SUPER, a #RDgrantee festival of Milan peripheries

 photo by SUPER

photo by SUPER

Super is a “festival of the peripheries”, which aims to create a narration including all that exists in , springs from and activates the Milan peripheries. For this reason, Super has involved videomakers and artists, sociologists and economists, writers and composers, actors and performers, journalists and anthropologists, architects and urbanists: all of them have been invited to confront themselves with the peripheries in their geographical, social, cultural, administrative aspects and, following this experience, to conceive and implement original projects.

Super has developed a method of listening to those who live and inhabit the peripheries: to do this, Super has walked 23 tours in the peripheral neighbourhoods of the city, meeting and getting more than 160 subjective reports on the state of peripheries from people who are active in groups, associations, small enterprises, cooperatives and other entities of the third sector. This long process, which has suggested us to define Super as a “slow” festival, that, moving around the city centre, has generated a series of projects and events.

 photo by SUPER

photo by SUPER

Along our way we also found out about and obtained ECF’s Idea Research and Development Grant: its support provided us with the possibility to program and host a series of thematic workshops for the citizen initiatives we had met during the tours to step up and join us in public discussions.

The focus groups dealt with different themes which came from reflections on the info we collected through  the interviews: the importance of grassroots initiatives in the life of peripheral neighbourhoods - through caring about their built and social fabric, reinventing functions of spaces and buildings, renewing programs of public spaces - , their social capital and impact, and their potentialities for the implementation of actions aiming at the goals of a co-designed urban agenda.

The participation and the engagement of the citizens’ initiatives we had met previously proved to be more difficult than we had expected: we became aware that, firstly, being already active in their initiatives, people often found it hard to invest some of their spare time into our project; secondly, as our activity was more theoretical and less hands-on, people demonstrated less interest into it, moreover showing some kind of disillusion towards any attempt of making the municipal administration acknowledge the importance and role of an active, organised civil society in responding to social needs of these territories. Still, as a result, 50 different citizen initiatives took part in the six workshops we organised: notwithstanding the fact that is quite a high number of initiatives, it is actually only a third of those we previously met. A third difficulty we had to face was the unexpected reaction during the presentation of our final document at the public event “About a city”, organised by one of the most important foundations of the city: there,representatives of the local administration and another big foundation appeared to be bothered by our partly critical report and the moderator treated us as “young” and our work was partly diminished by their interventions, not providing us with the possibility to answer to their remarks publicly.

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Nevertheless, it all resulted in a good outcome: during the summer we submitted a proposal responding to a call for cultural and social projects issued by the Municipality of Milan, and we got selected to organise a series of workshop in 2019 where we plan to invite citizen initiatives and public administrators together.

After almost three years of activities – including 23 tours in peripheral neighbourhoods, 7 thematic workshops within the “7 days of Super” program, 10 projects developed by creative professionals part of TUMB TUMB –, it is now time to finish this first phase of our work and research with a big celebration. An engaging, popular marathon of events spreading all over the city will show the outcomes of all the different paths of action research, even inviting some international guests to discuss and present their activities. On 12, 13 and 14 October, Super will program a series of presentations on the different projects rendering the dialogues which were established during the last year on specific territories. Events will take different formats - such as debates and projections, workshops and talks, shows and performances, installations and experiences – and involve different audiences depending on the neighbourhoods where they are presented. It will once more be a chance to activate and to discuss the resources of peripheries, both in terms of places, citizen initiatives, and local institutions. We will do so by staging the results of selected interactions we had with specific actors of local neighbourhoods, started by an act of deep listening. At the same time, we will broaden this reflection to an international scale, inviting national and international groups to discuss the topics which have characterised our research and exploration.