In 2009 the Hellenic Centre celebrated its Fifteenth Anniversary, itself an affirmation of the place it has come to occupy in the life of the community. The Centre's mission is to provide a base of Hellenic culture in London, to bring together Greeks and Greek Cypriots in the Diaspora, and to nurture the unique relationship between Britain and the Hellenic world. In its short lifetime it has become a home for all aspects of Hellenism and many kinds of cultural cooperation and exchange. The 2006 exhibition of Greek embroideries from the collections of the Benaki Museum in Athens and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which drew almost two thousand visitors, was a dazzling example of the pleasures and possibilities offered by such ventures.
The idea for a Centre for all things Hellenic took shape in the late 1970s, when a group of community spirited Greeks got together to provide a focus for Greek and Greek Cypriots culture in London. The Hellenic Cultural Centre was formed in 1978 through the hard work of a group of people from both communities, bringing together existing Greek anf Greek Cypriots societies. Among its aims was the acquisition of a building in the centre of London. At the same time the Lykion ton Hellinidon, which was formed in 1979, was also looking for premises. When a separate group of like-minded individuals with the same aims was formed in 1980s, both the Hellenic Cultural Centre and Lykion ton Hellinidon readily joined efforts.
Our present home, a beautiful Portland stone and red brick building in one of the most charming and sought after areas of London, was built in the early 1900s as a college for Swedish gymnastics teachers. Whith the help of a generous first donation by the A G Leventis Foundation, Fafalios Shipping SA, the Bank of Cyprus London Ltd, the Micheal Marks Foundation, the Hellenic Cultural Centre, the Lykion ton Hellinidon, whose offices are housed in the Centre, and donations by many other organisations and individuals, the building was purchased in 1992 (See list of Donors). The Hellenic Community Trust was established as a charitable body to take ownership of the building, and an appeal was launched to raise the money needed for its refurbishment.
In 1993, with renovations already underway, the building was blessed by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriach Bartholomew I. The Centre was officially inaugurated in November 18th 1994 by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Glafcos Clerides.
As a project of the Hellenic Community Trust, the Hellenic Centre is run by the Trustees and their Executive Board, who are all volunteers. A full time Director manages the Centre on a day to day basis, with the necessary administrative support.
In the fifteen years since its creation the Centtre has hosted a great variety of exhibitions, lectures, concerts, performances, film screenings, discussions, readings and presentations, most of them free to the public. Some are organised directly by the Centre, and some by our energetic member societies, (see list of Member Societies). We place a particularly high value on attracting new generations of Greeks, born here, who want to keep in touch with their roots, their language and their culture. One of our core activities since 1999 has been the provision of Greek language courses at a variety of levels and at times to suit everyone.
The Centre is a non-profit, non-govermental organisation but has established close working relationships with the church and with the governments of Greece and Cyprus and their missions in the UK. The Archbishop of Thyateira, the Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic and the High Commissioner for Cyprus have been its patrons from the start. Over the years we have also formed links with local companies, Individuals and members for corporate and private conferences and functions. All these contacts and connections have extended the Centre's reach beyond the Hellenic community and helped us to build ties of friendship and cooperation.