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Looking ahead in 2010



Suddenly culture is a ‘national priority’


7.Feb. 2010



Finally Malta has a cultural policy that is up for discussion, and as Peter Serracino Inglott put it yesterday, it is Malta’s cultural policy, not elephants, that has had the longest gestation period.

Amid all the hype and excitement that the publication of the draft policy created among all those who have been waiting for this moment for about 20 years, one couldn’t help but note that suddenly there seems to be the urgency for a cultural policy, and one of the reasons seems to be the fact that Valletta will be the European Cultural Capital in 2018.

Christopher Bezzina, the permanent secretary in the Education and Culture Ministry, delivered the opening speech at an event that marked the publication of the draft policy document, saying that “culture is one of the country’s essential pillars”.

He said culture will be put at the heart of the educational sector that the government is strengthening.

Suddenly culture has become a “national priority”. The authors of the draft policy even pointed this out in their introduction.

“Taking into consideration the current global economic and social scenario, this policy will elevate culture to a national priority and include it as one of the pillars of the creative economy in Malta’s 2015 vision. In addition, this policy will set in motion a long term vision leading to a new cultural era when Malta is the European Capital of Culture in 2018.”

Some speakers who participated in yesterday’s event at St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity in Valletta repeatedly referred to the fact that Valletta will be the European Capital of Culture in 2018.

David Felice, the chairman of the commission that is making preparations for 2018, said the policy helps provide a framework for the commission’s work.

Keynote speaker Dolores Cristina, the education minister, went as far as pointing out that the country has seven years to prepare itself for when Valletta will be the European Capital of Culture.

But is this really why the country needs a cultural policy? Have we finally got a draft policy because the government suddenly understood the cultural sector’s benefits to the economy?

Clare Azzopardi, a teacher and an author, pointed out that culture is currently a one-off experience for children in school.

Drama and music are not given due importance, and they are considered to be extra-curricular subjects, she said, adding that creative writing does not feature at all in schools.

Nicholas Vella, an archaeologist, stressed the importance of having strong governance in the cultural sector.

“It’s useless creating structures without giving them resources to work with. Take the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage, for instance. It is being left to die,” he said.

All in all, the draft cultural policy seeks to create a sense of organisation in the cultural sector.

Minister Cristina said: “Gone are the days of volunteers in the cultural sector. Budget 2010 was one of the best with regard to this sector. We have set up an arts fund and a film fund, and we will soon announce details of arts scholarships.”

The vision promises to facilitate cultural development, enable creativity through education, creative excellence and the economy, develop an inclusive culture, foster transnational cooperation and develop culture and the arts in a strategic way.

The public is invited to provide feedback and comments on the various points brought up in the policy, which is available at The consultation period draws to a close at the end of June.


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