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Our Stories: Luciano Colleoni

My name is Luciano, I am Italian, and I come from Bergamo in the north of Italy. I am a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst and a group psychoanalyst. I first came here about 4 years ago. My wife was doing a PhD at the LSE. At the time I was working in the South of Italy, managing projects working on criminal organisations in the violent areas, on the outskirts of Naples, Rome, Palermo and Bari. I had been working on that for about 10 years. I worked part time, 2 weeks in Italy and two weeks here. So I was just supervising the work in Italy. They are doing a really good job.

I decided to stabilise my position and do some research here. It is not so easy to do research in Italy at the moment. That is a big difference. In my field, at the moment there are some very important people in England for psychoanalysis. I had done some work with them so I decided to come here permanently. I also wanted to re-evaluate my experience in Italy, which had become very intense. It was not an easy choice, I had a good career in Italy and England was a new land. Yes, the Anna Freud centre and UCL had great facilities for research but I had a career in Italy and was now putting myself into the English system as a bit of a novice.

It was quite hard for me at times. My experience in Italy was not enough. I needed a credential from a UK institution. That was quite frustrating. In my field in the UK, people like to have UK based experience, in some ways I agree with that, you do need experience of the UK system, the NHS. The first two years were very hard here, like climbing a mountain. But I stayed focused on my practice and worked with the professional body and then things changed and now I have my own practice, run groups at SLAM (South London and Maudsley Hospital) and do research. Studying is much easier here, it is possible to work with a range of people, and you don’t have to belong to the right group. However London is very competitive. In Italy, it is more about connections. My wife and I had two choices, the USA or England, we preferred here because of the LSE and the professors in London. It is a very important centre for psychoanalysis. The group analytic society, my  professional body, has its headquarters here - the mother house as we say in Italy. Everything starts from London and spreads around the world. From here we are now starting new centres in Moscow and Tel Aviv. There are many possibilities here in London. This is not just about money but about openness. It is a place where ‘You can'. It may require some sacrifice in your personal life but you can succeed.

I think there is a difference between London and Manchester where I worked last year, I think London is more ready to stay in Europe. I am not sure that is the case for Manchester, but there is more sense of community in Manchester.

When I go back to Italy people say’ how is the queen?’, they think everything is possible here. People in Italy think of the UK as a kind of ‘golden land’, a place where everything is possible. Some of them, - young well-educated , unemployed people - get in touch with me and say “Can you help me rebuild my career?”, “ Have look at my CV!” .Others think of it a place where you can get help from the state> There is a reality gap in both cases,. If they are unemployed and there is no support system for them, sometimes these young people get lost.

Another group think about having children. Your system is not the same as the Italian but because you can work you can afford to have children.

We do think we will stay here for some years 10 years maybe, now we have established ourselves in a career, with a house and paying taxes.

I do love living in this city, - it is London which is special. It is a complex, busy city. I enjoy the experience and intellectual exercise of being with different people. Building an identity , which was not my Italian identity was a bit difficult and I think we need to adjust our identity to embrace the European identity.

I was surprised in Manchester in informal meetings where people were saying we have to get out of Europe. A party which can exploit these emotions is dangerous.

I was close to people in Manchester, they reminded me of the people in my city in Italy, Bergamo. Once I got over the reserve , I made good friends in Manchester but I don’t feel I know many British people here in London. So I don’t know too much about British peoples’ attitudes. I don’t have a perception of English attitudes. My friends are from all sorts of communities – for example from Bethnal Green I have Indian or Egyptian friends  and elsewhere people from the Jewish community. I don’t know much about British traditions.

I do lknow about voting and have voted in the local elections and I am registered with the consulate so I will vote for my candidate in Italy in general elections.

There is nothing I don’t like about living in the UK, apart from the weather! Although the initial failure to recognise my qualifications was difficult.

There are historical links between Italy and England. Interestingly,  there is a church in Farringdon, St Peter’s I think and the priest, Father Carmello gives a blessing to all Italian restaurateurs in England every July. There you can see many generations coming to this blessing; it is a very important tradition. There were also refugees here during the war - some experienced some problems.

The European Union is made up of complicated institutions, which makes it hard to relate to ordinary people. Europe is confused in the way it relates to its citizens. It is not clear about the form of authority it exhibits, whether it’s a consensual or authoritative type of organisation. This makes it hard for citizens to know how to relate to it.

Simplifying the message and the forms of communication would help matters. There is actually a web-based project that takes peoples questions about a topic - a form of social interaction. The queries are collected by a team and directed towards the relevant personnel in the Commission or Parliament who answer them. Expanding a simple system like this could help.


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