This is not Radio Ga Ga: Filippo Baglini is serious on radio power and his London One Radio has yet to have its finest hour.
There are 250,000 Italians in London, give or take. It’s not a “merging amalgamated” community, but it is nevertheless an audience to be reckoned with. Three years ago, an enterprising journalist from Pietrasanta, Tuscany, gave the city’s Italian a voice by founding London One Radio, the only Italian radio in the United Kingdom. Now well established, cherished by Italian entrepreneurs and institutions, the official Italian radio in London intrigues national broadcasters RAI and BBC. After all, you don’t often find a director of a radio station with a university degree in nuclear physics and years of experience as a researcher at CERN in Geneva. Now, in his cosy London studio Filippo Baglini is as happy as one can be.
“I have always had a fondness for Great Britain and a soft spot for communication: science and communication share the same roots, searching for facts to keep in touch with nature and people. I studied in Pisa and Galileo, the first “scientist communicator”, has always been my hero. Quickly followed by Guglielmo Marconi, another misunderstood genius in his own country, and another sad example of ‘brain drain’ from Italy.”
Indeed, Marconi’s picture is proudly framed on the wall of Baglini’s studio and he was recently featured in a recent video production by the radio station.
“We have just finished a documentary about Marconi’s life, with TV director Fabio Cosci, focusing on the lesser-known side of the story. We interviewed his daughter Elettra in Rome and the director of the Marconi Museum in Chelmsford, but we especially concentrated on Coltano, a small town close to San Rossore nature park, near Pisa. It’s where Ferdinando I de’ Medici built a hunting lodge and where Marconi created the first Italian long-wave radio station, inaugurated by him in 1911, which became the most important radio centre in Italy.”
Now overrun with weeds and left derelict, the villa stands a ruin in the forest. It took a Pisan immigrant in London to draw attention to a forgotten treasure.
“I am glad that our documentary shocked Tuscan institutions into developing restoration projects in Coltano. The docu will be shown on the BBC soon and we’ll be talking about it on air at London One Radio, of course. One of our goals is to ‘rescue’ and promote Italian culture.”
Many distinguished guests say their piece into London One Radio’s microphones, Ennio Morricone first and foremost. The composer’s interview and music boosted the radio station’s success, which is musically oriented, hosting the likes of established musicians such as Zucchero as well as young, up-and-coming talented musicians. These guests draw in the numbers, but the priority of the Italian radio in London is actually to give practical advice to Italians in London or to Italians who plan on moving to the UK capital.
“The London clock ticks with challenges and only tenacious people survive here, but there’s also a wealth of opportunities. You’ve got to be quick to grab them and remember that whatever you’re good at, there is always someone who does it better, so never lower your guard and never lose confidence. I started from zero, working in the kitchen of a restaurant, before gradually working myself up to achieve my goals.”
Baglini runs an eclectic station, giving equal space to creativity and competitions, job opportunities and warning against scams, while also welcoming press releases from the Italian Embassy and the Italian Institute of Culture. With Brexit looming, is Radio One London sought after by politicians, too?
“My radio is not politically oriented and is not aligned with any party, but as life is politically involved in its essence, I am keen on building up political awareness among my audience, so I frequently host debates among government representatives and the opposition. It is gratifying that the radio is followed more and more by Italians in Italy and around the world. Our web radio is now working around the clock. We have 15 young British and Italian collaborators, we boast the Patronage of the Italian Consulate and have the support of the Fiorentini nel Mondo Association.”
Which made me wonder if Baglini misses Tuscany at all?
“I can’t forget Tuscany and the Versilian accent will remain in my heart like an old poem, as Carducci put it. It will never get lost, but my priority now is connecting with the world, or even better, communicating with people: feeling united by the same passion to create radio bridges, like in Marconi’s mind.”