Valletta 2018 is undoubtedly a year par excellence of culture and the arts, not only because the actual year during which we are celebrating this important occasion, but also for all the work which has been done during the preparation.
The preparations for Valletta to become Europe’s Capital of Culture have given our country the opportunity to generate considerable cultural, social and economic changes. These have all led to a substantial increase in the engagement of people in the creative sector, both in terms of audience development and career opportunities. From the beginning of my tenure as Minister for Culture it has always been my priority to promote three main goals – that of increasing audiences, increasing standards and professionalism and turn the cultural sector into a contributor towards economic growth. Valletta 2018 has proven to be a central player to all of this!
During the past 6 months, we have seen the consolidation of intricate work which led to the creation of a cultural calendar, the likes of which we have never experienced before on our islands. A striking element in all this was the energy and eagerness the Maltese had to attend and participate in all the major events, which clearly show that when combining together elements of popular and high culture with brilliantly executed programming, culture can provide engaging entertainment for all the family. So far more than 317,000 have attended around 200 events organised in the first half of the year with more than 1,500 local artists and 166 international artists participating in various performances and projects.
As the saying goes we have placed our money where our mouth is and during the past five years we have substantially increased the budget for the culture sector, a direct investment which has already brought about very positive results and is expected to bring more on the coming years. The budget for Valletta 2018 alone was 52 million from 2012 to the end of 2018.
Valletta 2018 has also left a positive impact on employment and economic generation, a clear sign that this sector is showing steady growth. This was clearly indicated from a survey targeting the Capital of Culture activities carried out by the National Statistics Office, the Malta Tourism Authority and Jobsplus during the past months. The NSO has noted that the majority of Maltese are pleased with events, whilst MTA has seen an increase of 6% in the amount of tourists who visit our islands for cultural reasons – 96% of tourists who visited the islands in the first 3 months knew about Valletta 2018. Jobsplus have reported that there are now more opportunities for workers, with an increase of 18.4% in full time employment in the culture and creative industries in the past 3 years. 5% of our workforce are people who work in the culture sector. Valletta 2018 featured as a main motivation to visit Malta for 13.5% of tourists in the first quarter of 2018. This share is three times bigger than the one registered in 2017.
These results are a clear indication that the Valletta 2018 events are attracting a wide ranging audiences and that the programming has managed to translate the cultural needs of our community into an attractive array of events and activities which will eventually shape the legacy of this milestone year.
When looking closely to the figures is was very evident that the New Year’s Eve celebrations and the Opening events have managed to attract the highest number of visitors to Valletta with around 70,000 on New Year’s Eve and an astonishing 110,000 during Opening Week. It was also very pleasant to note that il-Festa l-Kbira saw an attendance of 40,000 people, clearly indicating the popularity of our traditions whist another 30,000 visited the Valletta Green Festival in May. The second edition of the Valletta Pageant of the Seas was another success with over 50,000 people enjoying the spectacle in the Grand Harbour. To date, more than 9,400 people have also visited Valletta 2018’s major visual arts exhibition, Dal-Baħar Madwarha.
Another important aspect of Valletta 2018 is the participation of the younger generations. During the past six months, several events for children and young people were held in different areas of the Malta & Gozo. These included Años Luz; Valletta 2018’s premier children’s event involving shadow puppetry workshops and performances which saw 800 children attending at l-Imqabba Primary School, and another 220 attending at the Parish Hall in Għajnsielem, Gozo amongst others. I had the wonderful opportunity to attend to this shadow puppetry show with my daughter, which was the first event dedicated to children as part of the Valletta 2018. Años Luz was created by the Spanish Theatre Company Micro y Punto, a company which works extensively on shadow puppetry to create original shows which are aimed at everyone. I was really impressed by the level of preparation and originality shadow puppetry involved, but I was more impressed by the level of participation and engagement shown by these children which clearly proves the point that we should explore different means of propagating our culture and arts .
This theatrical company also organised a four-day workshop for artists at Spazju Kreattiv. These events and initiatives are a great way to further expose the community to culture and the arts, and are also essential to introduce our younger generations to the creative sector.
Locals in various communities across all regions of the Maltese islands also experienced live performances by 20 local and international artists giving 22 performances in the comfort of people’s homes. Residents of Rabat, Manikata, Qormi, Ħamrun, Santa Venera, Żejtun, Cospicua, Vittoriosa, Gżira and Sliema transformed their private homes into public performance spaces for Altofest Malta 2018.
Preparing and executing the European Capital of Culture has definitely provided us with the best possible opportunity to generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits for Malta and in particular Valletta and the artistic community, raising the profile and visibility of our cultural scene on an international scale.
A word of thanks goes to all those who made this happen – my colleague Dr Deo Debattista, Jason Micallef – Valletta 2018's Chairperson, CEO Catherine Tabone and all the people at Valletta 2018 Foundation.
Very well done!