The Times, 26/10/12
I was in England when I read that Valletta was chosen as Europe’s cultural capital for 2018. What pleasure to know that our capital city will be in Europe’s spotlight for a whole year!
This event can put the European spotlight on Malta and help ensure that anachronisms like the prosecution of artists would become unthinkable. Arguably, this is already taking place following the Nationalist Government’s and Labour’s endorsement of proposals by artists, producers and Alternattiva Demokratika - the Green party to replace the censorship board with a classification board.
Such an achievement can and should serve as a beacon for investment in culture in the coming years. Such investment can generate employment, not only within culture and the arts but also in sectors such as tourism. More importantly, investment in culture is an investment in the celebration of different identities, in creativity, entertainment and in expression.
The beautification of Valletta is surely an important part of such investment, yet, this should be accompanied by inclusive processes for the democratization of cultural policy.
In this regard, AD is submitting a number of proposals that we intend to discuss in the upcoming electoral campaign. Our proposals are not based on short-term electioneering but on the need for a holistic cultural policy.
As I explained in my recent article in The Times (Transforming Libraries, October 12), a cultural centre at a prominent site should be considered. This would include a permanent museum of modern art and also a state-of-the-art central public lending and reference library with information presented in all its possible formats be it print, multimedia, audiovisual or digital.
Private sector operators involved in artistic productions such as cinema, books, records and artistic products should be involved in this project.
We are also proposing that the Ministry for Culture should have a division that focuses on the development of musical talent and culture. The definition of music should include traditional music, classical music, jazz, rock music and pop music (including their sub-divisions, like metal in rock music) among other genres. This division should provide facilities and space for musicians, the creation of a system of soft loans to help them develop and the promotion of Malta as an international music venue.
Malta’s culinary traditions, especially those that use typical Maltese products, should be cultivated. A board, which promotes Maltese food, should also be set up for this scope.
The Maltese language should be promoted. This can be done, for example through the assistance of quality productions in the national theatre, which, in turn, should be given more support from the State.
Museums should become a more attractive source of knowledge for the community and should be more attractive to people. They should be centres of activity related to the museum theme. Heritage Malta should increase investment in the modernization of museums so that they become centres of interactive experiences rather than simply exhibiting objects. The private sector and academics should be involved in this project. However, museums should remain public entities. In addition, their management should be professional.
The promotion of museums on themes related to popular culture should also be carried out. These could include ethnographic museums, industrial museums and others that focus on the history of groups and social classes that were emarginated from traditional historiography, such as women, children, peasants and workers.
Every locality should be encouraged and helped to establish local museums. Valletta itself should have a museum on the social, cultural and political history of the capital city.
A museum on Maltese politics and democracy should be established. This could be amalgamated with the new Parliament.
In order to have increased accessibility at museums, there should be more flexibility in opening times. Given the cultural importance of such sites, museum visits should be free of charge for children and students.
Cinema is an art form that can help establish Malta on the global map. A national film board should ensure that Maltese films are promoted as much as possible, even overseas. This board should also attract foreign investment from the film industry. This can act as an investment in tourism. The board should also increase the number of film festivals held here.
Other proposals include the state financing of a project of modern architecture in every legislature. This should take place through an open competition for architects and held in collaboration with the private sector in terms of financing.
Financing of cultural initiatives can be enhanced not only through State funding and State collaboration with the private sector but also through the replacement of the Good Causes Fund by a more transparent public foundation financed by lotteries and taxes on betting with clear criteria on how such funds are to be distributed to assist cultural and other positive initiatives. This foundation should include participation of NGOs, artists and academics who are active in culture and the arts.
In conclusion, I augur that the Valletta 2018 achievement would result in a snowball effect for the modernization, democratization and prioritization of this country’s cultural policy.
The author is chairman and spokesman for economic policy and culture of Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party.