About Us

We are part of the Institut français worldwide network promoting French language and culture and encouraging cross-cultural exchange and cultural diversity.

Founded in 1910, the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, today directed by François Croquette, comprises a language centre, multi-media library, a cinema – Ciné lumière – and a French bistro, and welcomes 200,000 people each year.

At the heart of the Institut français’ mission is the teaching of the French language. The language centre, which attracts 7000 students every year, offers traditional language courses as well as business French and courses on various aspects of French culture and current affairs. The Institut also collaborates with schools in the UK on educational cooperation programmes to promote French language learning and organise teacher training, so that French can remain the UK’s top choice for foreign language study.

Audiences at the Institut can keep up to date with the latest French thinking and the most recent publications in French and English translation thanks to its extensive programme of talks, seminars and book launches. Visitors can also take part in debates with speakers from both sides of the Channel meeting regularly to discuss a wide variety of topics.

The multimedia library, a distinctive Grade II listed venue, is also a window on contemporary France and holds the largest free-access collection of French material in the UK, covering all aspects of French culture and society. Visitors can access about 60,000 items ranging from novels, comic books to feature films and magazines. In May 2010, the Institut launched a digital platform, Culturethèque, which allows audiences across the UK to access an extensive digital library with over 10 000 documents, completely free of charge.

Recently refurbished in 2008 and reopened by Catherine Deneuve in 2009, Ciné Lumière has established itself as one of London’s top repertory cinemas. With a particular emphasis on French, European and World cinema, its programme combines new releases, repertory screenings, previews and exclusive on-stage events attended by directors and actors. Recent guests include Stephen Frears, Fanny Ardant, Bertrand Blier, Claude Lelouch, Patrice Chéreau and Daniel Auteuil, In 2011, Ciné Lumière organised 900 screenings and welcomed 50 000 people.

The Institut français presents each year a phenomenal range of festivals, either organised by the Institut itself (BD & Comics Passion, Totally Serialized, South Ken Kids Festival, My Night with Philosophers) or by external curators and organisations (French Film Festival, London Film Festival, European Documentary Festival, Spanish Film Festival, Italian Film Festival, etc.)

The Institut is also very active on the music scene, with a wonderful line-up of classical music concerts and live opera broadcasts from the Aix-en-Provence festival and from the Opéra National de Paris. A new festival celebrating all aspects of piano (It’s All About Piano) will be launched in March 2013. In terms of contemporary music, the Institut collaborates with a dozen cultural institutions every year on the Exhibition Road Music Day, which the Institut founded 6 years ago. In addition, the Institut co-organised a day-long festival of free concerts on Trafalgar Square celebrating the French language on 17 March 2012, which attracted 40 000 people.

The Institut is dedicated to helping children learn and discover new aspects of culture. Two new festivals were launched in 2011 and 2012: BD & Comics Passion to help them explore the world of comic books and graphic novels, and Totally Serialized to promote innovative and creative television series. In 2011, the Youth Festival for children’s literature became the South Ken Kids Festival, with an amazing line-up of authors, more imaginative events, and a much wider audience (over 3000 people). The Institut also has activities for children and schools throughout the year, ranging from film screenings to theatre, concerts, story time and workshops.

The Institut presents and supports external events, in collaboration with British partners, particularly in the visual and performing arts and promotes Franco-British academic cooperation. In 2010, the Institut français created two Franco-British funds: Fluxus for contemporary art, and Diaphonique for contemporary music.