by Scott Macdonald
The Edinburgh People’s Festival’s (EPF) weekend commemoration of Antionio Gramsci’s life and legacy was an exceptional experience.
Who’d have thought that a commemoration and exploration of an 80 year-dead Italian communist philosopher’s teachings, first thing on a Saturday morning could create such demand in 21st century Scotland? Having planned accordingly for a modest turnout, demand massively exceeded the EPFs expectations – the EPF adapted, and released further tickets, which were snapped up in short order.
Four hours of dense, rich and often personal reflections is a tall order for anyone – but the EPF could have filled the packed venue three times over with the level of interest received. There were many emails asking for tickets which the secretary, Colin Fox, had to gently refuse.
We welcomed the curators of the Antonio Gramsci Museum in Ghilarza, Sardinia – Gabriella Cuccu and Gian Luigi Deiana, coming to Edinburgh in the spirit of internationalism, despite daunting language barriers. They provided invaluable contributions to our understanding of Gramsci the man, his enduring ideas and the continuing legend.
With the gracious support of the Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh, Gian Luigi gave a short lecture and took questions from an assembled Italian and activist community at a well-attended Friday morning “taster session” and reception.
Joining Gian Luigi at the commemoration event was public sociologist Eurig Scandrett from Queen Margaret University. He spoke on the impact of organising and education – about using Gramscian ideals to propel radical social ideas into the mainstream. Red Pepper magazine editor, Hilary Wainwright, offered perspective on modern left-wing movements; angry with neoliberal capitalism, thirsting for inspiration and looking to the past for it. Political historian and author Ray Burnett, from South Uist, provided a personal down-to-earth reminisce on political awakenings, soaked in Scottish working class slang. This caused no end of on-stage difficulty for EPF board member and conscripted translator, Paolo Caserta.
The commemoration attendees varied widely – from international scholars teaching Gramsci in their classes, through politically aware youth, to the complete novice. All found something to enjoy and learn from the panel’s expert contributions and subsequent politically charged question and answer sessions from the floor.
The EPF recorded the entire event, shot interviews with panel participants and will prepare video materials for publication and sharing on this website.
The board offer their thanks to all who turned out, our generous donors, and are already considering our next large scale event.
So, watch this space!
We would like to thank the following people and organisations without whom, this event would never have been so successful.
- The Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust
- Lothian health branch of UNISON
- Unite ‘not for profit’ branch Edinburgh
- EIS Edinburgh local association
- UNISON City of Edinburgh council branch
- CWU Scotland 2
- GMB Scotland
- RMT Scotland
- The Grassmarket Centre
- The Morning Star
- The Italian Cultural Institute
- Charles Naysmith for his beautiful portrait of Hamish Henderson
- Stuart Hyslop