Victoria Thornton OBE HonFRIBA, Founder, Inspire Future Generations/Thornton Education Trust.
In this small northern Italian village of just 200 inhabitants, the majority being over 70 years old, stands an ordinary tree but as the M&S advert says, this is not just a tree, this is the village tree. In fact it acts as the civic centre, bringing together the many generations to chat and exchange news, give shelter and a place where there is regularly someone to chat to whatever the time of day.
It is rather like a tree of life, seeing the ebb and flow of the village over the many generations. It has its own rhythm, where the women elders come at 10am to sit and exchange news and maybe talk about their ailments; where male elders come to stand against the lake’s railings (and occasionally sitting) and in between young mothers with their children intersperse with their daily chatter. In the summer it takes on an extended role of the lifeblood of the borgo, with conversations late into the evening by all generations, partaking ice creams from the gelateria across the street or chatter back and forth from the tree to the café two metres away.
What is missing from here are, of course, the older children and youth. For now they are amongst their peers, hanging out nearby but we all smile knowing that over time they too will join everyone else under the tree!
It still amazes me how such a simple action can create such a major impact and maybe small actions are the future for our communities.