How do skinhead girls get involved in the scene? Is it the music, the look, or the culture that grabs their attention first? Surely, the reasons differ – it’s safe to say, though, that football doesn’t tend to be the initial spark. Except when you’re from Genoa and your name is Guendalina Chiari. Our correspondent Francesca Bologna spoke with the long-standing face of the Italian skinhead scene about her football and music recollections from the 1980s-90s.
Hi Guenda, please introduce yourself!
Hi, I am Guendalina and I was born in Genoa, a city that I keep close to my heart even though I haven’t lived there for many years. And the closest to my heart are the terraces – my terraces!
Let’s start right there, then. I take it it’s through the terraces that you first got involved with the movement?
Yes, I started going to football when I was little, and I’ve always been a big Genoa fan. North stand. And that’s where my friendship with many skinheads who were older than me began, and who I watched with admiration… Fabio, Maurizio, Davide, Sugar Ladruni… and Tonino from Gangland, with whom I started a great friendship. Girls on the terraces were far and few between.
What was the situation on the terraces? I mean, was it politicised?
Look, the stand was never right-wing, but in those days there was a great mix. There were those who defined themselves as comrades [communists] and those who had opposing ideas. But everyone got along well because we were united by a single passion, and politics didn’t get in the way. Besides, all of us Genoese knew and respected each other. But it was totally different before SHARP took over and things changed. By that time, I wasn’t living in Genoa anymore, though. I tried to follow the matches as much as I could, but I had moved quite far away.
Every time something happened, it was always our fault, even if we had nothing to do with it. In fact, I kept all the various articles that came out, you know, what the press had to say about us. In the early 90s it was really tiring because we were labelled as something we weren’t. We took the blame for actions committed by others, for example by people from Rome, by the Venetians, and to some extent by the Milanese too.
Then SHARP was born, but I didn’t get to experience that moment, although many Genoese got involved. What I did experience was SHARP Florence with Moga, David, the people from the CPA [a centro sociale = political squat that was important in the 90s for SHARP meetings, skinhead meetings and punk gigs – Editor] and so on. Hats off to them.
What was your experience being one of the few girls in a male-dominated environment on the terraces and in the skinhead movement?
Honestly, I’m known for my personality and for the things I did, not for the people I hung out with – or at least that’s what I tried to be. I’ve always been treated with the utmost respect – but I admit that you often had to prove that you’re worth it, that you’re equal, in order to keep up in that kind of environment. And I think I succeeded.
Do you remember any particular hangouts from that period?
Sure. We used to go to that one club in Via Armenia, where the Fossa dei Grifoni hung out [an important ultras group – Editor]. That was in 1989. We used to go there on Saturday nights to get tickets and rehearse our choreographies, for which the North stand was famous in those days. It was mostly me and my ex-partner Davide who went there.
Then there was the Polena [a pub where they would meet – Editor], around 1990-91. That’s where Odiati e Fieri (‘hated and proud’) was born. [Odiati e Fieri Skinheads was “an organisation formed in Genoa to save the Italian skinhead movement today, which is too divided and attacked by the media. Rather than advocating any political idea, it wants to revive a skinhead network to keep all the Italian skinheads together and in touch with each other. It wants to keep the skin culture alive…” (from the manifesto). Odiati e Fieri was also the name of the very first Klasse Kriminale album, self-produced and distributed as a cassette tape in 1988. It wasn’t until 1999 that Vulture Rock Records would distribute it on vinyl – FC]
The Polena was in a back alley, and the back alleys were our hangout – we were very ‘back alley’ kind of people. The picture of Fritz (Fabrizio Barile) was taken there. There’s me, Paolino, Davide, Andrea B, Chicco, Lele, Andrea F, Mulo, Roberto and Giovannino. We hung out in a lot of places, but for one reason or another we always got ourselves banned at some point. I remember sometimes we would leave without paying but still come back another time! We were repeat offenders, and we would get kicked out everywhere. We were terrible…
Let’s talk a bit about music. As far as the skinhead movement is concerned, you ‘grew up’ with Gangland, one of the Genoa Oi bands that were fundamental to the scene?
Yes, I met Tonino on the terraces and became great friends with him. Tonino was the drummer, then there were Gufy, Claudio and Maurino. Gangland had begun in 1982-83 and were named after a Violators song. They were essential to the scene. Their Lost and Found seven-inch was produced by Fritz, Fabrizio Barile, the ‘official’ photographer of the Italian skinhead scene. He’s the one who took the picture we were talking about before. Tonino also briefly played with Klasse Kriminale and in the 90s with Fronte del Porto together with Tony, Fabio, Antonella of Klasse Kriminale and Ricky.
You were quite close to Klasse Kriminale. What can you tell us about them?
I’m a good friend of Marco’s. I love him very much. Marco’s always been active in the scene. He organised many gigs – obviously outside Genoa, since Klasse Kriminale weren’t really appreciated there because of some of their lyrics, or at least that’s the impression I got. They were also banned from social centres.
