Sunday, 6 March 2005

Torino 2

Ciao tutti!
Yesterday was a productive day in Torino.
Despite an optimistic call-out from one young frisky German punk to be up at the crack of dawn and then go and exercise in a local park, we managed to rouse ourselves from our coloured sleeping bag pods at about eleven.
Some people did do some stretching but inside and at a reasonable hour.
We held a meeting to discuss the G8. However I missed most of this as my kid and I had a singular opportunity to have a shower at a nearby flat, that of the genial Brenno.
"But I don't have a towel!" I exclaimed
"Brenno does have one towel. But don't mind, it is near the beginning of use".
Okay, that sounds good.
We met up on a bridge for the 'pinkarnival parade' only about an hour late which is good by samba standards. We were topped and tailed by kinky carabinieri (Italian police) in tight trousers and knee high leather boots. The parade was to support gay, lesbian and transgender rights.
A large 57 litre glass vat of red wine was wheeled along with the samba band. A wonderful Italian innovation that I feel we should attempt to reproduce on British demos.
It took some time to get going as we had to wait for a funeral to end. A pink-clad samba band would be considered inappropriate as musical accompaniment for a funeral.
We were also accompanied by a sound system playing Euro disco during the breaks.
We made our way through the cobbled streets of Torino, past the arcades.
My daughter mestred 'Welfare State' on the shoulders of Jon (which he later regretted as it exacerbated a 'subvertising' back injury). (My daughter and I participated in some of these subvertising actions in London and it was great fun). She did brilliantly I must say (even though I am her mother).
At one point my kid and I did escape to a cosy carved wood ice-cream parlour where she ordered chocolate ice-cream and I tried turron and yoghurt.
Later we joined the band who were having a circle drum in a snow filled park.The carabinieri had departed.
A call went out "the wine is leaving!".
"What?" yelped Izzy and she rushed to fill up her large plastic sack with red wine, looking much like a drip feed full of blood, which she suckled on for several hours.
George taught 'Banghra' to the continentals.
As it got dark we all piled on a tram, as usual not paying (does anyone pay?) although the owners of number one drums (the largest surdo drums) could not enter as their drums would not fit through the door. I don't know how they got home.

On return to our space, Fin and Greg had exchanged clothes. There was a party planned and drag Kings and Queens would be there. A collective of us girls applied make up on Greg (who ended up looking like a prettier Hazel O'Connor) and before long several other men crept out of the woodwork and asked to be included. Fin went as a boy and my daughter also dressed up as a goth boy and declared that from now on she would only eat black and white food (groan).
Ultimately us light-weights were too tired to go to the party but heard that the prettier male members of the bands were plied with beer and all and sundry boogied down to Eurodisco with a vengeance.
I woke up at eleven to find that all the coloured pods were filled again and that a rhythmic snoring of different timbres had recommenced.
Sunday: more meeting: feedback, plans for G8, then clean up.
Now my kid and I are staying with Elio of the Torino samba band. His flat is beautiful with wooden pillars and a fresco over the doorway. We talked about the difficulties of being an activist in Italy. Elio said there is a lack of solidarity between different groups of activists, that everybody is divided into competing factions. The London samba band can easily make money by busking (to buy instruments, finance trips) but busking doesn't work in Turin, he said. Turin is basically quite a working class city with a history of trade unionism and an activist university.
He also talked about a friend of his, a single mother and how tough it is to get by in Italy. There are few state benefits for single parents and she was subjected to rigorous means testing. The welfare people even came to her flat and asked her why she had a computer if she was claiming state help. Her child was only a baby. The computer was very old.
People are very nice in Torino. Had my cheek pinched in the bakery yesterday. Haven't had that since childhood. Everybody very friendly. Plus we had some more ice cream. This time I tried violet(?) a bit weird and lemon. My daughter had chocolate.
Turin is where chocolate first became popular in Italy. They also have a wonderful chocolate liqueur, a bottle of which I bought during their annual chocolate festival which they held at this time. At this festival were amazing sculptures in chocolate...the 12 stations of the cross was reproduced in milk chocolate as was a scene from Dante's Inferno, but this time in dark chocolate.
Aiming to sample every gelateria in Torino before departing.

Saturday, 5 March 2005

Samba in Torino

Again these posts on Torino are part of a newsletter email that I sent to the Rhythms of Resistance list at the time.

We all arrived safely apart from John and Izzy who had a 3 1/2 day London to Torino marathon journey by bus, train, ferry, all in the name of eco-worthiness. They only arrived late last night. Just goes to prove that being good doesn't pay.

We are staying at a migrant help centre in a large heated room, into which are squeezed about 60 sambistas. The Italians are sleeping on the floor with us in a touching display of solidarity.

There's alot of different snoring rhythms at night (I'm definitely a surdo number 2, one of the largest drums) .

Thursday we did an action against state control of fertility centres. The Italian government, led by Berlusconi, have legislated to prevent single women and gay couples from getting fertility treatment. Plus they want to stop people having the choice to test if the foetus has problems, in other words, they are preventing the abortion of disabled children.

In preparation for the action, the Italian samba band made enormous foam needles with which they pretended to inseminate people. We did the action at a registry office for births.

Then we went to Torino university which, European style, is being occupied at the moment. Djs in the hall, cheap food in the foyer. We did a drumming workshop outside.

There have been alot of translation problems of signs and breaks. As samba is so noisy, we communicate and orchestrate the music via hand signals from the 'mestre' or conductor, but this requires that everybody understands them. As someone said Amsterdam Ror has conquered the mainland and us islanders (the London band) are a bit lost, even though we are the original founders of the Ror network. We sounded a mess to be honest.

Friday, we did an action which sounded much better due to the fortuitous arrival of George from London who mestre-d. We spent 40 minutes on a tram to get to a large shopping centre. We played outside a call centre which employs people on a daily contract with no holiday pay, no sickness pay, no notice of termination of employment (nothing has changed since the days of On the Waterfront). This action was against precarity of employment.

Then we moved over to an IBM office. Played. Then all of us knelt down and started praying to IBM.

Security guards surrounded us but the shoppers and staff seemed to enjoy it.

Then back to the university where we did a dance workshop.

There have been films shown at the migrant centre for the last two nights about transgender issues. I watched the first one, but it was all in Italian. Some locals translated for me. One film showed a group of chubby bearded young men talking. After a while a local told me that they were all in fact women.

Beards are popular here not just with transsexuals.

As for food it's quite difficult as our European partners are unaware of the dietary needs of fussy children, vegans, coeliacs, etc etc most of which the London band here seem to be.

Today is carnival day....

Off to buy pizza for breakfast now...