Herrera says arts fund should have 'populist' element

In praising the work done by the Malta Arts Fund, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture Jose Herrera said it is to be supplemented by a fund for more 'populist' events.

Parliamentary secretary José Herrera
Parliamentary secretary José Herrera

In a press conference, Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government and Culture Jose Herrera said that the Malta Arts Fund would be branching out in order to accommodate more cultural events. “We are also considering a fund for more populist cultural activities,” he said.

Herrera was referring to a fund announced within this year's budget. With an allocated budget of €150,000, the fund will seek to support projects which, according to Herrera, go beyond the remit of the Malta Arts Fund, like band clubs.

"The Malta Arts Fund is there to ensure that projects of a high standard continue to enjoy governmental support, as they should. But I believe that we should branch out to other areas of culture too."

With a continued focus on quality, Herrera emphasized the empowerment of artists, not just the financial support of projects. He reiterated the importance of transparency in the process of awarding funds, saying that objective evaluation remains crucial.

Comic book artist Audrienne Degiorgio, one of the creators behind the Pilot comic anthology, spoke about how the Malta Arts Fund’s Mobility Fund helped them to develop their project. Travelling to the UK has helped the team to get a clearer picture of how the industry works.

Local director Mario Philip Azzopardi has been awarded a grant from the Malta Arts Fund in order to develop a new play.

The decision follows the success of the first two projects that the MAF supported. The first was to set up an organization within which plays could be workshopped. Indemonjati u Maltin Ohra and In-Nisa Maltin Jafu Kif were well met by audiences.

“These are plays for the Maltese only. We don’t want to export them or translate them,” he said. “And we discovered that there is a need for Maltese theatre. Thanks to the Arts Fund, we could bring this to life.”

The second project resulted in the now-famous Jiena Nhobb Inti Thobb, which broke all records and is set to be staged again in May.

This grant will help with the development of Cittadin Vassalli, while the Manoel Theatre and Azzopardi himself will shoulder the production expenses. 

Immanuel Mifsud spoke about how the Malta Arts Fund's Spreading Words initiative helped him to secure a Slovenian translation of one of his works. "Spreading Words is incredibly important for writers because even though we were making international contacts, we couldn't keep foreigners interested because translations weren’t available."

Mifsud expressed confidence in the quality of contemporary Maltese literature, but said that the logistical hurdle of translation needed to be overcome.

Concluding the meeting, Malta Council for Culture and the Arts Chairman Albert Marshall praised the work done by the Malta Arts Fund so far, and made an appeal to artists to be more understanding when their projects do not end up being funded.

"Certain artists have even been known to complain to politicians when they aren't funded. Not only is this very immature behaviour, it also flies in the face of the arms length principle that the Council employs in relation to government," Marshall said.

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