Proposal to turn Valletta monti into artisan fair by night

The proposal for the ‘Valletta Creative Market’ is said to have been warmly received by Economy Minister Chris Cardona, though its suggestions remain at proposal stage at this point in time. 

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
17 March 2015, 7:37am
The contentious Valletta monti debacle was ignited by the possibility of the market spilling onto Republic Street
The contentious Valletta monti debacle was ignited by the possibility of the market spilling onto Republic Street
Plans have been submitted to transform the monti open-air market in Valletta into an artistic hub by night, and the Ministry for Culture has put forward a proposal to allow the market in Ordnance Street to be used as a space for artists and artisans to display and sell their work. 

Submitted to the Ministry for the Economy a few months ago, in the wake of the controversy over the Valletta market move, the proposal for the ‘Valletta Creative Market’ is said to have been warmly received by Economy Minister Chris Cardona, though its suggestions remain at proposal stage at this point in time. 

“The idea of an evening artisan market was submitted a number of months back by the Culture Ministry to the Economy Ministry and we are very satisfied about the feedback we received.

“We believe that the proposal, if implemented, would be of huge benefit to the artistic community at large.  Of course the proposal is in fact that – a proposal – and like any proposal it needs to be discussed and analysed attentively. In this analysis we pledge to listen to what the stakeholders have to say,” Culture Minister Owen Bonnici said in comments to MaltaToday. 

Taking as its model the tourist-friendly and ever-popular artisan markets in places like London, Paris and Barcelona, the proposal suggests that a “holistic plan” of the area be put through a competitive process, and that a ‘market manager’ would then take on the task of overseeing the space and liaising with artists on a regular basis. 

The proposal claims that the government recognises the socio-economic and cultural value that markets have for cities, and as such is committed to this project so as to “invest in a platform that facilitates the local artistic business community’s commercial operations, in parallel with more traditional enterprises functioning from Valletta’s open-air marketplace”.

The proposal specifies that the project will provide an “opportunity to form a commercial cluster that is widely accessible on a constant basis. Available daily, the space would be utilised in the mornings by mainline commercial traders, with whom the artists would be able to interact and form a wider commercial support network that helps with their businesses”.

Taking its cue from particular markets across the world, such as Camden (London), Montemartre (Paris), La Boqueria (Barcelona), Spui (the Netherlands) and Yutuan (Shanghai), the proposal points out how such markets have in fact “attained a status that goes beyond their strictly commercial function”.  

“They have also become energetic spaces where artists showcase their creations to an enthusiastic international audience that gravitates towards these vibrant epicentres which seamlessly integrate economic and cultural activity.”

But apart from international examples, the proposal also flagged up local initiatives that can serve as an inspiration, chief among them being the bi-annual artisan fair ‘Patches’, as well as other related initiatives that are organised on a “private or ad hoc basis”, such as one-off market stalls during events like Notte Bianca and Earth Garden. 

The Valletta Artisan Market would aim to provide a more long-term, consistent manifestation of initiatives of this kind. The “first step” forward suggested by the proposal would be the publication of a competition for a holistic plan for the earmarked area. 

The competition would require, inter alia, “the preparation of an artistic design for the stalls and a vision for the ambience, together with the submission of a business roadmap aimed at the collective growth of the artistic entrepreneurial community”.  

Stalls would be provided to artists for a definite period of time following a call for applications, which would “emphasise the values of innovation, product authenticity and ethical consumption”. The proposal also specifies how a market manager would work with the artists and authorities involved to ensure the initiative was running smoothly.  

“The market manager would also ensure that the project remains economically and socially sustainable as a gathering place for both the local community and visitors alike in which commercial exchanges take place.”

The announcement that the Valletta market would be relocated between Pjazza Teatru Rjal and spill over into Republic Street was a major talking point over the past couple of months. The discussion – among both political players and the general public – sometimes took the tone of a ‘culture war’, as some lamented how the ‘tacky’ Valletta market would impinge on Renzo Piano’s designs for the capital’s entrance, while others called for a more pragmatic approach that would give the market – currently located in Merchants Street – a much-needed economic boost. 

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