By Enza Ferreri
In Sanremo, charming seaside resort on the Western part of the Italian Riviera, near the border with France, annually at this time of the year the “Festival della Canzone Italiana”, Festival of the Italian Song Competition, has been held for several decades, precisely since 1951, initially at Sanremo’s Casino and then at the renowned Ariston Theatre.
It was in fact from this event that the Eurovision Song Contest got its origin and inspiration in 1955. World War II had recently ended, the new Europe-wide TV organization European Broadcasting Union had just been born and there was a desire to unite the countries of Europe with a common TV programme.
Sergio Pugliese, an Italian playwright and journalist, suggested to start a song contest in which the different European countries could take part and which would take the Sanremo Festival as a model. So the Eurovision Song Contest was born, which is now avidly watched in places like Australia.
The Sanremo Festival’s winner then has the right to represent Italy at that year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
Sanremo Festival is also broadcast live on foreign TV and radio stations, including Eurovision. Over the years many international stars have competed in the Festival of Sanremo, among whom Louis Armstrong, Shirley Bassey, The Yardbirds, Paul Anka, Gene Pitney, Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Pat Boone, Sonny & Cher, Cher on her own, Ben E.King, Françoise Hardy, Ray Charles, The Hollies, Sandie Shaw, Dusty Springfield, Tom Hooker, Petula Clark, Marianne Faithfull, Connie Francis, Wilson Pickett, Phil Manzanera of the Roxy Music, Grace Jones, Gloria Gaynor, Dionne Warwick, Sascha Distel, Eartha Kitt, Mary Hopkin, Howard Jones, Bonnie Tyler, Miriam Makeba, Udo Jurgens, Mungo Jerry, Bobbie Gentry, Kiki Dee.
In 2021 the 71st Festival of Sanremo is being held at the Ariston Theatre from 2 to 6 March.
However this year, during the same days, a parallel event is also run in Sanremo, called not “Festival della Canzone Italiana” but “Festival dell’Apertura Italiana”, Festival of Italian Reopening.
With the slogan “Give us back our dignity”, associations of entrepreneurs, workers, fair and exhibition organizers, affected by the profound economic crisis created by the lockdown, protest in Sanremo’s Colombo Square, a few steps away from the Ariston Theatre hosting the Sanremo Festival.
They represent many different sectors of the economy, and say they simply want to get back their jobs and freedom.
One of the organizations involved is ProtestaLigure, a group of restaurateurs and other categories hurt not so much by Covid-19 as by its accompanying closing-opening mechanism, group which had already organized many similar demonstrations on Mondays across the city centre of Genoa, not far from Sanremo and capital of Liguria region.
Showbusiness is one of the sectors present at these protests, as one seriously affected by lockdowns, and provided delegations of artists, prominent musicians and show personalities, adding to the peaceful protest art and music”.
Gabriele Ogliaro, vice president of the fair traders association, said: “Because of Covid, our fairs have been closed for a year now and many companies have closed. Many have had to turn to usurers for lack of help. We ask for the immediate reopening of fairs, festivals, fetes.
The organizers have described the Festival of Italian Reopening, this series of events in Sanremo, as “the largest demonstration of all the categories damaged by the lockdown legislation”.
The local news website Riviera24 reports:
The requests, which by now sound like a real ultimatum to the government, are the reopening of all commercial activities, without any limit and without any time restrictions, following the security protocols; the cancellation of the curfew on the whole national territory; the restoration of travel between municipalities and regions on the whole national territory and the cancellation of the color bands [indicating the different levels of restrictions imposed] for all Italian regions.
I couldn’t agree with them more.