Mussolini’s Folly in Charing Cross

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.

'Mussolini’s Folly – Farce & tragedy in Little Italy' exhibition at Charing Cross Library , November 2015

‘Mussolini’s Folly – Farce & tragedy in Little Italy’ exhibition at Charing Cross Library , November 2015

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.

Alfio Bernabeis with Italian Consul Giulia Romani, Charing Cross Library, November 2015Our 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.

Photograph showing fascist motto 'Believe Obey Fight' above the balcony upon which it was once written - Charing Cross Library, November 2015

Photograph showing fascist motto ‘Believe Obey Fight’ above the balcony upon which it was once written – Charing Cross Library, November 2015

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.

“Really interesting”

“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.

Alfio Bernabeis at Charing Cross Library, November 2015

Alfio Bernabeis at Charing Cross Library, November 2015

[Katrina]

Advertisements

2 responses to “Mussolini’s Folly in Charing Cross

  1. I’m amazed. I was always told that it used to be a allied serviceman’s club during the war and that the old counter used to be a hat / coat check in. Learn something new every day – perhaps a slogan for the library?

    Like

    • Here’s a little more information from a previous blog post:

      “Numbers 4 and 6 Charing Cross Road were originally erected in 1891 as a warehouse for Samuel Addington & Co, woollen merchants. According to the Kelly’s Post Office Directories, Addington’s continued to use the premises as a warehouse until around 1934… From 1937 the rates were paid by the Italian Benevolent Society and it became the Italian Club. This lasted until the outbreak of World War Two, at which time the building was seized by the Custodian of Enemy Property. On 9 August 1940 Mrs Winston Churchill opened the New Zealand Forces Club at 4 Charing Cross Road and number 6 became the New Zealand War Services Association… Following the war the City of Westminster took over the building and on 5 July 1948, Charing Cross Library was opened.”

      More at https://wcclibraries.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/an-uplifting-relic-of-charing-cross-past/

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s