‘Considering Malta’s size, the volume and diversity of cultural activity is exceptional’

MaltaToday speaks to Welsh-born, Malta-based artist Laura Swale about ‘The MACC’ (The Malta Arts and Culture Club): a one-stop-shop online service that will seek to provide comprehensive information on the local cultural scene

The MACC is the brainchild of Welsh artist Laura Swale (centre)
The MACC is the brainchild of Welsh artist Laura Swale (centre)

What led to the creation of The MACC? Was there a particular informational lacuna in the Maltese cultural scene that you wanted to help address?

The lack of a centralised service that caters to the dissemination of information on the local cultural scene is pretty apparent. Today, most people plan their leisure time online because the best sites offer intuitive and user-friendly interfaces, which increasingly tailor information to personal preferences. Our team set out to design the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle and The MACC was the result; a platform designed to support, not compete with existing provision by sharing and tailoring content and inviting users to upload their own.

The MACC also puts the audience and providers together on an equal footing to improve communication and foster a better understanding of the market.

As we carried out our research, other creative industry issues came to light. Employers were telling us they struggle to recruit locally, while at the same time local professionals and practitioners seemed to be searching high and low for creative opportunities in their fields.

We decided to address this issue by creating listings dedicated to the creative industries, not only for job vacancies, but for a range of opportunities such as castings and open calls, competitions, auditions, collaborations, internships and volunteer positions.

So what The Stage does for Theatre, The MACC does for every arts category of interest.

How does The MACC differ from what is already out there – such as social media and the official channels of the main cultural institutions? What is it about The MACC that is truly unique?

Generally speaking, the websites of existing institutions and organisations serve primarily as contact and information portals for their own activities and are not interactive. Social media on the other hand does allow us to engage in discussion, but the volume of pages and groups for each special interest can be overwhelming. The MACC offers the best of both. It’s a multi-functional platform with its own newsfeed, What’s On Guide and opportunity listings. We also operate Malta’s first cultural benefits scheme, MACC With Benefits, which functions much like the popular Entertainer platform, but for the cultural sector instead, offering deals and discounts on products, services and events.

It’s useful for residents, but also for tourists, the majority of whom come to Malta for a cultural experience (58.6% according to MTA statistics) and who, until now, did not have a guide dedicated exclusively to culture with benefits attached.

But what really makes The MACC unique is the category filters for music, culture, film, comedy, theatre, art, literature and dance, which allow users to choose their favourite content in every section of The MACC and filter out the rest. The filters mean that The MACC can serve as a dedicated platform for each of the categories of interest and their respective communities.

Would you say that the Maltese cultural scene is rich and vibrant enough to justify a platform like The MACC? And if so, what do you think contributes to the many and varied cultural events and opportunities on the island?

Absolutely, and this cultural wealth is precisely why we are launching in Malta and not elsewhere. I arrived in Malta in 2016, and as an artist myself, I immediately realised how exceptional the volume and diversity of cultural activity was here, especially when you consider the size of the country.

Maybe for Maltese people it’s the norm, but for newcomers it’s a surprising and wonderful discovery.

As for the causes, I can only speculate, but Malta’s geographical location has historically been a cultural crossroads resulting in the diverse and cosmopolitan society we have today, where we share stories, experiences, history and ideas.

The international population can be transient, visitor numbers are high and residents can walk into any bar and meet people from all over the world. This can only serve as stimulating and inspirational fodder for the creative mind. Perhaps this has contributed to the dominance of the open and curious personality type I mentioned previously, which looks to cultural engagement for a sense of identity and community in a melting pot of cultures.

We also know that Malta has something of an obsession with the performing arts, with a proliferation of music, dance and stage schools across the archipelago. I heard a theory recently about a possible reason for this...

I can’t vouch for its merit, but the theory goes that when children don’t have open outdoor spaces and greenery in which to play, go camping or practise sports, they invariably end up taking part in indoor extra-curricular activities, because for parents they are practical, supervised and safe, but still encourage personal growth.

This results in creativity being nurtured in a high number of children who go on to contribute to the Maltese cultural scene.

Of course we are also still basking in the glow of Valletta, Capital of Culture 2018, and I think it’s fair to say that its impact will continue to galvanise the cultural sector and inspire us all to reach our creative potential.

We’re fortunate to be launching in such a rich and receptive cultural climate and we invite people to log in to themacc.mt to check out The MACC and join the conversation.

The MACC is run by the organisation Allura and sponsored by the Malta Tourism Authority, Grant Thornton, Hydrolectric and the Carob Tree. For more information, log on to themacc.mt