The Malta Independent 29 May 2024, Wednesday
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Determination

Owen Bonnici Friday, 24 March 2023, 08:37 Last update: about 2 years ago

We promised to re-launch the cultural sector with enthusiasm after the pandemic, and we certainly kept our word.

Exactly 12 months ago we promised to firmly restart the culture sector and we did exactly that... and more! Not only did we relaunch the cultural events with the standards that we were obtaining pre-Covid, but we even raised the bar.  Throughout the past months, the main events in the cultural calendar soared to unprecedented heights, attracting record-breaking numbers.

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Be it Notte Bianca, or the New Year’s Eve events, or Carnival or the Eurovision Song Contest or the Opera Tosca at the Manoel Theatre... they all saw a significant turnout after a two-year hiatus and were great successes as will be, I am sure, Mużika Mużika.  We are determined to keep pushing, keep delivering more, keep reaching new heights.

This does not only apply to the events which we, as a Culture Ministry organise, but also those organised by the various NGOs and communities.  Take the Maltese festas, for instance.  No one can deny that Maltese festas are a crucial element of the Maltese identity. Foreigners visiting us enjoy these colourful and spectacular celebrations, rarely seen in other places globally.

Culture and art are always present in our traditions; as are festivals and various components of Maltese culture. This brings me to the promise that we made, to address, as much as it is possible, the problem of musical societies at risk of losing their main premises due to the situation regarding old rent laws.

Here, too, we have kept our word with a number of band clubs that are at an imminent risk of losing their premises. We acquired the first properties from the respective owners, and this was a massive shot of confidence in our musical societies.

During the first year, the government formally stepped in to save two clubs from eviction – De Paule in Paola and the Socjeta' Stella Maris in Sliema. 

Additionally, the Ministry will enter into four conventions regarding four other musical societies in the coming days, as negotiations have matured.

During the past year, we also launched aid schemes for other musical associations to assist them in their projects. Apart from the general funding streams applicable to all cultural entites, we also launched a scheme, with an investment of half-million, to support the Maltese festa. Through this scheme, we want to give our support to those organizations who work so hard and pretty much on a voluntary basis in order to continue refining their work and reach higher artistic levels.

I want to say a word about the Malta Carnival, since, in my view, it provided a fantastic example of how the investment we are making is contributing to an improvement in the cultural product.

After all, the Maltese Carnival is an important cultural epression and we want to keep investing in it. In the first year of Prime Minister Robert Abela's first mandate, we invested €1.2 million for a more sustainable Carnival: the biggest investment in recent years. We bought 40 new vehicles equipped with modern technology. Twenty of them, the so-called tractors, were used in the 2023 edition for the participants to transport their trailers from the warehouses to Valletta, as well as to be able to tour the streets of Valletta during the Carnival celebrations in the safest way possible. The other 20 vehicles, the trailers, will start to be used from next year to build trailers upon.

This years Malta Carnival, the first after the pandemic, from a cultural point of view was the biggest we have ever seen. We will not stop here. We are continuing and finalising the necessary preparations and plans so that in the coming time, upon issue of the financial packages deriving from EU funding, we can launch the work on the Arts and Culture Hub in Marsa.

Through this project, we will continue promoting local talent, ensuring that the artistic and cultural sector is accessible to everyone. Our goal is to continue strengthening this sector.

We have strong credibility in terms of cultural projects which have been built through EU funding.  Right now we are closing off the most ambitious project that Heritage Malta has ever undertaken, which is the massive restoration project of the Grand Master's Palace estimated to cost around €28 million. The current phase of the project is being co-financed by the European Union as part of the European Regional Development Fund for the sum of €10 million.

We are committed to continue investing in the Capital City, and if I mention the Capital City I cannot but mention also the restoration project of the Jesuit Church in Valletta where €4.5 million have been invested so far from national funds to keep bolstering the potential of this gem in Valletta.  Indeed the result, so far, has been breathtaking.

Such projects continue to demonstrate the Governments commitment to cultural heritage . The restoration of historical buildings is essential so that our children and those who visit us can enjoy what our forefathers have left us. This restoration project will join a series of other projects which has been wonderfully completed, such as the restoration of Fort Saint Angelo, Fort Saint Elmo the Valletta Design Cluster and the MUŻA to name a few.

And I cannot not mention the exquisite restoration project in Ta Gieżu Chuch, which works are being carried out through national funds. I am very proud of what we are achieving there.

We have also reached the last phase of the restoration project on the Marina Curtain in Valletta in an area of ​​3,000 square metres, which is located behind the Liesse Church in Valletta. The works are being carried out with an investment of another one third of a million Euros from national funds, and once this is concluded it would mean that all the fortifications that surround Valletta would have been restored.

Of course these are not the only military lines or fortifications which are being restored.  Currently we are also undergoing a beautiful restoration project on the Victoria Lines in Għargħur. 

After the completion of the restoration works on a stretch of approximately 60 metres of the Victoria Lines along the Mosta Bridal Garden (Targa Gap), we are restoring the Victoria Lines that fall within the boundaries of Għargħur for a length of one kilometre. The project, which will be concluded by next year, will see the restoration of two distinct sections of the Victoria Lines. 

The manual work is being carried out entirely by the workers within the Restoration Directorate, whom I thank, and therefore the cost of this restoration is only linked to the costs of the material and plant.

I would also like to mention the beautiful project, which is currently underway in different phases, of the building of the Malta International Contemporary Art Space (MICAS) in Floriana. This project will not only bolster our cultural scene but will also give back to the public a large area of ​​land (twelve acres) in Floriana that was previously pretty much unaccessable to the public.

Currently we are focusing on the construction of the art galleries, through the assistance of EU funding. The galleries will be built over an area of ​​4,000 square metres on four levels, and brings together the existing historic building of the Retreat with the modern iron structure. These galleries will offer modern spaces for exhibitions and installations by local and foreign contemporary artists, for workshops and other activities that bring the public closer to contemporary art.

These achievements have been made possible by means of sheer hard work, and determination. We will keep on delivering.

 

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