Valletta announced as European Capital for Culture 2018

Following months of intense preparation and aided by a slick marketing campaign, Valletta has been announced as European Capital for Culture for 2018 in a press conference today.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
12 October 2012, 12:00am
Valletta’s appointment as European Capital for Culture will aim to galvanise Malta’s cultural scene in the run up to 2018.
Valletta’s appointment as European Capital for Culture will aim to galvanise Malta’s cultural scene in the run up to 2018.
Months of preparation and a slick PR campaign have helped Valletta secure the post of European Capital for Culture for 2018, the awarding of which was announced at a press conference held at St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta today.

Manfred Gaulhofer, President of the selection committee, said that the decision to award Valletta the title of European Capital for Culture 2018 was "unanimous".

Tourism and Culture Minister Mario de Marco hailed the jury's verdict and said: "To paraphrase (former US President) Kennedy - we are all proud to be Maltese today. I'm proud of all of us."

De Marco added "Valletta went into it alone, but was aided by other localities. It's an important moment for Valletta, which now stands at a crossroads. It is also important for the cultural and artistic community - which has grown and which wants to move forward."

The minister said that to be truly successful, "we have to look beyond 2018". He explained that Valletta cannot just concentrate on a 'programme of activities' for 2018 but must also concentrate on its legacy.

"There's lots of work to be done. In terms of cultural infrastructure, a lot needs to be done. Our country is a young nation which may have had different priorities than the one that grew from Independence. Priorities now need to move to cultural investment. To truly leave a legacy."

De Marco added that legacy cannot be just physical. He said Malta needs to invest in human resources and in the cultural sector.

"We need to keep helping the community of creative people. It's never 'viable' to be an artist, but we have to help them, that's why we're launched so many incentives - while at the same time other EU countries are slashing their cultural budget. But we do it because we believe in it. We believe that we're not subsidising culture, but that we're subsidised by it."

Ann Branch, Head of the Culture Programme Unit at the European Commission said that apart from being an honour to the Maltese nation, the award is "also a European title. The title brings real prestige and many cities before have benefited from it. It improves the wellbeing of people living there, helps people understand each other better."

She added that the title is all the more unique because it's the first time for Malta. "It will be worth it. Make sure you make best of this opportunity. More generally at EU level, cultural investment is all the more important now to face the economic crisis."

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From left: Ann Branch, Mario de Marco and Manfred Gaulhofer. 

After today verdict, there will be more planning to fine-tune the programme. The decision will now go through a formalisation process and will be finally validated in May 2013.

A European advisory and monitoring panel will monitor Valletta's progress. If it lives up to it, Valletta will get the Melina Mercuri prize, worth up to €1.5 million.

First launched in 1985, the annually-appointed European Capital for Culture initiative is set up with the aim to galvanise the chosen city's cultural output, while also aiming to increase tourism for the region.

Valletta will be 'sharing' the title along with a city from The Netherlands, which remains to be selected.

The final verdict was given to Valletta today by a team of four international judges, who toured the island yesterday and today to determine whether or not Valletta has fulfilled the necessary criteria to be conferred the title of European Capital for Culture in 2018.

As a final step towards achieving the bid, the Valletta 2018 Foundation presented The Bid Book, a document collating the proposed projects and the ethos behind Valletta's bid.

READ MORE: Valletta 2018 Bid Book is a "culmination of what makes us Maltese"

Officially launched on September 13, the bid book - titled 'Imagine 18' - was described by Culture Minister Mario de Marco as a "culmination of what makes us Maltese," encompassing not just the more conventional forms of art and culture like theatre, music and the visual arts but also more indigenous and communal phenomena like village feasts.

The artistic programme leading up to 2018 will be spearheaded by British composer Wayne Marshall, who will be aided by seven artistic programme directors in selecting projects that will fall under the Valletta 2018 rubric and organising the artistic programme for the fateful year

READ MORE: Seven artistic directors to support Marshall in 2018 bid.

The directors include actors Marc Cabourdin, Paul Portelli, and Coryse Borg, artist Raphael Vella, musician and composer Ruben Zahra, musican and Malta Arts Festival director Mario Frendo and film producer and lecturer Jean Pierre Magro.

Speaking of his appointment, Marshall had said: "It's a great honour to be appointed. I've been in Malta for six years and seen it develop significantly in the field of culture. We have a strong chance of getting this bid and increasing Malta's presence globally. Over 200 different proposals have been looked at, and 60 projects will now go ahead as a result."

Valletta's turn as European Capital for Culture is expected to provide a boost to tourism, as well as create cultural infrastructures that could benefit local artists and cultural operators in years to come.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...