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Jazz Café POSK
Hammersmith, West London

 

Jazz Cafe POSK

 

In 2007, a new jazz venue opened in West London. If you take the underground to Hammersmith station, walk down King Street for about ten minutes and cross the road from the Town Hall, you will find POSK at numbers 238-246. Unless you come from Eastern Europe, it may not occur to you to go in. That would be a shame.

POSK stands for Polski Ośrodek Społeczno – Kulturalny (The Centre for Polish Arts and Culture) – but POSK will do, and if you are unaware of the struggle that took place for jazz to survive and develop in Poland, well more of that in a minute.

POSK was built in Hammersmith following the Second World War. Many Poles had fought with the allied forces and when the War ended, found themselves unable to return home. Some settled in the UK, others were welcomed in other countries. Many of those who POSK entranceremained in London became British citizens, found work,
married and raised their families, but to preserve their language and their culture they built the Centre for Polish Arts and Culture. Many volunteered to help with the design and building work. Here they kept a library of 200,000 Polish books, established a theatre to perform Polish drama, ran restaurants serving Polish food, and performed Polish music.

In the building’s basement was a meeting place for young people, a discotheque where they planned to welcome other nationalities from the West London area, but the disco never really achieved that aim. In 2004 the basement flooded causing major damage to the fabric. For some time there was much debate about what to do with the space, the cost of reconstruction and the purpose for which it should be used.

Marek Greliak was now Artistic Director at POSK. Back home in Poland, he had managed a student jazz club in the well-known town of Torun in the north of the country. Jazz was, and is, his passion. Marek argued the role of jazz as a universal language and put forward the proposal to renovate the basement as a jazz club that would showcase Poland’s music and be a venue where anyone from the local community might come and listen.

The Arts Council (London) liked the proposal and made a grant towards the project. Insurance money from the flood and money from POSK funds made the project a reality and POSK’s Jazz Café opened in March 2007. Since then, the venue has flourished.

Picture of POSK notice boardLive jazz and blues have been played every Saturday evening since the opening, closing only for the major holidays. Marek went out to pubs and clubs looking for talent and inviting bands and musicians of many different jazz styles to POSK. Eventually he had a waiting list of people wanting to play there. Many, but not all of the bands are Polish.

Marek met a talented Polish trumpet player, Janusz Carmello, and invited him to play at the Jazz Café with his band. Two days before the gig, Janusz became seriously ill. His band played without him but Marek suggested that the Jazz Café should put on a benefit concert for Janusz. Members of the band knew the late London saxophone player and bandleader Willie Garnett who agreed to bring his Big Band along for the benefit. A firm link was established between Willie and POSK and the Big Band played at the Jazz Café regularly.

In September 2008, Marek ran London’s first Eastern European Jazz Festival at POSK. He also wanted to bring more visiting musicians to London from Poland, but that would be expensive and could not be achieved without sponsorship. At the moment, the money taken at the door POSK Blues Bandand the money taken at the bar, is just enough to pay the musicians and keep the club running. Except for paying the bar staff, the club is run on an entirely voluntary basis by a number of volunteers.

 


Sławek Wierzcholski Blues Band

 

The Jazz Cafe is able to hold a good size of audience comfortably, and at the moment the average attendance is 80 – 100 people with a predominance of young people. About half are Polish and others are from the UK or from Eastern Europe. The atmosphere is friendly and enthusiastic. With the bands playing at one end of the room, wide steps lead up to a seated area with tables and the bar, the steps providing most of the audience sitting area. Another seated area with tables leads away to the band’s left.

For those wishing to eat before the start of the gig there is a restaurant that serves great Polish food, and although Polish is obviously the main language used, people are happy to welcome and help visitors in English.

Visiting POSK’s Jazz Café is a great experience. There are many talented musicians on the programme and a wide variety of jazz and blues music. Click here for details of future gigs.

 

January 2022 - Sound Engineers Wanted

Jazz Café POSK are looking for sound technicians to join their voluntary team on either Friday or Saturday evenings. This is a great opportunity for students studying sound production and engineering who wish to gain hands-on technical experience running live shows with world-class jazz and blues musicians. They are also looking for artists who would like to play at the Jazz Café POSK - applications should include details of current or future projects and links to photos and online clips are requested. They do get lots of requests and sometimes it takes a while for them to reply but all requests are considered.

Applications from sound engineers including a CV and applications for artists bookings should be sent to Tomasz at jazzcafe@posk.org.

 

JAZZ CAFÉ POSK
238-246 King Street, Hammersmith, London, W6 0RF
Tel: 020 8741 1940
www.jazzcafeposk.co.uk
jazzcafe@posk.org

You can read more about how jazz in Poland struggled to find its voice by clicking here.

 

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