The operator of the (A)void Floating Gallery is caught up in a dispute with the Prague administration and other entities managing the Náplavka.
Prague 2 wants to terminate the agreement with the ship’s current operator, the Dvojka sebe association. Dvojka sebe has started a petition to get public support to stay on the waterfront. Prague City Hall has offered a temporary lease, but says Dvojka sebe has rejected the offer. The current lease is set to expire as of May 31.
According to Prague City Hall, Dvojka sebe has previously been sent a notice of termination for repeated violations of the rules for operating on Náplavka. Representatives of Prague 2 and the Ohleduplná Praha association oppose further operation of the ship.
Dvojka sebe claims in its petition that it has not been given clear reasons for the termination, and that in its 10-year history it has become a respected cultural institution. They also claim that the rules of operation are not clearly stated, and open to interpretation.
They add that the associations like themselves helped to bring Náplavka back to life, and they should be listened to regarding the future of culture on the waterfront.
Ivo Slavík, head of Dvojka sebe, said in an opinion piece in daily Pražský deník that the association has only received one noise complaint between 2007 and 2020, and that the city did not reach out them over the lease situation until after the online petition was started. “One official allegation in 13 years hardly stands up as a reason for the liquidation of an internationally respected cultural institution,” he wrote.
He added that when he pressed for more details in mid-May, once the non-renewal of the lease became clear, he received a list of 48 offenses from the 2019 season, but he claims none of these were ever passed on to Dvojka sebe at the time. The complaints ranged from loud live music to smoke from burning wood.
The municipal firm Trade Centre Praha (TCP),which oversees Náplavka, said it has offered Dvojka sebe the option of a contract for operation from June 1 to 31 December 31, 2020, and that the association has rejected the offer.
“The embankment must be perceived as a complex space where a large number of interests intersect — the interest of locals and neighbors in a quiet life, the interest of visitors to the embankment who come here for cultural and social activities, but also the interests of people coming for fun. In order for all these interests to work, the city has established the position of curator of Náplavka in the past and wrote down rules for conduct on Náplavka,” City Councilor Jan Chabr (United Force for Prague), responsible for property, said.
“And here I see the conflict with the ship (A)void. I do not question their cultural and especially literary program at all, for example, the one created with the Municipal Library, on the contrary, was one of the welcome diversification of the Prague cultural scene. However, if any rules are laid down, everyone needs to follow them without exception. The capital, together with Trade Centre Praha, is now intensively solving the lease of the (A)void ship on the Prague embankment. After the complaints and the subsequent termination of the contract, Trade Centre Praha takes this situation as an opportunity to adjust the contractual relations,” he added.
TCP said it would allow the continuation of the existing cultural program, but without loud music production. Dvojka sobě and the refreshment operator on the ship received an offer to continue operating only in a new contractual relationship with TCP. Dvojka sobě has rejected this solution, according to City Hall.
City Hall adds that other ships such as Tajemství or Kayak Beach Bar have been operating cultural or sports programs on the Rašínova nábřeží embankment without major complications, and both boat operators have a direct relationship with Prague as the landlord.
City Hall said that if Dvojka sebe or the operator of refreshments on the ship are not interested in concluding a contractual relationship directly with TCP, then TCP will announce an open tender for the operation of the ship. Dvojka sebe will be able to participate in the tender.
According to the Prague embankments curator, Petr Hozman, this lease offer is currently the only option that will allow activities to continue at least until the end of 2020.
“Since taking the position of curator, I have focused primarily on the ship (A)void and the problems associated with it. … In that short time, I did not notice any ambition on the part of TCP or my predecessor, Jiří Sulženko, to remove the ship, replace it or otherwise dishonor it culturally. In fact, it seems to me that we are all trying to find a solution to keep the ship open and functional,” he said.
“The ship is the property of the Pražské paroplavební společnosti (Prague Steamship Company), and not of Mr. [Ivo] Slavík or the Dvojka sebe association, as the public probably mistakenly thinks. … In order to maintain the current operation at least until the end of the year, a proposal was made to lease a boat from Pražské paroplavební společnosti to TCP, which we would then subcontract on the basis of a proper contract to Dvojka sebe and later announce an open tender. Personally, I firmly hope that this agreement will be reached,” Hozman said.
Filip Veselý, chairman of the board of directors of TCP, said the company submitted a proposal for resolving the situation to the representatives of the coalition parties of City Hall, and they unanimously supported it.
“The Dvojka sebe association should therefore continue to be able to operate the ship with its program until the end of the year, but under conditions of non-violation of the rules for the operation of activities on the embankments. During these months of operation, TCP will only demand a symbolic rent for the space of the ship for cultural events,” Veselý said.
TCP added that (A)void serves as a multicultural and positive place used by visitors across generations. At the same time, TCP says it is necessary to ensure that people feel comfortable and safe at Náplavka, and that the Prague embankments are a place for the general public to meet. A new transparent selection procedure for operating the boat should lead to this.
The steamship used for the (A)void Floating Gallery was commissioned in 1938 at the Dr. Edvard Beneš, and the engine and chimney are preserved in a shipyard and ready for the continuation of the ship’s renovation.