Imagine 18 paves way for Valletta's ECoC bid

Imagine 18, a public conference and workshops on the vision of Valletta as a European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in 2018,  opened yesterday with a panel of speakers outlining the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the ECoC process.

The event, launched at the Manoel Theatre, Valletta, continued today at Verdala Palace, Rabat with public participation in eight, thematic workshops.  It has been organised by the Valletta 2018 Foundation, a new entity being set up to devise and implement the vision and strategy of the ECoC bid. 

Imagine 18 is a crucial event for arriving at a strong, unifying vision for Valletta 2018 upon which specific cultural projects for the year will be built later on.

Each year, the European Commission (EC) designates two cities European Capitals of Culture; Valletta, along with one city chosen from several competing for the title in the Netherlands, has been earmarked an ECoC in 2018. 

Since its inception in 1985, the initiative has seen most ECoCs gain long-term benefits from their term as hosts, including: economic activity related to the arts and culture, tourism, and local businesses; and a chance to regenerate cities, foster local community, give new vitality to their cultural life, and raise their international profile.  No two cities have the same vision for their bids, nor the same success in creating beneficial legacies from the year. 

At the opening of the conference, Valletta Mayor Alexiei Dingli said that Valletta 2018 was not about the city only, but about seeing a wider Malta and Gozo involved: “In these early stages of the Valletta 2018 bid, we’ve already draw in all local councils in the ECoC process. 

"We now face the challenge of ensuring everyone across the islands feels part of the initiative. Valletta will shine in 2018 and be the fulcrum of activities. However, let's not forget that this is not about Valletta only. The ECoC year has to resonate locally and internationally.  It’s our opportunity to build on our inherent cultural assets – our traditions in crafts for example – and demonstrate also that we can be a European centre for cutting edge innovation and creativity in culture and the arts.”

Christine Melia, Director at Locum Consulting, UK, which assisted the highly-regarded Liverpool 2008 ECoC, stressed that Valletta 2018 would need to strike a balance between a structure which has sufficient capacity to deliver both the city and the country-wide ambition of the ECOC while being ‘tight’ enough to communicate effectively and take appropriate and timely decisions.

“While there has been a tendency for some cities to become a model for others to follow, Valletta 2018 will not be ‘like’ Liverpool 2008, simply because the context, objectives, budgets and realities will be different. The key for Valletta 2018 will be to design a governance and management model that is bespoke for Valletta and Malta,” she said. 

Harnessing the country’s eclectic and successful cultural activities, drawing on the diversity of cultural talent already in place, and seeing how the new National Cultural Policy works in tandem with the ECoC bid would be paramount in presenting a coordinated front, said Adrian Mamo, Chairman of Malta Council for Culture & the Arts, which is a member of the Valletta 2018 Foundation. 

"Valletta 2018 will be as successful as its ability to reflect the culture, expression and aspirations of the community. It is important not only to recognise and strengthen the processes that are currently in place and that keep cultural activity alive, but also to initiate those that are necessary to fulfill the vision for Valletta 2018 and beyond".

The task facing Imagine 18 is to map the vision of Valletta 2018, seeing the bigger picture behind the bid and recognising that 2018 is an ongoing process, not a single, intense year of cultural activity. 

“Hosting the ECoC will be a tremendous opportunity, but should be seen as a station along the road towards the social, economic and physical regeneration objectives of the City and the country,”  Christine Melia said.

How will the Gateless Gate, The Roofless Theater and the Parliament on Stilts feature in this scenario?