Daniela, cultural agitator

Your story in 10 lines.


Class 1952, native of Friuli, born under the Virgo star sign, from Casarsa della Delizia – birthplace of Pasolini (who called it “il paese dei temporali e delle primule”, the land of thunder storms and primroses), elementary school teacher at nineteen, relocated to Pavia for love and involved in the 1976 (Friuli) earthquake. The loved one is Bruno Morani who’s in Friuli as a volunteer. From the Friuli years I remember ‘la rivolta fra le dita’ (the revolt in the fingers) between the Sundays at the Osterias drinking Merlot wine, De Andrè and bread and salami. Genetically I feel I belong to the left, because genetically I’m against power abuses. After two years of a long distance relationship I arrive in Pavia in 1978. I put years of work and commitment into the school in Vigevano and in 1986 the Spaziomusica adventure begins: the first venue which reflects the world as we would like it to be- good music (jazz, rock and blues) happily hanging out amongst friends, a large collective creation (www.spaziobruno.it).   In 1999 we quit Spaziomusica, which continues however to resist and churns out music. In 2002 Bruno dies, the partner of a lifetime and I devote myself to cultural initiatives that start out of the school but reach out into to the city like “E con la vita avrebbe ancora giocato: viaggio tra Spoon River e De André” (And he would have still played with life: journey between Spoon River and De Andrè), “Mille papaveri rossi: pace, incontri e diversità a partire dalla guerra di Piero” (One thousand red poppies: peace, encounters and differences beginning with Piero’s war) and “Imagine Pavia”. Last creation: leggere.pavia and Pavia in poetry (www.leggere.pavia.it) which continues to benefit from the participation of numerous people.


The difficulties of working as a teacher and as a cultural agitator?


The first few years there are no difficulties working as a teacher: just a lot of energy and passion. In the 70s and 80s there is a huge collective movement of joyful transformation of the school, making Italian elementary school one of the best in the world. Then in the 90s the innovations become institutionalized, and the experiments of the previous years are very much appreciated. The difficulties and gloom start with the Minister Moratti – at the beginning of 2000 – with its monoyear (two years in one) and portfolio, just two of the numerous nonexistent and useless words, which just indicate the emptiness of the ministerial proposals. Then with the Minister Gelmini the massive cuts begin. I retain the enthusiasm and passion for “the most wonderful profession in the world” but only at an individual level. In 2009 after 40 years of work, I retire, with no regrets for the school as an institution and many memories of children that I meet now as adults in the streets of Pavia and many colleagues, which have become friends over the years. As a cultural agitator – agitator yes, for I operate in an anarchic and insistent way since when a goal (what today would wrongly be called ‘’mission’) is set I move like a steamroller (caterpillar) always involving, no matter what, the schools in primis. I’m encouraged by the idea of collective culture, which has long periods of realization, which must reach out as much as possible mixing up ideas, people and culture. I engage by making a framework, a container where everyone can pour its own ideas – getting the best out of people. It isn’t difficult to organise, it’s just a very different approach from the ‘bourgeois sitting rooms’: we mix up the youngsters from the professional institutes and from the high schools. I move about on a bicycle with my infamous “pizzini” (small paper slips) and I try to get all the people involved that I know in Pavia, who are a lot indeed. There aren’t any difficulties, just a lot of pleasure. And this is possible in such an extraordinarily beautiful city as Pavia where I’ve lived now for almost forty years. I’ve always looked for institutional support afterwards because I’ve never nurtured any ambitions for power (‘we are the generation that wanted to be the grain of sand that blocked the power machine’ as was written by Erri de Luca): I’ve always moved in total freedom.


What does society do for you?


My generation has been lucky; I’m autonomous, I have a pension which allows me to live without much difficulty. Society has enabled me as well as my generation to be free in life’s choices. During my time one could find work immediately and economic freedom has, since always, granted me complete freedom of opinions and decisions, at all levels. No subjection. Even the ‘free vaffanculo (fuck off)”. Put differently: “a vaffanculo a day keeps the doctor away”: the proof of the pudding.


What have you done for society?


I’ve been a teacher and pursued with increasing determination the activity of cultural agitator. Today it’s even easier because finally we have the support from the new Pavia local administration as well as from the mayor Massimo Depaoli, who I supported with great conviction.


A remarkable thing, which has occurred to you recently?


The “Acoustic Nights” – concerts and musicians dotted around town with a final session in piazza Duomo. People captivated by the sound of the harp in piazza Duomo and musicians going through the streets of Pavia. I was so moved by it all I felt like crying. Pure beauty and poetry.


A culinary passion?


I like to eat, I don’t like to cook – for the fourteenth anniversary of Spaziomusica I made “pasta della colonia” (Colony’s pasta – sautéed onion, celery, carrot, sausage and salami paste, minced meat soaked 24 hours in wine). The title copyright belongs to Mauro Pagani on whom I’ve fobbed it off a few times. I eat practically anything. I could not do without the cold meat cuts.


Your favourite drinks?


Wine, particularly cabarnet from Collio. I’m still from the Friuli region, although I willingly drink barbera from Oltrepò. Wine in my view is tied to the popular tradition of being together. I’m very far apart from certain elitist attitudes, I really don’t enjoy having to listen about wine for twenty minutes before being able to drink a glass – often lacking,first of all in quantity.


The music or a book, which accompanies you


I’m reading “La banda degli invisibili” (The Invisible Bunch) by Fabio Bartolomei: a group of lively pensioners, good for nothing as ever… I won’t add more, a book to be read. A book I would make compulsory “Sei come sei”(you are as you are) by Melania Mazzucco which talks, with great sensitivity, about a teenage daughter growing up with two gay fathers. I recommend it to all, especially to those who still have problems accepting differences. I always listen to De André and Jeff Buckley’s version of “Alleluja” by Leonard Cohen to the point of exhaustion. And the Rolling Stones for me still the “call from the wild”. Proud to have attended the concert at the Circo Massimo in Roma in June this year: the best concert of my life.


A talent you have and one you’re missing?


A talent I have in abundance is stubbornness. When I know “the cause is a just one” nothing and no one stops me. What I lack: being calm, decidedly.


What have you learnt from life?


Daily optimism, and a motto “remember you are the most important person in your life: take care of her/him”. Taking this as a starting point, a grand optimism – inherited from my father – which has also allowed me to deal with some very painful periods of my life.


Translation by Paolo Witte

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