Street show explodes from tea room | Creative Island

Bettina Borg Cardona wanders into St John’s Street to find it transformed into a hub of colourful madness for the launch of the Creative Island website.

Music, tattoos, cupcakes – all this and more was to be had at the street party that launched Creative Island, a website helping Maltese creatives. Photo: Stephen Buhagiar.
Music, tattoos, cupcakes – all this and more was to be had at the street party that launched Creative Island, a website helping Maltese creatives. Photo: Stephen Buhagiar.

If you'd accidentally wandered into the bottom of St John's Street in Valletta without prior warning on Friday June 15, you'd have been forgiven for thinking you'd strayed into a dream - or an alternate, otherworldly version of Valletta.

The street was festooned with coloured flags and lights, 1920s flapper music played, and a few odd-looking characters milled around, offering magic potions and other treats.

But this was no dream: it was the launch party for Creative Island, an organisation set up to help artists of different kinds - 'performers, writers, filmmakers and visual artists', it says on their recently launched website - to develop their artistic talents, and aid them in finding work in their respective creative fields.

And creative, it certainly was.

Stalls lining the street outside Tal-Ingliz Tea Rooms sold handmade wares such as quirky soft toys and decorated cupcakes, and home-made pastizzi were available courtesy of the perennially popular Pastizzi Gourmet.

Patrons were even offered wearable art, with a tattooing service available for the evening (though only henna, it turned out), and hand-crafted jewellery also for sale. These stalls were a sample of the kind of products available on the Creative Island website, which includes a shop, providing local artisans with the opportunity to sell their work online.

The event also included a variety of live acts, representative of the sort of artists Creative Island supports.

Part of the organisation's aim is to create networking possibilities for artists, and their site includes a database system, through which freelance work might be found, and artists contacted.

On the night, music was provided by local bands Bark Bark Disco and Stolen Creep - both of which are steadily gaining popularity on the local indie scene - as well as by Alex Vella Gregory (performing under his stage name Cikku l-Poplu), joined by Maria Pia Meli, singing piano-accompanied songs in a vaudeville style - though with a local, humorous flavour.

Finally, there was also a performance piece by Marie Claire Camilleri, whose 'strip-tease' took the audience through a female history of the Maltese Islands, from the early-cave woman to a contemporary Maltese girl in next-to-nothing Paceville gear.

The unusual and original quality of the performances lent to the magical quality of the night, off-set by a number of smaller side-shows set up for the evening.

The afore-mentioned magic potions were a big hit, and added a fun touch, promising love, fortune and good sex to those who imbibed them, while downstairs at the tea rooms, ensconced in a tiny cave-like room, a fortune teller prophesied strange and curious events to those who crossed his palm with silver.

In the same spirit of experimentation and creativity, in the near future Creative Island is set to launch a series of performance workshops by foreign artists, aiding local performers to learn new skills and develop their talents.

These encourage exposure to a variety of disciplines - mime and physical theatre, comedy in performance, puppetry, Commedia dell'arte and stand-up comedy - which are perhaps rarer sorts of performance art on the local scene.

This should certainly provide a great opportunity for local performers, allowing new disciplines to be explored, and bringing greater diversity to our own creative island.

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