Friday, 17 May 2013


April 25th is not just St Mark's Day, but, more significantly, La Festa della Liberazione : the final end of Nazi occupation, and the fascist ventennio.

A number of events are planned to mark the occasion, one of which is the percorso della memoria : a walk around the city, to remember some of those Venetians who were martyred during the struggle.

There's a good turnout. There are banners there from the Partito Democratico, the Socialist Party, the Communists, and various trades unions. And, for once, all the various factions seem to get on together in a properly comradely manner, and nobody shouts whatever the Italian word for Splitters! is.

We get issued with red carnations, and a songsheet (yes, a songsheet); and then we're off. The sheer number of people makes it a bit difficult at times. It's a public holiday, the sun is shining, and the streets are packed. It's a bit difficult to get everyone down some of the narrow calli. There are a number of musicians in the party. I feel particularly sorry for the keyboard player who has to set up his stand and his speakers at each stop, prior to dismantling them and hauling them along, with all the speed he can muster, to the next. It reminds me of the film in which Woody Allen appears as the only cello player in a marching band.

A wreath is hung over the commemorative plaque at each site, a few words are spoken in memory, and the Last Post is played; following which the crowd sing one of the partisan anthems. It's very moving, and very stirring. It feels humbling to be part of it.

The walk finishes in the Getto Nuovo, with speeches by the great and the good (the mayor is there, along with the leader of Venice's Jewish community), and a concert by local schoolchildren. Caroline tells me she feels like a proud mum, as she's taught a number of the kids. And some of them - a young violinist and clarinettist in particular - are really very good indeed. She tells me they were her star pupils. In fact, they're so good that the conductor feels able to pop off for a ciggie break and leave them to it at one point.

Then she points out the Awkward Squad, all of whom have made a bit of a half-arsed effort at looking smart for the occasion. While the good kids get solo spots, the bad lads are at the back, plonking out chords on guitars. The bass player (part Kurt Cobain, part Shaggy from Scooby Doo) noodles around behind them, occasionally pausing to make minute adjustments to effects pedals and amplifiers. I'm not 100% convinced it's actually switched on.

The concert finishes and Caroline says hello to a few of them. I consider having a stiff word with the stroppy ones, but it's a been a lovely, memorable morning and it would be churlish to spoil it. Besides, some of them are bigger than me. And anyway, part of me is a little bit pleased that the guitar is still the rebel's instrument of choice. Less "this guitar kills fascists", more "this guitarist annoys English teachers", perhaps?

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