Monday 22 July 2019

A cultural football

It looks like it’s going to be a long haul until Valletta as the European capital of culture in 2018 (V18) arrives – we already have clear signs of how it is going to pan out, and the incessant squabbling has already tired me out.

In this corner, you have the cultural ‘elite’ who believe they and they alone should dictate what constitutes culture (and damn it, V18 had better be their version of it), and in the other corner you have a curious mixture of ‘everyone else’. This group is made of  those whose tastes run more towards low brow or pop culture, those who transition easily back and forth between various types of cultural events, and those who frankly don’t even know that there is this discussion going on because they have completely and deliberately tuned out all Maltese media and local controversies anyway. (Ask them who’s in the Grande Fratello house right now, however, and they can name all the participants.)

Before I go any further let me just share this video with you:


Accompanying this video is this brief note:

“The Valletta 2018 Foundation approached Shadeena with the idea of making a video that speaks to the Maltese cultural sector about the aims of the Foundation whilst showcasing Maltese talent and reminding the audience that everyone is meant to be a part of the Capital of Culture bid. The concept was born out of this brief and developed by Martin Bonniċi and Rebecca Cremona into this short video. A big thank you goes to all involved.”

There follows a long list of credits listing everyone involved from footballers to band clubs to bocci clubs, dancers, musicians, singers and DJs.

The date of the video is June 2012. So what has changed between that date and today?  The answer, of course, is a change of government and the changes made on the board of the V18 Foundation.  And yet I see nothing in the above brief which is any different from that which has been proposed to date (including the much-guffawed idea of a football tournament). The original board saw V18, quite rightly, as a way of encompassing all the different facets and the different sub-cultures which make us ‘Maltese’. The video portrayed all this with elegant style and a vibrant vitality.

So why is it so difficult to build on the ethos behind this video, by bringing on board as many artistic performers from as many sectors as possible from the wide pool of talent on this tiny island? Is it that difficult for people to rise above pettiness and this curse which is partisan politics and which permeates every single event or issue?  I have read a lot of comments over the past few days and from what I can make out, there are a lot of bruised egos and ruffled feathers out there. If I could give a word of advice, it would not hurt Jason Micallef and his new team to accept creative ideas which might be forthcoming, no matter where they come from.

Personally, I don’t think V18 needs to be a case of doing one type of event at the exclusion of another – I would rather watch a good play than watch a football game, but who is to say we cannot have both? On the other hand I do agree with those from the Arts community who argue that V18 should not just be a one-off event, but a well thought-out strategy which will leave a lasting legacy in our capital city.   None of this will ever materialise, however, at this rate or else it will be done in haphazard way and V18 will arrive with a whimper rather than a bang.

If we as a nation spent less time being snide and snarky towards each other, and were less concerned with pouring scorn on anything which does not fit in within our own cultural milieu in our little pigeon-holed world, then perhaps we could use all that energy for something worthwhile.

Otherwise, instead of being something which unites us and fills us with national pride, V18 will be yet another example of a never-ending confrontation which is destined to last until infinity.







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