By Alberta Giorgi
Explaining Torino Spiritualità (TS) is not an easy task. It is a festival which takes place each year in Turin at the end of September: “Five days of meetings, dialogues and lectures that will help us to grow together through debates between consciences and the crossing of faiths, cultures and religions from all over the world”, reads the website. But, of course, TS extends beyond the days of the festival itself: the association ‘Amici di TS’ (Friends of TS), which now counts more than 2000 people, for example, organizes meetings, trips, and reflections during the whole year, based on the theme of the annual edition. One of the most interesting spin-offs of the Festival is the Scuola di Otium (School of Leisure), which aims to underline the importance of leisure and relaxation – the current edition focuses on ‘Mindfulness’. TS is not a Festival of Religions or religiosity, nor a Secular Festival of Philosophy or a Festival of Dialogue. It is all of the above and something more – a place for exploring the many forms of contemporary spirituality.
Let’s start from the beginning. In 2002 Gabriele Vacis and Roberto Tarasco created a play, Domande a Dio. Domande agli uomini. (Questions to God. Questions for men), performed at the Teatro Stabile of Turin. Three years later, in 2005, thanks to Antonella Parigi, at the time co-founder and director of the Holden School (a school of storytelling and performing arts based in Turin), Gabriele Vacis, Roberto Tarasco and Giorgio Vasta gathered as a Committee for the organization of a more structured Festival, with a Scientific Committee, the support of the local institutions and a number of sponsors. Thus, during its second edition, in 2005, the Festival addressed four main topics, Fondamenti e Fondamentalismi (Fundamentals and Fundamentalism), In che cosa crede chi non crede (In what does he who doesn’t believe believe?), Le nuove moralità (New moralities), and Credere e lavorare nel mondo laico (To believe and work in the secular world). The Festival included meetings, conferences, movies and performances, which took place in various locations, and invited, as speakers, writers, philosophers, scholars and representatives of various religions (among the many names were Amos Oz, Tariq Ramadan, Gianni Vattimo, Gilles Kepel, Serge Latouche and Zygmunt Bauman). The following year Parigi founded the Circolo dei Lettori (Readers’ Group) responsible for planning the Festival. Then, in 2008, the association of Friends of TS was founded. The Festival’s echo was far-reaching, and in 2014 Parigi was appointed Commissioner for the Cultural Activities (and tourism) of the Turin municipality, thus leaving the organization of the festival; the current director is Maurizia Rebola. Starting from this current 2015 edition, the students attending the courses ‘History of Religions’ and ‘Sociology of Religions’ at the University of Turin are writing a blog on the Festival (hosted by the Readers’ Group website).
Over the years, the Festival has addressed various topics, such as Religions and Conflict, Trust and Faith, the issue of ‘Hope’ (the complete list can be found – in Italian – in the power point presentation ‘10 years of Torino Spiritualità’). This year, the title is L’impasto Umano – Fatti di terra, guardiamo le stelle (The Human Mixture – Made of earth, we look at the stars): the idea of mixture recalls the role of food in spirituality, and one of the events is indeed ‘The Last Supper menu’.
The program presents many religious voices – also representing religions’ internal variety. Some religious leaders are invited to give lectures, while others are involved in events of inter-religious dialogue and debate. Some events and meetings are directly organized by interfaith committees and groups. The program also includes non-mainstream religious voices, such as the former Dominican Friar Matthew Fox, who discusses his book ‘Confessions of a Christian Rebel’, the Alter Globalist Comboni priest Alex Zanotelli, one of the leaders of the movement against the privatization of water, and the rock-punk Catholic band The Sun. Besides meetings and lectures, the Festival includes a workshop on liturgical dance directed by the Waldensian deacon Karola Stoebaeus, and various ‘spiritual events’ such as ‘The Power of Compassion’ performed by the Tibetan Monks of the Monastery Tashi Lhunpo, or the Sufi songs and dances by the women of Mayotte. In addition, some events are practical workshops devoted to meditation, cooking, and even sewing (‘Sewing the dress of the Buddha’). Besides those related to religious voices, many events are related to other forms of spirituality, such as an introduction to Haiku poetry, a debate on prison and crime, or the meeting ‘Manolo’, on Maurizio Zanolla, one of the pioneers of free climbing in Italy. Moreover, the Festival lists readings, movies, performances, and exhibitions, events for children and even satellite events. While most events took place in Turin, the echo of TS reached the neighbouring cities that have, for some years now, begun to host events related to the Festival.