TROUBLE IN THE TOWN WHERE ONE PERSON IN 12 IS
Strange voices in the street
'Fine workers - but no more for us'
STORY BY BARRIE GILL
PICTURES BY CHRIS SMITH
|At first Bedford looks like any other up-to-date English
Then you notice people calling
to each other in the streets - in Italian. Or an olive-skinned housewife
gesticulating at a market stall. Or dark eyes twinkling under black
berets on the bus.
One in 12 of
Bedford's 60,000 people is Italian. They are lured by the rich employment
of sprawling brickworks that lie a mile or so beyond Bedford's boundaries.
Since 1951 they have been moving in
with their wives, children - and momma and poppa, too.
the town council has called a halt. No more Italians can find a home
in the terraced streets where the Giovannis and Emmanuels have replaced
the Joneses and the Smiths.
unanimous vote the Conservative council has refused an application
by the Marston Valley Brick Co. for permission to employ 200 more
Manager Robert Miller
said: "They are first-class workers. We simply can't get Englishmen
to work in the brickfields. It's a difficult and hard job. And the
Italians do it well."
| The council said simply: "We
want no more foreigners."
do the foreigners differ from the English people of Bedford? To get
an idea, see how they prepare for an Italian-style New Year.
In Commercial-road's flavour-laden delicatessen,
31-year-old Nicola Vittorio mopped his brow amid the heaps of cheeses,
the wicker-encased Chianti bottles and the stacked cases of spaghetti.
He said: "We may be 2,000
miles from home - but our people are going to have an Italian New
told me of the Italian fare: "Already for Christmas we have had
our traditional eels, our roast cockerel and our very special spaghetti.
Now we prepare for the New Year.
family will have a gallon flagon of Chianti on their table - triumphant
amid the nougat, the Motta cake and the cheeses."
| In a little schoolroom, grinning youngsters
rehearsed a play under the eyes of Italian Sister Andrina Bosetti.
They joked to one another in startling Bedfordshire accents. Then
- hesitantly - spoke the Italian lines of their play.
a temporary chapel, Italian Father Alberto Vico studied plans for
a new all-Italian church. He is one of three Italian priests in the
On Sunday there will be sermons in English
and Italian in the English Holy Jesus church.
soon we will have our own church," said the priest.
a gay Italian club men sipped Chianti and played cards.
The man who helped to close the door
to more Italians explained his town's problem. Mayor Alderman Alan
Randall told me:
am proud of Bedford. And Bedford is proud of its Italians. They have
made a valuable contribution to the welfare and prosperity of our
"But there are complex
problems. They pack into houses like sardines. Our Public Health Department
has had to be augmented to cope with the problem. And we still have
1,100 on our housing list.
our schools the language problem is acute. English children are being
"Our maternity wards
are overflowing with foreign mums and many an English girl has to
have her first baby at home.
"There is no malice or bias in
our refusal to let more Italians join their friends here. Five thousand
Italians are part of our town - it's for their good, too, that we
cannot allow services to be overstrained and collapse."
Italian Vice-Consul, Dr. Mario Capobinco:
don't hold any grudge against the council. They have given us every
help. We have to thank Bedford's townsfolk for giving us a welcome
and a home."
[caption of large photograph
For an Italian woman it's a sweet life in a sweets factory.
[caption of small photograph
DR. MARIO CAPOBINCO