Italians of Bedford

Antonio Sansica

This is the story of many men and women who chased the dream of a new life, travelling across a very long road.

During the 50s in Italy, especially the regions of the south did not have easy times; the WWII raised the unemployment level in the all country, causing a tragic economic crisis upon the poorer regions of the south.

The Italian government alarmed by such situation, tried to solve the problem. Many Italians from the hot regions of the south have decided that the best thing to do was to emigrate where they could find what they couldn’t achieve at home,

a job and a house, very elementary humans rights.

Since then the Italian diaspora continued toward the Americas and Nord Europe.

The aim of this story in fact is to portray such people who took part at the huge migration, in this case in England, exactly in Bedford (Bedfordshire).

Not only Italy traversed hard times, in fact also the city of Bedford had serious difficulties regarding the shortage of labor workers.

The Bedfordshire has been very famous for its industrial area, precisely for its brick factories that are said have reconstructed the whole London after the heavy WWII bombings. In fact, many people avoided these jobs in the brick factories, as it was extremely hard and tiring, this situation caused an urgent need of labor.

In order to solve this crisis, the British government within the accord of the Italian government, sent in Italy the representatives of Bedford’s brick companies to recruit about 800 young and robust men from the south regions of Sicily and Campania, giving them a 4 year contract in Bedford’s brick factories.

Bedford’s Italian community is now fully integrated with British culture, and with its 3 generations, has now more then 20.000 Italians, a number that is now sadly reducing.

I was honored to tell the stories of these Italians, who travelled along an extremely hard road, chasing their dreams and aspirations, always bringing fundamental values such Family and Respect.

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  • Giuseppe has fun during a party celebrating “Mom’s day”, his parents are originally from Sicily but he was born and raised in Bedford. Giuseppe represents the new generations which are now totally integrated with the English society.

  • A man is dining at one of the many parties that are organized by the many Italian associations.

  • A door of Saint Francesca Cabrini church, nicknamed the "Italian Church" has always been vital for the community.

  • Bricks deposit inside the London Brick Company at Stewartby, Bedfordshire.
    The London Brick Company, which is nowadays inactive, is the last brick factory still not demolished,
    many Italians worked in this factory for many years, producing circa 70.000 bricks per person weekly.

  • Salvatore Alario, leaves in Bedford for about 60 years, originally from Campania(south of Italy). Arrived in Bedford at the begin of the 50’s, by himself, he was one of the very first Italians who worked in the bricks factories like the London Brick Company. Once he told me “I travelled around the world, now the world travels around me”.

  • The Club della Gioventù is one of the meeting point of the all Italian generations of Bedford. This club
    reflects the life of a real Italian Café, most of the times frequented just by men. The old and new generations met daily at the bar to chat, play card and watch television(often Italian channels).

  • Biagio, arrived in Bedford at the begin of the 50’s, originally from Puglia(south of Italy), exactly from a village near Lecce(the Florence of the South, Biagio reminds me). Also him was one of the first Italians
    arrived in Bedford, working for the many brick factories. He is now a frequent card player at the “Club della Gioventu” where he also entertains all his friends singing classical music.

  • Father Mario has been since many years the priest of St. Francesca Cabrini(protector of migrates)church. He has been on the side of the Italian community basically since its birth, assisting and helping everyone. In this photo Father Mario baptizes Luca during a very traditional and antique Easter vigil.

  • Lina Ognisanti arrived in Bedford in the 1967, originally from Campania(south of Italy). Together with her husband have sold and produced real Italian ice cream in the streets of Bedford. Lina also became famous among students for her “frittelle”(pancakes).

  • The bars for the community are vital, it’s the place where they discuss and laugh about their past and about all they went trough during those years.

  • Italian flagged balloon during heavy rain.

  • Statue of Santa Francesca Cabrini, protector of the migrants. The statue is regularly situated at the church but once a year is taken trough the roads of the city.

  • The Club Italia is another meeting point for the Italians of Bedford, also this pub is mostly frequented by men, is theatre of infinite card games.

  • Maria arrived in Bedford at the begin of the 50’s, originally from Campania(south of Italy). When Lina arrived she started doing any kind of jobs, as all the firsts women did. Nowadays she is well-known to be an untiring dancer, in this photo she enjoys the party celebrating Mom’s day at St. Francesca Cabrini Church, the Italian church of Bedford.