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‘Malta needs to look outward’ says Herrera on cultural networking

Representatives of various European cultural institutions met for a networking session in Valletta this morning to discuss how Malta could benefit from international collaboration.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
7 February 2014, 12:00am
Jose Herrera: “We need to maximise our cultural funds.”
Jose Herrera: “We need to maximise our cultural funds.”


The importance of Malta as a cultural hub was discussed during a seminar held this morning at the Excelsior Hotel in Floriana, as 17 European cultural entities met in a networking event aiming to strengthen links between European cultural operators.

Hosted by the Valletta 2018 Foundation, the Parliamentary Secretariat for Culture and Local Government, the Creative Economy Working Group and Creative Europe, the seminar - running into this afternoon - consists of talks and presentations by local and international cultural operators.

In his opening address following an introductory networking session, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture Jose Herrera said that reaching out to other European countries was a key priority for Malta.

"A big part of our cultural strategy right now is - look outward," Herrera said, while also mentioning that the budget allocated towards culture by the government has increased by 12%.

"We now need to maximise these funds, leverage them. National funds should be a stepping stone towards Creative Europe," Herrera said in reference to the European Commission's support programme for culture.

Herrera added that literature and film in Malta could benefit from Creative Europe, also predicting that Maltese literature in translation would get a boost.

In the first session of the seminar, Secretary General for European Cultural Networks Luca Bergamo spoke about the implications of cultural networking among nations in the contemporary global context.

"People working within culture are generally speaking quite weak when it comes to influencing government policy," Bergamo said, adding that those working within the creative sector tend to wrestle with self-doubt because the benefits may not be as readily apparent.

"We tend to ask ourselves, 'why am I doing this?' This is why international networks should lobby together to enhance their influence."

Bergamo also mentioned how, with the rise of Asia as an economic power, we are now being forced to reconsider how to prioritise cultural life in Europe.

"Since the Pacific has become the centre of trade, what are our intangible assets now? We need to look into what makes Europe unique - what is intrinsic to us culturally."

As examples, Bergamo mentioned the idea of universal education and sustainability as values which we can call our own.

"Consider, even, the idea of city squares. You won't find city squares in North America ­- though you'll find them in South America, as a result of colonisation. They're a European feature, and serve as an expression of society."

Bergamo added that culture is weakened by being commonly associated with just the arts, and that efforts should be made to twin culture with social policy and education.

"Why would you separate culture from architecture, or from science? In the case of science, you could use the cultural mindframe to make science more accessible, for example," Bergamo said.

"We used to think in this more holistic way, but somewhere down the line we forgot about it. So we need to get back to that," Bergamo said, adding that Malta would do well to keep this in mind as it prepares to host the Presidency for the Council in the EU in 2017, and serve as European Capital for Culture in 2018.

Bergamo also said that Malta needs to be a more active participant within the European Cultural Networks. 
teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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