Mutoid must stay. The poster was in the window of a small bookshop in my husband’s hometown Santarcangelo di Romagna, in Italy. Wandering around the pedestrianised centre, we saw the same poster in a bar, another shop, then another. It was clear something was afoot. The Mutoids have been part of Santarcangelo life for years, but never before have they been so visible. Asking around, we discovered that the Mutoids’ way of life was under threat and the people of Santarcangelo had mobilised to support them.
Not every town would accept a counterculture community on its doorstep, but then Santarcangelo is not just any town. It might be a small place many kilometres from Rome or Milan, but it’s by no means a backwater. It’s home to an astonishing number of artists and writers, and frequently organises cultural events: storytelling workshops, art displays, wine tasting. Romagna hospitality is famous throughout Italy, and ‘strangers’ are readily accepted into the community. In recent years the area has attracted immigrants from China, Senegal, North Africa, Albania. In the cafe where I’m writing, a young Moroccan woman at the next table is discussing Italy’s debt situation with a young man from Senegal. They’re speaking fluent Italian. Kruder and Dorfmeister on the stereo mingles with sounds of band practice filtering out from the school across the piazza.