Elbowed out by Cirque du Soleil, Book Festival now moves to MFCC in Ta’ Qali

National Book Council loses November slot at Republic Hall and accuses government of sponsoring Canadian dance spectacular at the expense of Maltese publishing industry

The Malta Tourism Authority’s booking for the Cirque du Soleil has ended the Malta Book Festival’s tenure at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, with the National Book Council announcing the Malta Fairs & Conventions Centre as its new venue for the festival.

The festival will be held between 3-7 November.

The MCC’s Republic Hall, long the site of the Malta Book Festival during its traditional month of November, was not made available to it in 2020 due to the MTA’s booking the Canadian dance spectacular. But when the company was forced into bankruptcy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hall was freed up again.

In 2021 however, MTA pre-booked the site for the revamped Cirque.

“We could not accept downsizing, particularly so when social distancing is and will be of the utmost importance for the months to come, especially during school visits and theatre shows,” the National Book Council said of the alternative offered by the MCC.

“Reducing the venue’s area coupled with the possible limitations to the number of people allowed per square metre – at a time where uncertainty still reigns as to what the authorities’ regulations for holding events at public spaces will be next November – left us little choice. We simply could not hold the Malta Book Festival under the conditions imposed by MCC, who maintain that the MTA’s pre-booking to host the Cirque du Soleil was still valid for 2021.”

The National Book Council criticised the government’s insistence on subsiding the Canadian dance spectacular at the expense of the Maltese publishing industry.

“This contradicts MTA's own policy, which should supposedly be geared towards promoting the local product. MTA's event sponsorship of the Cirque du Soleil has dealt a tangible and material blow to the finances and revenues of the book industry and we have no choice but initiate a legal action. We believe a national government should support its local arts industries and serve as a patron instead of undermine it by funding third-party events that are direct competitors – in this specific instance in terms of access to public resources,” the Council said.”