Play Pistoia

TT Journal, ISSUE 6, September 2023

By Bartolomeo Pampaloni

I was contacted by a friend that was working at the Wellcome Collection in London who knew my work with homeless people. He thought I could be a good person to work with very young children to make a film. At that time I had no idea that my region, Tuscany and especially the Pistoia territory, was such an important reference in regards to world’s new approach to children education. I obviously knew Montessori but I didn’t know of Loris Malaguzzi and his team. Some of the teachers at Pistoia were his students in Bologna (100km from Pistoia).

Once there, I was greatly fascinated to see the method being applied: talking to the children like they’re adults, i.e. on their own terms, stimulating them to develop their own sense of limit and discipline, without any vertical imposition. But at the same time encouraging them to explore more deeply being a child: their imagination, their capacity for creating and inventing. And this always in a learning context, often in connection to the arts, often related to artisanal tasks or nature-related ones. I never heard a teacher raise her voice, I never heard the word “silence”, but silence was achieved simply by means of a short song that one by one, all the young students ended up singing.

I heard that in Pistoia the problem is that the new teachers don’t have the same background as the ones who studied with Malaguzzi. I became aware of some kind of apprehension coming from the older teachers, worrying that all of this knowledge could be lost. I really hope that through sharing this experience worldwide, other flowers can spread all over the planet, for the sake of the kids!

Watch Bartolomeo’s film here:

This project was commissioned by Wellcome Collection for their exhibition PLAY WELL.

Many thanks to:

Donatella Giovannini (former coordinator for the Pistoia network of schools)

Myra Barrs (writer on primary education and Senior Research Associate at UCL)

The three schools in Pistoia who took part in filming: Marino Marini Filastrocca and Lago Mago (permissions were sought from each school/participant’s parent/carer)

Kate Davies and The Wellcome Collection for permission to share.

Bartolomeo Pampaloni for his inspiring film.

Bartolomeo Pampaloni: After graduating in aesthetic philosophy at the University of Florence he studied Arts and Entertainment at the Paris VIII University. Meanwhile he directed his first short movies and began to work in cinema and television sets. In 2008 he was admitted to the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, the Italian National Cinema School, where he studied as a director. There he wrote and directed several short films and a documentary about Roman suburbs. His first feature documentary, Roma Termini, won, among other prizes, the special Mention of the jury at the Rome Film Festival 2014 and was selected at Raindance Film Festival 2015. In 2015 he directed Chris&Mil, a tv doc feature for Discovery Channel Italy and he’s now presenting his last documentary feature “Lassù”, about a sicilian hermit and outsider artist, winner of the jury prize at its premiere at the Trento Film Festival 2022.