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Their hopes for 2014

As we bid goodbye to 2013 and welcome the new year, we ask a number of local personalities involved in culture and entertainment what they’re looking forward to in 2014, and what kind of developments they hope will take place in their given fields.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
10 January 2014, 12:00am
Artist Raphael Vella:
Artist Raphael Vella: "You only become intellectually independent when you no longer feel the need to celebrate your independence."


RAPHAEL VELLA

Artist, lecturer, curator

Whatever we desire for the local arts scene during the coming year must be seen in a much wider cultural, political and educational perspective. Amongst the key ideas that we need to keep in mind whenever we plan for the future is the idea that the arts are, or rather, should be autonomous.  This is not a new idea; the modern world as we know it wouldn't exist without it. A second and related idea is that this intellectual autonomy or creative spirit isn't something that artists own exclusively; as the German artist Joseph Beuys famously declared, "Everyone is an artist".  This doesn't mean that everyone can paint, but everyone - from teacher to nurse or journalist - has the ability (some might say, the duty) to make use of this creative spirit. Including politicians, because by diminishing the significance of this creative spirit, one also diminishes the value of democracy. A third point we shouldn't forget is that people are becoming less and less insular in the contemporary globalised world. I mention this because I regularly work with young artists, and they are reaching artistic maturity much quicker nowadays than when I was their age. Whether we like it or not, one reason for this is clearly the internet and related information technologies. Young Maltese artists today are increasingly dealing with contemporary issues by making use of contemporary technologies.

Yet, at the same time, in the last few years we have seen an increase in public commissions that simply do not tally with this general cultural context I have outlined in these three points. We are seeing competitions endorsed by important cultural or political entities that ignore the autonomy or spirit of innovation of contemporary art by playing safe and by restricting the aims of 'public art' to honorific ideas, for instance, by commissioning statues of deceased political figures or grandmasters of the Knights of St John.  With a year of political anniversaries coming up, I'm afraid that we can probably expect more uncreative projects of this sort, as well as projects that focus on 'national' (meaning 'insular') themes related to our recent political history, for instance, themes like the Republic, Independence, and so on. I don't think I know a single serious artist today who would spend time and effort to produce a work that celebrates national events like these. Do you know why? Because you only become intellectually independent when you no longer feel the need to celebrate your independence. The irony is that the best artists in Malta have already understood this, so these recent projects commissioned in the name of art are actually contradicting everything that artists stand for. So, what I'm really hoping for is that cultural policies, events and other projects developed over the next year actually start from where artists and other cultural operators already stand at present. And hopefully, that such projects and policies will really contribute to cultural growth by focusing on areas that still need development.

CLARE AZZOPARDI

Clare Azzopardi

(Photo by Virginia Monteforte)

Author, founding member of Inizjamed

Without any doubt, what I'm looking forward to the most is the publication of my new book for adults, 'Kulhadd Halla Isem Warajh', to be launched on the 31 January by Merlin Publishers. My hope is that this book, in which a lot of eccentric, complex, sensual women roam, will leave a lasting impact on readers. As for improvements, there's an extraordinary drive within Inizjamed as it prepares for the annual Mediterranean Literature Festival, now in its ninth edition. We're working flat out to make this the best edition yet. The line-up is going to be amazing. Apart from this I'd like to see some changes to the National Book Prize, as well as the National Book Festival (aka the Book Fair). I'd like the Council, of which I'm a member, to begin to think seriously about a literary prize, as opposed to a book prize, and about an exciting festival that is more than just a book-seller's bazaar. My hope is that we'll begin to see a change in mentality among publishers and book-sellers: if they themselves (barring some notable exceptions) fail to show the right appreciation for their books and the authors that write them, how can they expect this to become a nation of readers?

CHARLENE MERCIECA

Charlene Mercieca

Director, Soap Café

What I'm looking forward to the most is the launch of our latest creations, one of which is my latest natural perfume range.

Unfortunately locally there is still a bit of a stigma about locally made goods. The authorities do not help either, as they do not differentiate between artisanal goods and mass produced imports and therefore certain laws and regulations are 'equal' to both. This might sound 'fair' but in reality an artisan usually struggles more to make a living out of his/her art. Now imagine adding taxes to the final product as well, especially given that the artisans are already in competition with mass-produced goods.

This is just one example of many struggles we have to face everyday. Myself, together with nine other artisans from different fields - all of which are educated and qualified in their respective fields - are currently pushing these boundaries to create an awareness of such situations. We created a legal foundation called 'Makers Mark' where artisans like ourselves can potentially bring a different type of tourism on this island which can be highly beneficial to this economy. Alas, the men with the fancy suits in prominent places are failing to see this.

OWEN BONNICI

Owen Bonnici


TV presenter

2014 should be a big year for me, artistically. By the end of 2013 I had launched my new TV show, One Night Stand, and for the first six months of 2014 I will be hosting a number of foreign celebrities, some of which are already confirmed. This will certainly raise the bar for the local television industry. Also, early on this year I will start working on a new theatrical show, which will be performed towards the end of year 2014... I can't say more about it at this point, but it's going to be a very exciting project which will feature both local and international artists.

On a personal level I hope to find more time for the family. But though I'm planning for a week-long holiday, this year I will skip out on my usual January holiday due to work commitments.

STEVE HILI

Steve Hili


Comedian, radio presenter

I am really looking forward to 2014... I think it's going to be a lot of fun. My newest play, Adam and Eve and Kevin, is the first thing that I will be involved in (it's playing at the MADC Clubrooms on the 7-9 February). I wrote it and will be directing it, and it's a bit of a mad take on what really happened in the Garden of Eden. I have got a kick-ass cast so really looking forward to that.

