It is the festa season
Cultural heritage in our country operates on a number of levels, from professional organisations to voluntary based societies and groups with specific areas of interest.
This wide spectrum of cultural participation provides our country with a rich cultural life, full of traditions which have been passed on for a number of generations. Traditions which need our full support to flourish and evolve in an evergrowing globalized world.
A tradition which is present in all communities around the island is the ‘Festa’. These feasts are the result of countless hours of hard work on voluntary basis from a countless number of individuals and are eagerly awaited each year by their respective local community.
The resilient spirit of the individuals who put in countless hours of voluntary work has proven to be a catalyst in keeping such traditions alive for the benefit and enjoyment of locals and foreigners, who travel to Malta to experience such festivities.
Part of this government strategy to keep on strengthening our culture sector, especially when it comes to traditional aspects that nurture our identity, is to provide the necessary support without overshadowing the voluntary aspect of this section of our culture. This particular area of our culture is intrinsically tied to the community which is one of the five strategic goals of the Malta Arts Council 2020 Strategy; the Council’s plan for the culture and creative sectors until 2020.
One area of support which has been recently identified, especially because of the particular dedication and level of commitment of the volunteers who keep it alive, is the area of fireworks displays and pyrotechnics. The spectacular displays that light up Malta’s skies are renowned for their high level of artistry and creativity which is achieved through a lot of hard work aimed at ensuring a smooth outcome.
A couple of weeks ago Arts Council Malta launched a fund offering financial support to Maltese fireworks factories working on voluntary basis, by providing aid to create a more secure working environments for the volunteers who produce fireworks.
Thanks to this fund, last Saturday, 27 fireworks factories received €5,000 each to improve their safety practices, an initiative aimed at kick-starting an important increase security for the safeguarding of best practices, especially when it comes to health and safety.
In order to qualify for this fund, the fireworks factories were required to come up with ideas and proposals on how they can achieve the upgrade of the factories themselves; on how they can invest in the infrastructure of the fireworks factories; in machinery and tools which facilitate the manufacture of fireworks and make the process safer; in equipment which improves safety during the letting off of fireworks, and in training resources related to the safety of fireworks as well as on fostering better collaboration between Maltese fireworks factories. This new fund supports the growth of this popular industry that plays such a central and prominent role in Maltese culture and celebrations.
Earlier this year, we have also launched for the second year running a fund, which focuses on strengthening the work done by band clubs. These band clubs serve as buzzing centres of cultural activity and also play an important role in the lives of their local communities. Local traditions form an integral part of the country’s cultural and social fabric. Not only do band clubs offer music lessons at no cost, but they also organise cultural activities all year round which help to safeguard our cultural traditions.
Since our strategy is to ensure an inclusive and accessible culture, through this fund we’re once again aiding the community to keep on safeguarding and developing local culture and traditions, taking a bottomup approach to ensure better inclusivity and accessibility.
This fund builds on the last year successes brought by the previous one and aims to support various initiatives proposed by the band clubs themselves. It aims to support collaboration amongst band clubs and the implementation of innovative projects both on a local and on an international level. Initiatives brought forward can also include the restoration of objects of historical significance found in the band clubs and the support of training of musical conductors, amongst other initiatives.
Band clubs hold an intrinsic role in our communities, since they create a sense of belonging and also serve as a main point of entry to culture and the arts, amongst the younger generations especially through the teaching of musical instruments and the on-going preparations and artistry involved in the feast decorations. Moreover, the buildings in which these clubs are housed hold a significance part of our history, and contain various objects and artefacts, which tell the recent and past history of our country from a community-based point of view. A point of view which needs to be safeguarded because it holds truthful elements of our identity.
Building on this need to safeguard this part of our national identity this week, I have opened a parliamentary debate on a bill, which is aimed at protecting Band clubs (and tenants; many of them elderly) who are facing eviction. Currently, a total of 20 band clubs are facing the risk to be evicted. The amendments proposed will create a balance between the rights of both the proprietor and lessee. We must recognize the contribution these band clubs have done to our communities and to society, especially since they carry a vital role when it comes to the cultural and voluntary sectors. I am glad that the Opposition declared that it will be voting in favour of this Bill.
By investing in our local traditions, we wouldn’t just be investing in safeguarding and developing our cultural sector, but we would be investing heavily in our society, making it more resilient, sustainable and inclusive.
The Malta Independent Friday 15 June 2018