Paul Critchley is an artist.
He lives in Farindola.
Paul isn’t short of ideas.
That becomes clear if you ever look at his fascinating work.
Go on, take a look…
I think he has the uncanny ability to see the world in a very different, yet disturbingly familiar way.
Paul publishes a newsletter that is always a joy to read.
In his most recent newsletter he describes a meeting with the Mayor of Farindola and the birth of an idea for an Arts Festival that will benefit artists, art lovers and the Town of Farindola itself.
Paul kindly gave me permission to publish an extract from his newsletter that describes the meeting brilliantly.
If you want to contact Paul to find out more about how the plans for the festival are progressing or to find out more about his work then email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the extract from Paul’s newsletter…
Me and my big mouth
“You and your big mouth!” exploded Helen after we had left the meeting with the mayor.
“Every time you open your big mouth it means more work for me! The rest of the world seems to think your daft ideas are wonderful, amazing, fabulous and, and … and then you walk off to inflict other dreamy daydreams onto equally dreamy naïve innocents.”
“So what have I done wrong this time?”
“Men! Grump. Where do I start?! To begin with. It’s all your fault! And…”
… and to keep a long story short I’ll just mention the general idea. The little village where we live, Farindola, is in the National Park of the Gran Sasso & Monti della Laga on a hill spur on the edge of a curving valley. The lowest point of the community of Farindola is about 300m and its highest is over 1,900m. The village is at 500m. To the east we can catch sight of the sea, if there isn’t a heat haze and the wind has blown away all the dust and pollution hanging over Pescara. To the west we can look up the valley to the mountain peaks, and when the wind has blown all the clouds away we have a spectacular alpine view. To the south we look across the valley to tree covered mountains. Behind us to the north is the rest of the village. We live on the edge of the historic part of Farindola and the house is perched overlooking the majority of the old houses. These old houses were built very tightly together on the steep side of the valley and so the only access to them is by foot.
Since it takes an hour to drive to Pescara on winding, bumpy roads few people in Farindola commute there to work. In the 1950s the population was over 6,000 but that has now dropped to 1,800 within the whole area, including all the farms and hamlets. The total number of people who actually live in Farindola proper is little more than 600. Because the population has plummeted, and the fact that commuting to the big towns isn’t that attractive, Farindola has been virtually ignored by the property developers. Penne, 15 kms east, has lost its aged and romantic charm as it’s surrounded by new housing estates. Loretto Aprutino looks great from the outside but when you look out from within all you see is the anonymous new town on the other side of the road. Farindola has more or less survived the monotonous concrete wave of development, which is something that adds enormously to its value. Other villages further inland such as San Stefano di Sessanio have been renovated perfectly, they are an inspiration to what could and should have been done elsewhere, and what should be done here, and my big mouth thinks so too.
When the new mayor was elected in the summer, before asking what his plans for the future of Farindola were, I told him mine.
“What you need is a big plan” I said, “Look long term, more than your 5 years as mayor, and do as I say”.
That’s the way to deal with politicians; they were elected by the people to work on behalf of the people and not to just load their pockets with cash nor use the inhabitants’ council taxes to award each other with ‘official’ back handers like Christmas goodies and retirement presents, and a present bought with someone else’s money isn’t a present but corruption.
“So this is what you do” I continued, not giving him chance to escape. “Every village in the area has its identity; some for wine, some for ceramics, some for horse riding, some for this, others for that. Farindola is known for its Pecorino sheep cheese, for being in the National Park, for its summer festival, its 4 star hotel at 1,200 m with a spa, and being on the access road to the Campo Imperatore; a breath taking plateau behind the mountains. But it needs something else, it needs an identity which no other village has, not just in the area but in the whole region of Abruzzo.”
“What I and every other artistic/creative minded person needs: cheap rent.”
I was obviously making progress.
