The idea of learning about the hall which was once the headquarters of the Italian Fascist party obviously intrigued a lot of people, as nearly 100 came to the opening of the exhibition Mussolini’s Folly – Farce & tragedy in Little Italy at Charing Cross Library last week.
Alfio Bernabei, author, historian and journalist curated the exhibition and talked us through the relevance of the library building to the Italians from 1937-1940 – “an 11,000-square-foot Palace befitting the rightful pride of Italians of the Fascist Era“; and the rise of the Fascist movement and its importance in London.
Our other two speakers were the Italian Consul for London, Giulia Romani, who talked about the need for vigilance in present times, and Simone Rossi, the UK secretary of Anpi-London who spoke passionately about the National Association of Italian Partisans.
The exhibition runs until 14 December and there are images of the library as the former headquarters – with a statue of Julius Cesar; the special music evenings with the tenor Beniamino Gigli and a boys violin concert (Mussolini’s favourite instrument). It also includes fascinating images, reports and newspaper cuttings including one about Sylvia Pankhurst supporting the anti-fascist movement.
One of the fascist mottos, ‘Believe Obey Fight’ used to run around the balcony of the building– it might be nice to get a library motto up there – perhaps ‘Question Read Learn’? Any ideas?
Do come and see the exhibition, it is a great success and we hope to continue to build further links with our local Italian community.
“Great to hear about our local history, I had no idea about the background of the library”
“Perfect talk – interesting, at just the right level and not too long”
Continuing the theme of ‘Italians in London’, Alfio Bernabeis’ 1987 Channel 4 documentary Dangerous Characters was shown in the library this week, with Alfio present. It tells the story of how a thriving Italian community in London was led astray politically and ends with the tragedy of the sinking of the SS Arandora Star in 1940.