Il Quartiere Italiano
The colony established itself around the 1840’s as a group of immigrants from central and southern Italy, fled from political unrest and poverty, in search of a better life. By the 1890s, it had become a fully-fledged colony: countless Italian families had occupied the narrow backstreets of Clerkenwell, forming a close-knit community around Saint Peters church. Although only a few Italians still live in the area (il quartiere Italiano), Clerkenwell remains the focal point of the Italian life, most of which revolves around the church and the Vincenzo Pallotti club, which plays a very important religious and social role in the lives of all Anglo-Italians.
Pino Maestri, a local historian and archivist, born and bred on the hill, once told me this true story: “ I’ve got a nephew… and he kept on telling this lovely story; I love it because it is a typical one, it says a lot about what my nephew’s son was like when he started school.
The teacher is skimming through the register, as always … he picks the name Maestri… he asks: “what nationality is that? This does not sound like an English name”… the boy replies: “NO, it’s Italian!” “What part of Italy then…?” “Clerckenwell”.
La piccola Italia “Tear Sheets”:
Sunday Times Magazine, 1990.
Peopling exhibition London-Barbican 1991\2\3
While in London, I was naturally part of the Italian community of Clerkenwell “the Italian quarter”. I regularly hung out at the Vincenzo Pallotti Club, where they used to make the very best Cappuccino in the U.K. During that time, Father Russo, Father Carmelo & Vittorio, were in charge of the social and spiritual guidance of the community. Therefore, the idea came naturally to capture the Italian life in the quarter before it dissolved. I thought the pictures would survive and preserve “la piccola Italia” forever.
So, with the help of Pino Maestri, I photographed the Italians in Clerkenwell, absorbed in all their activities, for about two years, and almost every day. We decided that the natural end of the project, would be on the greatest gathering day for the Anglo-Italian community of Clerkenwell, the celebration of “La Madonna del Carmine\Our Lady of Mount Carmel”, the traditional procession taking place every year in the middle of July, within the streets of the Italian quarter.
Olympus OM 1 28mm\ 135mm\ Kodak Tri-x film, this is all.
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