“Creative people like artists don’t have regular monthly incomes, some ideas are successful others not, but what they all need is the time to try out those ideas and develop them. And to do that they need to live cheaply, and by cheap I mean FREE, or as close to FREEdom as possible. Although some people return to Farindola during the summer more than half of the old town is deserted since so many have emigrated. And because the tax system has just changed those absentee owners now have to pay extra taxes for owning a second house even though, in effect, they’ve been abandoned. So what will happen to all those empty houses?”
“It’s a big problem becau…”
“Because you’ve not found a way to re-populate Farindola, but I have. Artists need cheap rent and you’ve got a village of empty houses so my plan is to invite creative people like artists, writers, musicians etc., to come and live here.”
“You could invite the unemployed to live here but they wouldn’t come because … they’re looking for work. Others with work won’t come either because of the cost of commuting. Artists would come if it were CHEAP. They would add to the economy of Farindola because they would have to buy their food here. They could come for a month, six months or a year and work on new paintings, write another book, compose an opera or whatever, and then leave taking their work with them. That’s why I live here. The house we bought cost the same as a garage in Pescara.”
“Hmmm.” was his reply, so I knew I was making splendid progress and continued to push the point home.
“Incidentally with the growth of broadband internet which is spreading further and further you may be interested to know that a new phenomena of rural expansion is developing. I commented earlier about the reluctance of people to commute from rural villages like Farindola and instead to live in the towns and cities. But now that access to the internet is becoming easier and faster some are moving back to the country, like us, where the housing is less expensive. The cities aren’t exactly safe playgrounds with all the traffic (and weirdoes) for the children to play in so the future of Farindola looks extra promising, but obviously it’s not going to happen overnight. Plus, if artists live here then the identity of Farindola would quietly expand from a culture of local customs to an international culture of many customs. Artist communities always attract attention simply because artists are like monkeys in a zoo; they make a positive contribution. An artistic identity would offer something extra to Farindola.”
“OK, we’ll do it”.
And they’re going to.
The town hall is going to start modestly with an Arts Festival and will provide accommodation for up to 10 artists AND their families from the 23.7.2015 to the 4.8.2015, inclusive, for FREE. Hurrah, I won! Some members of the council wanted to charge rent but I quickly pooh-poohed their reasons. I also told them that I think two weeks is too short to do any proper work, but it’s better than nothing and I’m grateful for their enthusiasm. The mayor has really taken this whole idea to heart and is even considering giving each artist discount vouchers for local restaurants and free entrance to the municipal swimming pool. Plus, the town hall will arrange for 4 excursions to show off the territory of Farindola and, even more, will invite the artists and their families to evening events where they can taste the local products such as the cheese and arrosticini, for which Abruzzo is famed. Arrosticini are skewers of lamb cooked on a BBQ and are delicious – unless you are a vegetarian… or a sheep.
In exchange for such generosity the artists will be requested to produce some work which will be exhibited during the local 5 day festival ‘Sagra del pecorino di Farindola’. The work could also be for sale, a small percentage from any sale will be taken by the organization to be used to help pay for the event and also for next year’s festival. At last year’s Sagra they claimed there were 10,000 visitors, they should know as there were half a dozen open air restaurants in the squares and they know how many plates they served. Local musicians in folk costumes wandered from square to square playing their instruments while everyone enjoyed the local dishes and poured down the wine. During the festival we had an Open Studio where people wandered in, which they did because we are on one of the squares which had one of the restaurant stands.
The only costs the artists will have will be the transport to Pescara airport/railway station as they will be met and brought to Farindola and then taken back. The artists also have to pay for their materials such as paint, canvas and bring their own easel etc. The mayor is hoping to make this an annual event under the title Farindola International Arts Festival, which will be tremendous, even better if artists want to come and live and work here for more that just two weeks in the summer.
However, apart from the short time, there’s also a tiny problem. They don’t know any arty people and are expecting me to organize it, duh. Hence Helen’s exasperated cry of “You and your big mouth! Every time you open your big mouth it means more work for me!”
Women! They’re always exaggerating. Besides, I’m no good at all that organizational sort of stuff as I’ve got so many other things to do like painting… and drinking wine.