Serving the wider performing arts community | Maltese Islands Festival

Ahead of the very first edition of the Maltese Islands Festival, Manager Cathy Lawlor and spokesperson Tiziana Calleja speak to MaltaToday about the debut edition of this family-friendly festival

he Maltese Islands Festival is a copetition-based performance platform for amateur performing arts practitioners and students
he Maltese Islands Festival is a copetition-based performance platform for amateur performing arts practitioners and students

How would you describe the festival in a nutshell?

Tiziana Calleja: The Maltese Islands Festival is a copetition-based performance platform for amateur performing arts practitioners and students. It is open to both adults and children across music, dance, singing and drama genres (pop/modern and classical). Individual and group applications are available. The participant performs a piece from their chosen category in front of both a public audience and an international adjudicator qualified in the respective field. Family and friends can support from the audience, and participants are encouraged to watch the rest of their category participants perform. Written, personal feedback is given for each applicant/group in an effort to provide a solid educational, quality-driven focus to the Festival. Medals and plaques will be awarded to the top performers in each category based on international standards. A supportive and encouraging atmosphere will be curated in order to promote a safe, positive space for the performer. 

How did the idea of the festival come about, and how did it develop further?

Calleja: The Festival was established to provide more performance opportunities for those training and practicing in the performing arts. Many young performers do not have solo performance experience outside of closed exams. Many adults no longer have open opportunities to perform. Many dance schools have to pay to go abroad to gain international feedback and benchmarks. We believe that a local platform is necessary and serves the wider performing arts community. 

Festival applicants are open access to all levels of ability and age; however the presence of an adjudicator ensures that quality and standards are still registered and promoted. This in turn promotes good practice, quality training and a strong educational focus. The four adjudicators will be brought from abroad, and were selected from the official register of adjudicators from the British and Internation Federation of Festivals for Music, Dance and Speech. This offers international benchmarking and unbiased perspectives from experienced practitioners. Winners will not be awarded if the standards in the category are not high enough – this is to give recognition that mastering an instrument, dance or vocal technique takes time, dedication and practice. 

What do you make of the level of cultural education and the arts scene in general in Malta? What would you change about it?

Cathy Lawlor: The number and variety of cultural opportunities available in term of training are vast and increasing – this is certainly a positive. However, performing arts teachers, schools and practitioners have a responsible to ensure high quality training is passed on. We are slowly moving forward on this with a new emphasis on obtaining recognised teacher qualifications. The University has enhanced its performing arts department with a more practical-based focus and MCAST has also launched its own performing arts course. Although a specific conservatoire/academy is still not on the cards we are moving in the right direction. I would personally like to see more investment in practical music participation in schools beyond the Christmas and prize day presentations, and a real push towards promoting Music as a subject for O-Level and A-Level in mainstream education. 

Finally, what can audiences expect from the event?

The Festival itself will be taking place throughout St James Cavalier (theatre, music room, studio and cinema) on December 2, 3, 4 as part of the Spazju Kreattiv programme and will be open for members of the public to attend with a low-cost day ticket. It promises to be lots of fun for families and friends to go along to support performers, as well as for the general public. 

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