Why don’t we have Le French May?
In my last article, Vision versus Utopia, I wrote: ‘What is the vision of Italy for the next fifteen years? Or of Sardinia, my country? There is no answer because there is no vision, unluckily. The day-by-day tactics is driving two wonderful lands to a dramatic decline.’
I received dozens of emails with interesting comments on this specific claim. By the way, can I ask my friends to post your opinions in Beyond Thirty-Nine, please? I think that we all need a wider discussion about the features and the shape of our future and the means to secure it. However, speaking about perspectives, scenarios, guiding beliefs and vision, a kind of shyness emerges and thus it seems better to talk a quattrocchi, in private, than to provoke a public debate. This is an emblematic sign indeed: we are used to extensive discussions of sport, showbiz and gossip, politics, economics and finance, etc. But when we have or we want to face a relevant topic like culture or ‘our future’, for instance, we feel ashamed and guilty, as if we were wasting our and others’ time. Yes, culture is something that only the members of the Carboneria secret society can discuss, a catacombish topic. We can’t talk about vision! Only mad men have visions, c’mon! So, it is better not to share our beliefs but whisper them, cautiously – Big Brother is listening to us!
I’m not criticising my readers, be careful, but underlining a typical behaviour that was born from a wrong pattern, which, in turn, derives from thousands of bad examples from our recent history. There hasn’t been enough sensibility about culture in Italy, I have to say, but in the last fifty years I think that we have touched the bottom of the well. We have scientifically destroyed a series of great assets (landscape first, but also historic cities, museums, universities, etc.); we have undervalued the importance of education and arts; we haven’t invested in what the whole world envies (think about Pompei, for example); we haven’t done any effective or fruitful marketing; we have left our cultural heritage in the hands of shady bureaucrats; we have discouraged investors and tourists… I can go on for dozens of painful other lines.
Italy is an extraordinary brand, an icon for millions of people around the world. But, unluckily, it lacks vision and the right statesmen who understand our capital.
So, nowadays there is space only for an embedded intelligentsia, politically correct of course, able to write (this is from the novel (!) Ferocia by the great author (!) Nicola Lagioia, which was published by Einaudi (!!) and which is a finalist for the Strega Prize!!!)
‘Benché appena adolescente, nonostante nessun ragazzo ancora (ma su questo il geometra avrebbe scommesso non più di tre biglietti da cento), avesse incrinato un imene il cui valore a sedici anni Clara doveva essere abbastanza sveglia da saper moltiplicato dal giorno in cui non ci sarebbe stato più, se la sentiva cuocere nello spazio tra il sedile e se stessa.’
Sorry, but because of a form of decency, yes, decency, I cannot translate this example of today’s high literature. You have to internalise Italian to grasp such a masterpiece.
Now, if we agree that the vision of Italy for the next fifteen years must be based on culture – this is my strong opinion; my vision for this country is that it must become a hub for culture and beauty, thanks to its incredible assets – first we have to change our neuronal pattern. And talking about Hong Kong and our circle of expats, the first thing that we have to cancel is the stereotype of a city without a soul, without either culture or an inclination for culture. That is a city that doesn’t understand and accept our culture and cultural events. I read incredible comments about Hong Kong, along the lines that it is a city impenetrable to culture. Sorry for that, but usually these comments come from lazy people or ‘bureaucrats’, a category of the spirit and not an institutional belonging.
My experience is in fact different: if you work hard, if you invest in culture, if you offer a good ‘product’, Hong Kong is similar to other big cities of the world, which of course don’t give you anything for free, but at the same time are open to consider your work and to value it, if it has worth. In one and a half years, for example, by working strictly with the Italian Cultural Institute, Beyond Thirty-Nine has had extraordinary success launching Sardinia and its Nobel Prize winner Grazia Deledda (in Hong Kong and Macau!). The most recent event, the Four Tenors of Nuoro, on 4 February, attracted 500 people to the Civic Theatre of Sheung Wan, while another two hundred people couldn’t join the show only for reasons of space. Not to speak about the recent concerts organised by the IWA, the Italian Women’s Association for Charity, which collected an impressive amount of money for abandoned children. I don’t think that in New York or Paris or Berlin those things would have been easier or more successful. I really think that it is always a matter of people and good will.
And speaking about people, I take advantage of this article to praise the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute, who, unfortunately for us, is going to leave Hong Kong. Thank you so much, Matteo Fazzi, all the best!
So, why don’t we stop searching for excuses for our laziness and provincialism and, instead, start with another vision of the game?
Let’s consider, for example, the events planned for the last days of May and the beginning of June: on 28 May there is a reading of Grazia Deledda by Ciriaco Offeddu. The 29 May there is a Concert for Cause Gala, with Andrea Morricone and Seunghee Lee, an internationally acclaimed award-winning clarinettist. Monday, 01 June, there is the concert of Emma Re. On 3 June there will be a conference by Angelo Paratico on Leonardo Da Vinci. From 3 to 6 June, Figaro will be performed at the Fringe Club. The director is Nicole Garbellini. I know that this piece is under the umbrella of Le French May. I know well. But Nicole Garbellini is always keen to organise theatre pieces like the one she played as Grazia Deledda in May 2014, written and interpreted by Juan Morales too.
So, with all these rich events, and many others that I haven’t mentioned (Salento International Film Festival, for instance, or the documentary on Father Nicosia, or the Italian Chamber of Commerce’s events), why don’t we have an Italian May?
And don’t talk about money, please. I know that Italy doesn’t have the same economic potential as France (why? This is another sad story, but forget it for the moment), but I don’t think that Michela Bardotti (the president of IWA), just as an example, or any of the other members of this association receive an emolument. Or you can ask me whether I’m receiving a fee from my cultural passion or I’m investing out of my pocket to launch B39’s initiatives. Dozens of people work only for passion and are performing very well, adding value to Italy. And also in the past, many people of good will worked on a voluntary basis to create several prestigious Italian ‘products’ (books for examples: is it true, Gianni Criveller and Angelo Paratico?).
So, again, why don’t we have an Italian May? And why isn’t there any visibility of future plans? Books, art expositions and artistic conferences – everything seems to have receded and only be entrusted to the initiative, will and imagination of the single bodies and associations.
The only reasonable answer is that culture, as I said, is not a priority in Italy, and there is no vision and leadership to head a cultural movement and to create something lasting and valuable, with a brand image like Le French May (*).
If the prevalent belief, I’d say the institutional belief, is that Hong Kong is not the right place, if there is no transversal collaboration between the different bodies but the will to go in open order, haphazardly; if there is no bright and compelling vision, then OK, the result will continue to be poor and disconnected, and weak as usual.
Does someone want to make this right, maybe?
(*) Le French May is one of the largest cultural events in Asia. With more than 120 programmes presented across two months, it has become an iconic part of Hong Kong’s cultural scene that attracts approximately 2 million visitors each year.