100 Years of Migration

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The Italian community of Luton and Dunstable, Clerkenwell Italian Procession, 2009

© Alan Denny

About 10,000 southern Italian men were recruited in the 1950s by the London Brick Company to work in the brickfields around Luton and Bedford. Later many of them brought their wives over, they settled, integrated but they stayed Italian. There was a much smaller community of Italians living in Gillingham where I grew up and in the 1950s/60s every couple of months the Bedford Italians, who were much better organised, would bring a lorry full of essential but unobtainable supplies: olive oil, pasta, coffee, exotic vegetables such as garlic, aubergines, artichokes and parsley seeds – the sort of stuff our local British shopkeepers called “nasty foreign muck.”