejna nowa sala koncertowa w Warszawie, huczne i bezproduktywne obchody roku chopinowskiego – wszystkie te wydarzenia finansowane są z pieniędzy państwowych. Problem polega na tym, że publiczne pieniądze nie są wydawane, tak jak powinny być – na szkolenia dla nauczycieli i na podnoszenie świadomości społecznej wartości dobrego nauczania sztuki. Dla wszystkich dzieci, we wszystkich szkołach.

To właśnie podczas aktywnego muzykowania, kreatywność rozwija się najpełniej. Muzyka jest kluczowa dla rozwoju dziecka, a także dla rozwoju społeczeństwa obywatelskiego. W tym zakresie nie ma lidera wśród żadnej z państwowych instytucji muzycznych. Dlaczego?
Wymagajmy odpowiedzialności od instytucji wydających państwowe pieniądze na projekty muzyczne.

My, niżej podpisani, prosimy Prezesa Rady Ministrów, o wsparcie obywatelskiego ruchu działającego na rzecz przejrzystości państwowej polityki kulturalnej, prowadzonego przez Richarda Berkeleya.

Twój głos się liczy.

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