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Exhibition commemorates Battle of Monte Cassino and Leek’s Polish heritage

A new exhibition commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino, and tells the fascinating story of Leek’s Polish community. Called The Leek Polish Connection, the exhibition opens this Saturday 18th May at The Nicholson Museum & Art Gallery in Leek. It is part of a special programme of events presented by community group, The Leek Polish Connection, working with community arts programme OUTSIDE, Borderland Voices and New Vic Theatre Borderlines.


The exhibition, which runs until 8th June, shares the stories of the Polish soldiers and families whose journey took them from labour camps in Siberia, through the Middle East, to fight in Italy and finally settle in Leek. It features details of the journey, archive footage of the Battle of Monte Cassino and what life was like in Leek for the soldiers and families. Visitors will also be able to hear recordings from members of the Polish community and explore props which bring their stories to life. For anyone with memories of the Polish experience to share, oral histories will be collected on Saturdays throughout the exhibition.


As part of the commemoration of the Battle of Monte Cassino, OUTSIDE has worked with pupils from St Mary’s Academy in Leek to create felt red and white poppies for an art installation. The artwork will be unveiled on Friday 17th May, ready for the commemoration on Saturday 18th May at the Den Engel courtyard archway dedicated to the Polish community.


Polish culture will also be celebrated at the Borderland Voices 1940s Extravaganza at the Foxlowe Arts Centre on Saturday 18th May. This includes free traditional Polish craft activities, exhibition materials about the camps at Blackshaw Moor near Leek, and a special performance by traditional Polish dance group Polonez, which everyone is invited to join in.


Then on Tuesday 28th May, in partnership with Foxlowe Films, there will be a screening of EO. The film is a strikingly beautiful and mesmerising vision of modern Europe seen through the eyes of a donkey. EO begins his life as a circus performer before escaping across the Polish and Italian countryside, encountering a cast of characters, including a countess (Isabelle Huppert), a young Italian priest and a riotous Polish football team.


The Polish Leek Connection project is supported with funding from Arts Council England and the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Manchester – Polish Heritage Day funding.


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