Plus, that I am hoping to release a [comical music side-project] Baron Bubblebeef EP in 2014. Three new songs are being worked on so...hopefully there will be some news there.  And of course I am looking forward to doing loads more stand up. I have done gigs both here and in London and am looking forward to doing more. I love it!

With regards to radio, I am hoping for another creative year and am planning lots of new features to spice up the Big Breakfast.

Regarding improvements and developments, I am hoping that in the local radio world, creativity starts getting a bit more appreciated and promoted. A lot of creative people have left the medium, and it feels like radio in general in Malta needs a bit of a kick up the backside.

With regard to comedy I hope that the promoters who bring in foreign stand up comedians start respecting local comedians and including them on their bills. Not because of any patriotic leanings, but just because some of the local comedians are actually very funny.

Also, I think it is high time that the government introduces tax incentives to people working in the arts. Something that would really help would be to increase the VAT exempt threshold for 'self-employed' artists doing their own stuff. This is something I hope can get a bit of support on in 2014.

IRA LOSCO

Ira Losco


Singer

I'm looking forward to more single releases on my album, including video releases.

JASON MICALLEF

Jason Micallef


Chairman, Valletta 2018 Foundation

I am looking forward to continue building on what we have achieved as a Foundation over the last eight months or so, where dialogue and participation with all Cultural entities and local artists helped with the huge success of this year's Notte Bianca, the Valletta Forum, Story Works, and the Zigu Zajg Festival amongst others. A special mention goes to Valletta 2018's main contribution to Christmas and the New Years events around the capital with the 3D mapping architectural projection on the Palace façade in collaboration with MCAST students turning it into a main attraction for the general public and tourists in Valletta during the Christmas period. I am also looking forward to start seeing the first steps of infrastructural improvements in and around Valletta together with the first phases of 1 or 2 capital projects in Valletta that would need to be completed before 2018.  As for the Valletta 2018 foundation, 2014 will see an improvement and an increase to its working force as work and preparation for 2018 will definitely see an increase.

Amongst other capital projects to regenerate Valletta way before 2018, The Valletta 2018 Foundation wants to rehabilitate Strait Street making it an absolute attraction to all, including its residents. We cannot continue to accept having this long, narrow beautiful historical street full of dilapidated empty dwellings of many years with their dirty black facades a constant eyesore. Broken pavements making it dangerous for pedestrians to walk and non-existing street management. We also want to turn a small part of Strait Street into a planned strict zone for commercial and entertainment purposes giving it back its past glory with locals and foreigners alike. By doing so, Strait Street will become an instant attraction for young people deciding to spend their weekends much more in Valletta than nowadays. This was my only reference to ''Paceville'' which for reasons I do not understand, was taken out of context from another section of the press. For that matter, we are against of having a replica of ''Paceville'', not only in Strait Street, nor anywhere in Valletta. But yes, this is our vision for different parts of Valletta if we want to address what Maltese have been saying for decades, that Valletta is a dead city with not much life after 6pm. We simply cannot continue to talk forever. Yes, we will listen to what residents and people have to say, and address their concerns. That is also why we have created the Valletta Forum for.

MADLEINE GERA

Madeleine Gera


Artist

I am looking forward to travelling and resuming my painting life after I hopefully finish off my Master's in 19th Century Aesthetics this year. Within the local context, I look forward to the national collection of fine art moving to the Auberge d'Italie. As for improvements in the visual arts here on Malta, I would hope that people who were not artists themselves would find ways to make the visual arts more relevant to their lives.

RUPERT CEFAI

Rupert Cefai


St James Cavalier Chairman, painter

The first thing I'm looking forward to is seeing the reorganisation process for St James Cavalier that we have started come to fruition. We have embarked on a reform of the whole structure within St James Cavalier which should lead us to have our first Artistic Director in place in a few weeks or months. Then there are a number of projects we have started that should kick off soon, especially when it comes to reaching out to local artistic communities, the export of local artists and their work and being more active in international networks.

I personally would like to see more professional artists and more artists being professional about their work. We are getting there but we need to do that little bit more. When it comes to the institutions, we need to invest more on the technical side of things, especially specialised personnel.

MALCOLM GALEA

Malcolm Galea


Actor, comedian, playwright

This year I've got several fun projects that I'm keen to get to grips with. I'd like to keep developing my stand-up act and performing my 'More or Less' [historical] family comedies while I'm also looking forward to producing my first Maltese play 'Id-Dlam taht it-Teatru' in May. This will also be my first play to be produced at the Manoel Theatre (not counting pantos) and is actually based in the same theatre where it shall be staged.

I would like to see quality theatre become even more accessible to people and not be limited to a handful of Valletta venues. It's already started but there's still a long way to go before theatre regains the same status it once enjoyed a few decades ago. Also: more stand-up comedy venues, events and people trying it out!
teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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Lol yes Fwarbiered, you obviously missed out on what Claire Azzopardi and Raphael Vella are saying too. Political bias has nothing to do with it.Steeped as you are in parochialism you can't ever argue for national interest over political interest. Of course I'll single out Jason Micallef, he is the reason the Maltese arts and culture sector will be missing out on a true legacy from V18. If Jason Micallef had any decency, insight or a true love for the Arts he would resign.Culture has no leadership at the moment , mediocrity is the measure.
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Stefan Cassar
Mandarin your call in selecting jason only goes to show the political bias of your bla bla bla
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Lol really Jason Micallef has no shame, How can he argue that Notte Bianca and Ziguzajk are feathers in his 8 month old cap as Chair of the V18 Foundation?????? Nice try re Straceville fiasco. The New Year's party hosted in St. George's Square gave us an inkling of what his plans for Valletta are leading to. Hands in the air anyone?
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