Bella Ciao! A festival of Italian culture comes to Bedford

It will be at various venues between April 15 to 27
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The festival takes its name from an Italian protest song. Originally sung by workers lamenting the harshness of working conditions in the nineteenth century, it later became a symbol of resistance to Fascism and Italy’s re-emergence as a modern democracy.

Listen to world class musicians like I Fagiolini, I Musicanti and Florilegium performing and talking about their craft. Explore the political and social background to the popular song, Bella Ciao! and discover how Italy has shaped Bedford.

A quick flavour of the variety on offer:

Designed by Alberto SpezialiDesigned by Alberto Speziali
Designed by Alberto Speziali
  • Heart-warming cinematic escapism - Cinema Paradiso (Monday, April 15, 7.30pm)
  • A double bass extravaganza featuring string classics from the eighteenth-century to today with I Musicanti (Friday, April 19, 7.30pm) plus a world premier commissioned from Valentina Ciardelli played by the De Parys Sextet (Friday, April 19, 9.45pm)
  • Astonishing choral sensuality and depth from I Fagiolini and local groups, The Goldentones and the Bella Ciao Singers (four events on Saturday, April 20)
  • Cool down with Italian jazz from Duo Petti (Sunday, April 21, 2pm)

* Rediscover your rebellious youth with Bella Ciao! Song of Rebellion, a documentary film (Sunday, April 21, 4.30pm)

  • Join us for an evening of ice cream, nostalgia, popular opera and song when Bedford Town Band recreates the spirit of Napoli. Can you resist more than one cornetto? In this very special concert we will be joined by a dozen ‘teenagers’ who appeared in a 1973 BBC documentary about Italians in Bedford and they will be doing a reprise of Arrivederdi Roma! (Friday, April 26, 7.30pm)
  • Next up on Saturday, April 27 a study afternoon. At 2pm discover what it was like to grow up Italian in Bedford with Lydia Saul (The Higgins) and Dr Selena Daly (UCL). Explore early recordings of bel canto at 3pm with Dr Barbara Gentili (University of Surrey) and find out what music critics actually do at 4pm with Ivan Hewett (Daily Telegraph)
  • Listen to the intrepid Ashley Solomon of Florilegium talking about his amazing work in Bolivia (Saturday, April 27, 6.30pm) before whizzing through three centuries of Italian masterworks (Saturday, April 27, 7.30pm)
  • Experience Vivaldi's Four Seasons with a difference. The Royal College of Music Baroque Orchestra is joined by young people reading Vivaldi's little-known seasonal sonnets (Saturday, April 27, 9.45pm)

* Finally, to round off the Festival, explore the profound influence of Italy on English writers: from Shakespeare to Ezra Pound. Join the Read Poets Society at The Eagle Bookshop ( (Sunday, May 5, 7pm)

We haven’t forgotten the very young. Our festival composer Valentina Ciardelli will be running workshops for primary school children on Aprril 19 and we are also planning an assembly-based project on Italian cultural themes.

Full programme and online booking details can be found at

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