The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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Almost 500 years old

Owen Bonnici Friday, 16 February 2024, 10:05 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Carnival of Malta is almost 500 years old.

 

It is a strong legacy of intangible heritage which we have inherited from the times of the Knights of Malta. 

 

Yet, today, almost 500 years afterwards, we do not look at this majestic celebration as a sort of homage to folklore, but as a fully fledged relevant, contemporary and exiting festival.

 Carnival 2024 came and went and it was indeed the Carnival that was.  Not all countries or regions, of course, hold Carnivals and Malta is one of around 50 countries in the world which do organise this festival.  And we hold it in great style and with huge passion and energy.  This year’s edition has shown the fantastic talent that Carnival participants have! 

I am very grateful for the hours the Carnival participants put in, in order to come up which such a wonderful show.  I have personally thanked all the troupes, as I visited every single float and dance group as they were dazzling the audience in the streets of Valletta.  People of all ages participate in the Karnival ta’ Malta and I love, in particular, the way the community comes together in a beautiful spirit of inclusivity.

Kids, of course, adore the Festival and I loved seeing smiles of the faces of the various children who were wearing costumes of their heroes.  As I walked in the streets of Valletta I could not feel any safer, being as I was surrounded by little Supermen, little Batmen and little Wonderwomen!

As the artistic director Jason Busuttil said, this was the Carnival of records. A record number of float participants. A record number of dance troupes.  And even the first time in recent memory that a hail shower occurred during Carnival! 

This success does not come on its own.  This comes as a result of very hard work.  Merit goes to the organising team at Festivals Malta, led by Chairperson Aaron Zahra and Chief Executive Frans Agius who both put in hard work to make sure that everything goes according to plan.  Jason Busuttil is also a pleasure to work with and I admire his ability to make the seemingly impossible become possible.

If you had to ask me, the nicest moment in the last days was watching, on the national broadcaster, the beautiful parade in the streets of Floriana on Tuesday evening.  I had just attended a press conference in Zejtun related to the restoration of the cross which is situated in the Square and decided to have a warm cup of coffee at one of my dear friend’s coffee shop called Juve Bar prior to winding up the day and going home.

Frankie, the owner, was watching the transmission along with other patrons.  Everyone had their eyes fixed on the television and we spent an enjoyable hour or so commenting on this and that float and on Carnival in general. 

Truly it was an event which brought people together and created lovely memories for all to cherish.

 

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One of the best things about this year’s Carnival was the huge interest that various communities showed in organising Carnivals in their own towns and villages. 

We tried to help everyone who requested assistance and we really went out of our way to support, as did my colleague Alison Zerafa Civelli who gave her one hundred per cent as well.

In all, we assisted the following Carnivals: Zurrieq, Nadur, Għaxaq, Mosta, Marsa and Ħamrun, without counting the events taking place in Ta’ Qali and Floriana.

Other Local Councils, such as the ones in Birzebbuga and Kottonera, organised their own little events which went down really well with the public at large.  I am sure that there were other Local Councils which organised lovely events in their communities.

I think that this is how il-Karnival ta’ Malta can keep growing – by ensuring that the various communities enjoy Carnival. 

 

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The Culture and Arts Hub is one of the two major priorities which we have in terms of infrastructural projects in the field of culture and heritage.  The second one is the restoration of the famed Villa Guardamangia.  

In order to see those two projects into fruition, recourse is being made to the new EU funding program and our technical experts are working really hard to provide a strong application in order to secure the funding, following a call which has just been issued by the relevant public authorities. 

The Culture and Arts Hub project will be under the responsibility of Festivals Malta, with the support of my Ministry,  and the Villa Guardamangia will be under the responsibility of Heritage Malta.  

The Culture and Arts Hub will be constructed on land which is already in our possession in Marsa (next to Millenia).  This land, which previously used to house the Public Works workshops, will see the construction upon it of the Carnival stalls and other facilities which are needed by the culture community such as rehearsal spaces.

I believe that the Culture and Arts Hub will also contribute to the regeneration of this particular area of Marsa and I am sure it will bring about a positive effect on the Marsa community.

Of course, we will be in a position to provide further details in coming weeks, but this project is one of the major milestones and priorities which we will deliver upon.

The second priority project is one which has attracted  considerable interest, even internationally- the restoration of  Villa Guardamangia which, for a while, used to be the home away from home of Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip as a newlywed couple at the time.

I have read articles by PN exponents criticising the project itself and saying that by declaring our intention of restoring the place we have our priorities upside down. and that we still have a colonial mentality.  Rubbish.  I ask: so, according to the Nationalist Party, we should let Villa Guardamangia crumble down?

So if it were up to the Nationalist Party, they would have not acquired Villa Guardamangia from private hands?  They would have let this iconic building, which reference to has been made all over the world and in leading media, crumble away

Is this what the Nationalist Party would have done? 

We disagree with this approach.  We believe that this building holds immense potential and can serve to attract thousands of tourists each year who would want to visit and see the place Elizabeth used to live in for a time, apart from strengthening further the already excellent ties we have with the United Kingdom. 

I look forward to delivering on those two important projects, which will be a beautiful legacy for generations to come.

 

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