A group of Italian residents, including some who have been living in Southend for more than 20 years, have promised to protest and ‘create havoc’ at today’s Italian Festival that is taking place in Southend Town Centre after what they described as a ‘disgraceful flag error.’

According to local community leader Luigi Di Mario, displaying a Hungarian flag on a Southend High Street banner promoting the festival is ‘the worst possible insult’ that can be used towards a native Italian due to the ongoing feelings of hostility between Italy and Hungary – the two countries were at war over the Austria-Hungary front in World War One. 

Mr Di Mario said: ‘250 of us have come together at very short notice, and we will march up and down the High Street until we receive a full apology from the Mayor of Southend – this is an absolute disgrace.’

‘We noticed yesterday that a vertical banner had been rotated into a horizontal position so that people could read the words ‘Italian Festival’ – but the flag had been rotated as well. This meant that the flag is Hungarian and not Italian.’

‘It’s bad enough that Southend Borough Council is trying to turn the whole town centre into an episode of The Sopranos, but now we have to have our national identity besmirched with the flag of a country hell bent on our destruction in 1915.’

‘They might as well just hire 50 Joe Dolce impersonators to wander up and down the High Street singing ‘Shaddap You Face.’

‘If someone in a position of power does not apologise within 24 hours, we will be forced to take further action. There’s a lot more that we could say that we’re not going to say – calzones will be stuffed with more than cheese, capiche?’

In a further development, Ferenc Puskás of the group Southend Hungarians In Transition said that his organisation would ‘raise hell’ if the banner isn’t sorted out. 

He added: ‘We have to fight society every single day to get them to realise that Italy and Hungary are two separate countries – it’s like everyone in South Essex just skipped geography at school or something. It’s like holding a German festival and using the flag of, well you know …’