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Community Events

The social calendar of "Little Italy" was a busy one with many events taking place.

Advertising the Holywell picnic (courtesy of Mr. Roland Antonelli)

In the first part of the year there were Italian dances, where the old and the young mixed together reminiscing of times gone by. These included the 'Befana' held on the feast of the Epiphany, the 'Rumpapagnata', and the 'Shrove Tuesday' dance. They were also an opportunity for Italian mammas to indulge in some matchmaking! Towards the middle of the year was the Manchester Whit Walks, the festa of the Madonna of the Rosary, a major public event for the community. At the end of the year was the children's Christmas party.

Ticket to Hollywell, 1929
Days out included the trip to the seminary at Pot Shrigley on the feast of Corpus Christi. Italians from around the north west region would congregate for The Holywell and Pantasaph pilgrimage to the shrine of St.Winifred in North Wales. This would take place on the 15th of august and the 8th of September. Other events were children's parties at the home of the Italian consul.

There was the 'Balilla' organisation for boys and girls, a kind of scout movement with Fascist ideology. They learnt patriotic songs, the Italian language, there were sporting activities and even trips back to the homeland which were sometimes funded by the Italian government.

Baptisms, weddings and funerals were also great public occasions. Choosing godparents for an Italian family was taken almost as seriously as the College of Cardinals choosing a new Pope! Other important events were a child's first communion, first confession, and confirmation. Italian weddings have always been great occasions with all the memorable characters in attendance. They were mainly held on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, as weekends were important working days in the ice cream business. The wine flowed, the music played, the food was plentiful; all the 'paesani' were invited from far and wide, from Italy, the States, and almost every town and city in the UK where they had family and friends. It was not uncommon to see 300 people sat for the meal, and a further 250 at the evening reception. They were great events; the families wanted to show off how well they had done, a far contrast from their immigrant beginnings.

With this community playing such a large part in the ice cream industry, many were members of the Ice Cream Alliance. They organised national competitions, exhibitions and social events.

Men could also look forward to the annual men-only trip to Blackpool, which became notorious!


Daytrippers from "Little Italy" at Holywell
Junction on the 15th August 1927
Domenico Rea and friends, Manchester's answer to Valentino
Annual Italian day trip to North Wales, 15th August 1949
A proud Italian boy in his Balilla uniform, circa 1920s.
The Royal Band of the Carabinieri gave a concert in Manchester and other cities in 1918
My parents, Loreto and Margharita Rea's (nee Schiavo) wedding 1947
The wedding meal of my Uncle Giovanni Rea to Filomena Arcaro, circa 1950, at Cheetham Town Hall, Manchester, a very popular venue with Italian families
Some of the men on the annual male only trip to Blackpool 1950s
(click to enlarge)

All text and images (unless marked *) Anthony Rea 2010
not to be used without permission. All rights reserved