Italians in London | Italians in London Claudio Giambrone
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# 33

 Claudio Giambrone

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I was born in Palermo, Sicily. A place I still call home, despite being away for almost 20 years. I left Sicily immediately after high school – I wanted to see that the world had to offer, beyond the boundaries of my island.
So I packed my bag and moved to Perugia, a medieval town in central Italy. There, I graduated in English and humanities, while working for the local LGBT group as an activist. After that, I moved to Manchester, and then Barcelona for a while. It was 2005 when I decided to set up camp in London. I wanted to specialise in place-making and destination branding, and took a Master’s at the Centre for the Built Environment, University of Westminster. It was a great learning experience.
What do you do in your life in London?
Over the past five years I worked as Head of Marketing at London’s South Bank. I recently moved to Wembley Park, one of Europe’s largest urban regeneration schemes. It is a vast, 85-acre site currently being transformed into a creative neighbourhood. It is already home to the UK’s National Stadium and the legendary Wembley Arena – it will soon welcome London’s third and largest Box park. I am responsible for delivering all the place-making initiatives, including programming the yearly cultural calendar. A lot of work, but rewarding.
In my little spare time, I can usually be found catching the latest show at the National Theatre, or browsing through bric-a-brac at Deptford Market. My partner and I love the great outdoors, and get out of town whenever we can. One of the great advantages of living in London is that it’s so well connected. From Margate’s Turner Gallery to the Seven Sisters coast, there’s so much to see, only a short train ride away.
What is the reason to leave Italy and come to London?
I felt London would give me a better chance to prove my worth, build a career around what I could do, rather than who I knew. And it has indeed been the case – if you are prepared to take on a challenge, the city will open lots of doors.
What were your best and worst experiences in London.
My proudest moments are all linked with my career. I have been lucky to work on some amazing projects, including the London Olympics of 2012. Meeting people from all countries and walks of life through work is enriching. It does change your worldview. I don’t think I have had terrible experiences as such – perhaps, as a non-drinker, sometimes I find the binge drinking culture a little hard to understand. And a diffused lack of community spirit – that’s what I enjoy least about London, but I guess it’s the same in every big city.
I asked you to choose a place in London that you like or you are tied to, what was your choice and why you made it?
I chose Wembley Stadium as my backdrop. I am not a big football fan, but I am a sucker for a great music concert, and what better place than old Wembley? From Live Aid and Michael Jackson, to the recent sell-out Coldplay concerts, Wembley has been home to the world’s biggest stars. You can feel the vibe as soon as you step out of the tube, into Olympic Way.
During your early times in London, did you have any problem?
Nothing too terrible, really. I was lucky enough to have family here to welcome me. My brother has lived in London for many years, I was able to live with him and avoid dodgy landlords and musty flats. The night buses – before Uber or the Night Tube were a thing – those are a loved and loathed memory of my student years.
What do you think about this project?
Great idea. Italians have made a huge contribution to this city. From the architects who are re-imaging London’s built environment to the many doctors, nurses and restaurateurs, London wouldn’t be the same without us. These excellences should be celebrated – along with our fellow Europeans whose contribution to this city has been truly valuable.
How do you think you could support and promote Italian culture? 
I’d love to host Italian-themed cultural events in Wembley Park, things like film screenings or photo exhibitions. We have the spaces; I just need brilliant concepts. I am toying with the idea of displaying those elaborate Christmas luminaries typical of Southern Italy in Wembley’s Olympic Way. Now, that would be a sight. Who knows, maybe it will happen one day soon..