Priyanka was in her final year of a journalism course at Kingston University London when she had an idea for a new community initiative. “I was interning with the UN Association,” she says, “and one day I came across a homeless man who was reading a book to pass the time. It sparked an idea.” Soon after, she launched Spread the Word, an initiative to open mini libraries in homeless shelters. “I got press releases published in news outlets about what I was doing,” she says.
In May 2014, Damiano was studying for an MA in documentary film at the London College of Communication when he stumbled across Priyanka’s project. “I’d been asked to make a film on any topic and decided on the issue of homelessness,” he says. After approaching some homeless men at a church, one of them gave him his number for an interview. “I didn’t have my phone on me so he scribbled it on the back of a magazine called the Pavement, which is published for the homeless community,” he says. “When I got home, I started to read it and that’s where I learned about the Spread the Word project.”
He decided this could be an even more interesting topic for his documentary and so he wrote to Priyanka to set up an interview. She invited him to join her on a trip around London where she planned to photograph people reading books. “When he showed up he was quite quiet and was filming in the background,” she says. “About 30 minutes in, he said he had what he needed for that day and asked to set up an interview another time. We barely spoke but I thought he seemed nice and polite.”
They met four more times for filming, though Damiano still saw the relationship as professional. “When I emailed her, I saw her photo, so I knew she was really pretty before we met,” he says. “I was so impressed that she had started such an amazing project. But I wanted to focus on getting my film done.”
Despite this, Priyanka was keen to get to know him on a more personal level. “He was so funny and I began to wonder who he was outside the project. I started texting him in a flirty way to ask how he was and what he was doing,” she says. When he sent her a link to the finished documentary, Priyanka was worried she wouldn’t see him again, so she invited him out for a drink to celebrate. That turned into their first date, and they stayed at the pub together for hours. “We talked about India, where I’m from, and Italy, where Damiano moved from when he was 15,” says Priyanka. “At the end of the night he kissed me and we became a couple from then on.”
Damiano got a job as a videographer near Oxford in 2015, while Priyanka completed her degree and started a journalism career. “He came back to London most weekends to see me. He definitely made a big effort,” she says. Damiano returned to London in 2016, and regularly spent time at Priyanka’s house where she was living with her parents. “My family loves him and he became one of us so quickly,” she says.
The couple moved to Oval, south London, together in 2019 and now live there with their two cats. They became engaged last year and plan to marry in May 2022. Inspired by her work with the homeless community, Priyanka shifted careers, and now works in communications for non-profit organisations. Damiano is still impressed by the work she does and believes her determination drives him to do more. “As I got to know her I discovered she’s funny, loving and I can be my goofy self around her. I love the way her energy spills over me. She makes me believe more in myself.”
Priyanka appreciates how laid-back her partner is. “I’m the complete opposite. But Damiano’s the most calming person in my life. He always brings me back down to earth,” she says. “He doesn’t care about social pressures and he does what he wants to do. When it’s the two of us alone, we have the best time and we’re always laughing.”
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