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Hammersmith’s ‘secret’ cinema named best in UK

A community-run cinema, often described as Hammersmith’s best-kept secret, has won a best-in-Britain award. 

The movie house inside the POSK Polish Centre in King Street has won the best community cinema accolade at the 51st Film Society of the Year gala, impressing judges with its ‘matchless creativity’. 

It’s a huge honour – and morale boost in the Covid era – for a 300-seat screen venue which has worked hard to integrate west London’s diverse ethnic and national communities via cinema. 

“We’re delighted to be recognised for our work to bring the people of Hammersmith & Fulham together, and promote a better understanding between Poles and all other communities in the UK, giving them a voice through the medium of film,” said delighted POSK Cinema co-founder Jakub Krupa.

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Image caption: Image 2: POSK Cinema co-founder Jakub Krupa

Proud to represent Poland

The award was bestowed by the Cinema for All organisation, formerly known as British Federation of Film Societies, at its annual conference, staged online this year because of pandemic restrictions.  

POSK received the Engholm Prize for Film Society or Community Cinema of the Year, the highest award in Cinema for All’s gift, representing all film societies and community cinemas across the UK.  

Jakub, 30, who sits on the centre’s board, was in no doubt about the significance of the gong. “This is particularly important given the ongoing debates around the future of immigration laws in the UK after Brexit, with almost a million Poles making the UK their home over the last 15 years,” he said. “We are proud to represent them and help tell their story, tackling ignorant stereotypes and showing that we have become fully integrated into British society.”  

The citation referred to POSK’s ‘matchless creativity, dedication to their audiences and the ability to overcome challenges’. 

First year, first award

Remarkably, the prize came in the cinema’s first relaunched year of operation (it started in August 2019), although the screening room itself – complete with its original 16mm and 35mm reel-to-reel projectors – was built in the 1960s on the site of a decommissioned church, and funded by private donations. 

As she made the virtual presentation, judges’ chair Dr Gemma Bird said: “This group has built a substantial profile and following a very short period of time, establishing themselves as a unique community-run cinema aimed at bridging the gap between migrant communities and British society.” 

She said that at a time of heightened socioeconomic tension and the debate on migration, the POSK Cinema had built a forum guaranteeing audiences a special night out, while exploring “some of the most universal themes of humanity and fostering mutual understanding and conversations”.  

Popular screenings

Since launching its new programme and identity last summer, the cinema has staged nearly 20 screenings, attended by 3,500 people. It is currently the only operating cinema in Hammersmith, although Covid rules have suspended the showings for the present. 

The programme has included the UK premiere of the Polish submission to the 2020 Oscars, Corpus Christi, and a preview screening of the BBC’s World on Fire, together with several award-winning independent films from Poland – all shown with English subtitles and accessible to all. Organisers calculate that around a quarter of audiences are non-Polish. 

“It’s good Polish cinema, but it’s not just for Poles,” said Jakub. “We want Hammersmith & Fulham’s non-Polish community to consider this their cinema too.” 

And there’s more…

As well as cinema, the auditorium hosts an annual opera show, youth theatre, plays by a London-based Polish stage company, and visiting theatre productions from Poland. 

The POSK Cinema set out with a commitment to show world-class films at a community venue, and pegs ticket prices at £5 to – as Jakub puts it – “tackle social exclusion caused by sky-rocketing costs of entertainment in commercial venues”.  

All profits help fund the charitable activities of the POSK Polish Centre, the largest Polish community centre in the UK. It receives financial support from Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the Polish Tourism Office.  

For more details and news of future showings visit the POSK Cinema website.

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Image caption: Image 3: The Polish cultural centre, POSK, in Hammersmith's King Street

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