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Madame Curie Festival - University of Westminster

Madame Curie

Event preview

THE Madame Curie Festival, an event dedicated to the life and achievements of Marie Curie, will take place at the University of Westminster in mid-September 2011.

The festival organizers are Steven Barfield, Professor of English literature and author of numerous research works and several reviews, and Magdalena Rutkowska, an established Polish painter who has lived in the UK for many years.

After earlier polls and numerous conversations with students and the general public, the organizers decided to concentrate the program of the festival on the childhood and personal life of Marie Sklodowska Curie and to focus on some of the lesser documented known facts that played an important role in shaping the early ambitions and later achievements of Marie.

The name of Marie Sklodowska Curie is known all over the world, mainly from Madame Curie’s scientific achievements and links with charitable institutions. However, there is scarce information about her life and a significant percentage of the general public does not even know her national origins.

The festival aims to show Marie as a daughter, sister and mother and a woman who loved art, theatre, nature and poetry. There was plenty of sadness in Marie’s life, but also a few romances and, to use the parlance of the times, “scandals”. The Slavic beauty of Marie and her brilliant knowledge attracted many gentlemen. This often caused jealousy and spread rumour among the French ladies.

As a young girl her impeccable manners and pride often ended with misunderstanding between Marie and Russian teachers in a Poland that was occupied at that time by Russia. Since birth, Marie’s life was surrounded by political and cultural changes. She contributed greatly to the recognition of woman in society today.

Her biography is more interesting than many of today’s best-selling books. In 2011, when many countries are celebrating the official year of chemistry and the 100-year anniversary of the award of Madame Curie’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry, it is pertinent to strive to find out more about the circumstances in the life of the woman herself, creating this amazing scientist and a caring and independent woman at the same time.

The exhibition will involve biographical pictures and stories collected and prepared especially for this year by the Marie Sklodowska Curie Museum. Along with the biographical 45-minute movie, the museum director has kindly agreed to lend the University of Westminster all prepared material.

The same exhibition was held in Geneva during the month of March, and was extremely well received. Honorary guest, Zbigniew Andrew Szydlo, Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, has kindly agreed to be involved as guest lecturer.

A collection of pictures illustrating Marie’s biography composed specifically for the festival by Magdalena Rutkowska and Tom Milasz will also be exhibited.

In addition, the university is discussing a possible collaboration with the Marie Curie section of the Public Cultural Benefit Society, and the exhibition of a unique collection of stamps with Marie Curie’s image from a private collector. The CBR Museum in Warsaw has also offered to provide unique material for this exclusive exhibition.

The organizers are planning to run a stage play previously viewed in 21 countries – some 1,800 times in France! – but still never before performed on the stages of theatres in the UK. Les Palmes de Monsieur Schutz, by Jean-Noël Fenwick, depicts the life of Marie Curie and has won four Molières prizes. In 1997, it was even adapted into a French language movie starring Isabelle Huppert. The play is planned to be staged in Soho Theatre by Second Skin theatre under direction of Andy McQuade.

There also will be a performance by the opera singer and honorary guest Ewa Michalik, who will perform a short repertoire of music from Marie’s childhood years in Warsaw.

The final event of the programme will be a fund raising Charity Masked Ball, to benefit charitable organisations associated with Marie Curie.

An essay writing competition is also planned to run during the festival, the subject: The role of women scientists in today’s society.

Regular updates will be published directly on the festival web site: as well as on facebook and twitter.