In the early stages, I remember that in order to see gigs you had to travel. The vibe was ‘angrier’. We used to travel mainly to Bologna, not least because there had always been a strong bond between us Genoese and the folks from Bologna. Marco was one of the organizers of the Raduno Oi festival, which took place at the Capolinea 97 on 2 December 1989. Klasse Kriminale, Ghetto 84 and Strike were playing. When I think about it, I still get goosebumps. We got on the train, and all the carriages were packed with skins. As for women, there was only Valentina and me…
Those were good years. We tried to do things that would keep us together between football and gigs. Being a skin in everyday life wasn’t easy, because we weren’t popular. Another gig that I remember Marco organised was the one in Sant’Ermete, a seaside resort near Savona. It took place on May 23, 1992, with Klasse Kriminale and Nodo e il suo Gruppo on the bill. There was a mega brawl there too. In fact, I don’t remember a single gig where there wasn’t one.
In any case, I repeat that Marco is a very good friend of mine, and that he was key for Italian Oi. In fact, I’m very sorry that people didn’t behave well towards him.
In 1993 you left Genoa and moved to London. What was your relationship with the British skins, and what was their attitude to you?
Yeah, I lived there for a year. You know who we used to hang out with? The guys from 100 Men. Mick and Stig were great characters, always stoned, and I really enjoyed my time with them. We always used to go to Merc in Carnaby Street on Saturdays. Then we met other skinheads down the pub, who were all much, much bigger than me… Let’s just say they were very welcoming. We even met some Blood & Honour types there.
I remember when we went to the cinema to see Romper Stomper. The Anti-Nazi League was there, pelting stuff at us because they didn’t want the film to be shown. We were only there to watch the movie, nothing else…
Strange situation. As you say yourself, things were different then. I mean, we’re talking Blood & Honour, people linked to Ian Stuart and Skrewdriver. What do you think about that now?
Let me say that we had nothing to do with that, we were hailing from the other side – we’re Genoese, after all. But it was different in England: it wasn’t politics that mattered, it was being a skinhead that counted. And absolutely, as you said, you can’t compare the situation with today.
I don’t think there should be this kind of tolerance now. I couldn’t go along with it. I could be tolerant of someone I’ve known all my life who stuck to his ideas, but I would only do it for the sake of a lifelong friendship. Otherwise no, I couldn’t do it anymore, it would go against my principles. Now they’re all nuts. But I don’t even know how to explain to you how different it was. You should have lived those years yourself, just so you’d understand why things were good for everyone.
Excuse me for interrupting, but not having been there myself, it’s a question I often ask. So why did things change?
The change was the degeneration of the situation. In the old days, even those who were right-wingers were doing much the same things that we were doing. They weren’t as mad as they are now. They were obtuse, yes – but not like now.
Let’s get back to London and music. Any gigs or places you’ve been?
The most amazing concert I ever attended was at the Stick of Rock London in 1993. It was a memorial for the British footballer Bobby Moore at a fantastic club run by Cock Sparrer. The Business, The Blood, The Elite, Anti-Nowhere League and Frankie Flame all played. It was the atmosphere that was special: such a small place, run by Cock Sparrer, in memory of Moore… it was just the right kind of concert for the place – a friendly, low-key environment. It was wonderful. In between the gigs that I remember – there were many of them – there were also ska gigs in Carnaby Street, which were taking place in the afternoon.
I also remember that we used to go to George Robey’s at Finsbury Park, where they used to put on ska concerts all the time, and it was also the venue for the International Ska Festival in those days.
In 1994 you went back to Italy?
Yes, after my time in London I went back to Italy, to Pisa, where I lived until 2000. I managed the shop ‘Made in England’ there, which I then sold to Gianluca (Roccia). After that, I moved to Lombardy, where I still live today.
What do you think of the current scene? And I don’t mean only musically.
They live it differently. And I don’t think that’s bad. Or rather, who am I to say? To tell you the truth, today’s skinheads can count themselves very lucky, with all the skinhead girls there are now, one more beautiful than the other. There were very few back in the day!
Even musically, I can tell that Italian Oi is happening – there are good bands that deserve their popularity. There are historical groups that are fortunately still going too. Balestrino (Marco) with Klasse Kriminale, for example, who released a new album this year, Vico dei Ragazzi (2020, Randale Records). Then there are Dalton from Rome, who also have a new album out: Papillon (2020, Hellnation). And of course, Bomber 80 from Florence. The latter have ‘matured’ a lot over the years. Their last album is killer (Contro il tempo, 2017, Hellnation).
Well Guenda, we’re done, and with this I say goodbye. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Yes, I’d like to dedicate this interview to Davide, my ex-partner. I always dedicate it to him, in all my happy moments. As far as gigs and football are concerned, he was a very important figure for the Genoese skinhead scene. For the others and for me, he was and will always remain the ‘true skinhead’.
In this case, I salute you Davide, and thank you both.