Cultural Policy to get at "soul of the people"

The National Cultural Policy – which serves as a key document towards the fine-tuning of Malta’s cultural priorities – was officially launched earlier today.

Drafted by the Culture Policy Working Group, the Policy singles out five key elements of the cultural sphere, outlining the current situation of each and proposing change in areas that are lacking.

Speaking at an information meeting on the Policy yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, the Environment and Culture Mario de Marco pointed out the importance of fostering “cultural and creative industries,” bearing in mind that cultural products make up 4% of the gross domestic product.

As outlined in a Pre-Budget document put together by the Ministry of Finance in 2008, this comes with an annual growth of almost 3% between 2001 and 2007.

‘Around 4,000 enterprises are operating in these sectors with 4% of the labour force, equivalent to 7,000 individuals, registered as professionals in the CCIs,’ the document says.

The policy will therefore serve as a yardstick to identify which sectors require the most attention, and expand on them.

Davinia Galea, a member of the working group and executive director of the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, said that the policy was done in a spirit of a “culture-led regeneration” which will seek to be sensitive towards not just the tangible products of culture but also to the “soul of the people.”

Toni Attard, a member of the creative group, said that in light of the increased awareness of culture’s direct impact on the economy, the Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, Environment and Culture is collaborating with the Finance Ministry for the very first time – in what is an unprecedented development that has elicited some “admiration” from foreign entities.

The cultural policy, according to Attard, aims to take on a long-term view. “We want to identify what can give us economic gain. The policy does not refer to cultural products that are simply ‘financially viable’, but of enduring economic value,” Attard said.  

Creative Economy Advisor Caldon Mercieca emphasised the educational initiatives of proposed by the policy, which will aim to help plug gaps in the system without, however, “creating endless courses” but instead implementing significant structural change.

This will involve alternations to the curriculum as well as the streamlining of several institutions, such as the Schools of Art, Drama and Music which have thus far only offered courses on a part-time basis.

Mercieca said that with regards to education, the impetus within the policy was guided by a drive towards “cultural literacy” in every sector.

He also mentioned concrete initiatives that are being built from scratch: such as a view towards local digital game development, and recent developments at the University of Malta – namely, the establishment of the Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences in January and the recently set up MA course in Dance within the Mediterranean Institute, which has just concluded its first academic year.

Heritage expert Reuben Grima, who also contributed to the policy, spoke of the importance of making Malta’s heritage accessible to the public at large.

“By accessible we don’t just mean on a physical level… we’re also talking about the financial aspect, and how we can improve people’s perceptions,” Grima said. He also pointed out that there is a substantial effort to incorporate marginalised communities – such as areas of the Three Cities – in an effort to foster pride and appreciation of the cultural artefacts they have at hand.  

The Policy is also important for another, more immediate reason: Valletta – and by extension Malta – is currently bidding to become European Capital of Culture 2018, and the Policy will serve as a defining document to look towards while making the necessary fine-tuning which would help Malta be up to standard.

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