Written by: Osman Erden

Among the Community Centers that started operating in 1932 as a subsidiary of the CHP, the most notable is the Turkish Community Center in London, which was opened in 1943 and closed in 1950. II. Why was a Community Center opened in London while World War II was raging with all its intensity? The answer to this question lies in Turkey's insistent policy of neutrality during the war. On the one hand, İsmet İnönü was opposing Winston Churchill's masterful maneuvers to draw Turkey to his side, and on the other hand, he was trying not to anger Germany, which was at the Edirne border.

One of Britain's efforts to attract Turkey to its side and keep it happy was the Turkish-British Committee, which was established for the purpose of aid after the Erzincan Earthquake in 1939. In 1940, Sir Wyndham Deedes, the representative of the British side of the committee, brought forward a proposal for closer relations between the two countries and opened a Community Center in London. The then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anthony Eden, was positive about this idea. Another element that supports the idea will be the British Council. The British Council was established in 1934 as a soft power organization by the British State. The British Council, which was established with the aim of popularizing the English language and culture worldwide and thereby arousing sympathy for England in the world, will not only welcome the establishment of a Community Center in London, but will also provide financial support in the future. As a matter of fact, the institution covered the rent of the Community Center until the end of 1944. On 25 December 1944, the British Council cuts its financial support. The war is about to end, and there is no need to keep Turkey satisfied. Turkey's declaration of war on Germany at the end of the war, on February 23, 1945, was a purely symbolic attitude.

Among the events held at the London Community Center, the painting exhibition of secondary school students from Yozgat, which opened in May 1943 and lasted until the end of June, draws attention. The works of students from Yozgat will not only be exhibited at the Community Center in London, but will also reach audiences in different cities of England and Scotland in the following months. The biggest role in the realization of this event, which is one of the most interesting exhibitions in the art history of the Republic of Turkey, undoubtedly belongs to Cemal Bingöl. Cemal Bingöl, who was appointed as an art teacher in the middle section of Yozgat High School in 1937 and applied a unique pedagogical method during his duty, wrote in his diary: “…I was appointed as an art teacher in Yozgat. I went to Yozgat with great confidence, and as soon as I stepped through the school gate, a tremendous despair and fear appeared inside me. The reason for this was that I remembered that there was no art teaching method for ages 13-15.”

The world-renowned art critic of the period, Herbert Read, who will make the opening speech of the exhibition, includes the following lines in the letter he wrote to Cemal Bingöl the day before: “Dear Mr. Bingöl, I have the pleasure of opening an exhibition consisting of the paintings of the children you raised from Yozgat secondary school, tomorrow at the London Community Center. I would like to express the deep impact that the results of your teaching have left on me by sending you a personal message... Many of our teachers, painters and poets would like to participate in this greeting and congratulation message that I am sending you. Best regards, Herbert Read”

In his opening speech, Herbert Read explained what the exhibition of children from Yozgat meant to him as follows: “…However, you will see that these Turkish paintings come from all classes of secondary school, that is, boys and girls aged 14, 15 and 16, which are considered the most ungrateful and unproductive ages in England. It has been inverted by . This is a very significant point. And we should be extremely grateful to the great teacher Cemal Bingöl; Because he has proven beyond any doubt that it is not a natural necessity to stifle the creative sensitivity in children, and what is called teaching and development in children should mean the continuous and uninterrupted development and flourishing of the ability that is present in them at birth. (Excerpts from Herbert Read's letter and opening speech are from Ulus Newspaper dated July 10, 1943.)

The process that took Cemal Bingöl's students to London started in 1940. Vedat Nedim Tör, Director of the National Economy and Savings Society, who is also the director of Ankara Radio, met Bingöl and his students during a trip to Yozgat. In the same year, with Tör's initiative, an exhibition was opened at Ankara Exhibition House. The exhibition is visited by the capital's dignitaries and becomes a great success. Tör would also take initiative for the exhibition in London and contact his friend, then London Ambassador Rauf Orbay. With the proposal Orbay took to the British Council, the exhibition was held at the London Community Centre.

The London Community Center ceased operations after World War II, when the British Council withdrew its financial support.

He started to have difficulty in carrying out his affairs. With the Democratic Party coming to power in 1950, Turkey's British Embassy withdrew its support from the People's House, a CHP organization, and the institution had to end its activities in the same year.

Source: https://www.politikyol.com/sene-1943-londrada-acilan-turk-halkevi-ve-yozgatli-ortaokul-ogrencilerini-resim-sergisi/