The Malta Independent 25 February 2020, Tuesday

TMID Editorial - Crafts village: A long time coming

Monday, 10 February 2020, 09:40 Last update: about 13 days ago

The renovated Crafts Village will be inaugurated in the coming weeks, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said on Indepth last week. This statement is most welcome.

The Crafts Village had been practically abandoned by the government for years, with artisan craftsmen keeping the area alive through their sheer hard work, despite very little to no support from the government. Promises of a project to fix up the area had been ongoing for years and years, yet those who worked there were always left with broken promises, complaining that they had been forgotten.

That is until plans to upgrade the area were actually put into action. Back in 2017, The Malta Independent had spoken to a number of operators, who had emphasised just how long they had been waiting for this announcement, and for the project to get underway.

The hope is that the area will attract more visitors and tourists, and help sustain Malta's artisan sector for many more years to come.

The area is quite a treat to visit, where one can find glass blowers crafting their pieces, handmade pottery, and lacemaking, among other things. Most of these crafts were once found all over the Maltese islands, however sadly not many choose to pursue such work in the modern age.

The Crafts Village was an opportunity to group these different crafts in one area, and help turn such work into an attraction. Some of the craftsmen there even used to hold classes for children and adults. The area however was, indeed, quite run down, and not many tourists ventured to the village. And then came this project, the rejuvenation of the area, and work over the past few years was conducted and is now nearing completion.

Economy Minister Silvio Schembri also said that in the coming days he will be announcing a new scheme for those hut owners in the area who are still behind in construction - "thanks to Malta Enterprises and Malta Industrial Parks Ltd (MIP) we will be making sure that we provide assistance by taking the responsibility of the project management of these huts." He noted that this was putting a lot of financial weight on them, so he will be working on an agreement that will spread out payments over a number of years rather than paying in bulk. This is also a very welcome announcement, more so that the government will be giving the operators some leg room in terms of payment, rather than placing them under immense financial pressure.

A plan also needs to be drawn up in terms of intensifying the effort to attract tourists and tour guides to the area once the project concludes, in order to help keep the businesses in the area sustainable and help make such work popular once again.

But the Crafts Village should only be the first step. Malta's crafts sector needs to be boosted in many more ways, by attracting people to actually take up such crafts once again, and entice Maltese youths to take more of an interest in, for example, lace making, which has such a rich history in Malta.

That of course will require more government schemes to attract people to work in these fields, and a push to promote forward such work to youths.

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