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, a cinema (Ciné Lumière), a multi-media library (La Médiathèque), a children’s library (Bibliothèque Quentin Blake) and a French bistro (Le Bistrot), 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.
Completely 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.
The multimedia library, La Médiathèque, 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 50,000 items ranging from novels, comic books to feature films and magazines. Its digital platform, Culturethèque allows audiences across the UK to access an extensive digital library with over 25 000 documents, completely free of charge.
The different spaces of La Médiathèque have been renovated since 2013. In 2014, the Art Deco listed room was restored and in 2015 the revamped Children’s Library reopened its doors under the name Bibliothèque Quentin Blake. The last stage will see the modernisation of the Adult’s Library due to be completed in November 2016.
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 Institut français presents each year a broad range of festivals, either organised by the Institut itself (Totally Serialized, South Ken Kids Festival, It’s All About Piano) or by external curators and organisations (French Film Festival, London Film Festival, Spanish Film Festival, Italian Film Festival, etc.)
The Institut is also active on the music scene, with its annual festival celebrating all aspects of piano (It’s All About Piano) and programme of live opera broadcasts.
Dedicated to helping children learn and discover new aspects of culture, the Institut offers years-round activities and resources for kids, families and schools, in addition to its annual festival dedicated to children’s literature, the South Ken Kids Festival.
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 classic contemporary music. In 2013, it launched En Scène, a series of theatrical performances in French with English surtitles, and Cross-Channel Theatre, a platform aiming at promoting French playwrights in the UK.