Speaking to Valletta’s people

As the consultative branch of the Valletta 2018 Foundation, the Valletta Forum has aimed to serve as a bridge between Valletta residents and the foundation, as the capital – along with the rest of Malta – gears itself up to take on the role of European Capital for Culture. Teodor Reljic speaks to the man at the helm of the Forum, Pawlu Mizzi

Photo: Jamie Vella
Photo: Jamie Vella

“Valletta residents are, in general, very proud of this title, yet they need to fully comprehend that they are, as all Maltese, the real protagonists.”

This appears to be the primary mission of Pawlu Mizzi, who is spearheading the Valletta Forum – a consultative branch of the Valletta 2018 Foundation, the entity responsible for ensuring that Malta’s cultural life is in good shape come 2018, when both Valletta and the rest of Malta will take on the title of European Capital for Culture.

The Valletta Forum is an advisory body that generates recommendations to the Valletta 2018 Foundation, on matters of social and public relevance, with particular reference to the reality of Valletta and its residents. In view of this, the Valletta Forum’s aim is to sustain a continuous and healthy stream of dialogue between the Valletta 2018 Foundation and the residents of Valletta, and those in contact with the organisations represented on the Forum.

As president of the Forum, Mizzi said that one of the main challenges at this point is to simply establish a space in which Valletta residents can both air their concerns and actively participate in the V18 project.

The Forum works hand in hand with various associations within the city of Valletta, but Mizzi is aware that reaching out to the residents who do not form part of associations will be one of the Forum’s more urgent priorities.

“During our last meeting, we decided to open up doors for a few residents who wished to contribute to the discussion along with the various associations. At this stage it became clear that one of our major concerns is that the majority of residents are not enrolled within organisations so it is of utmost importance to rethink ways of reaching the most distant resident,” Mizzi said.

He reiterated his desire to see the Forum as a “direct link” through which the Foundation is targeting the city and citizens’ dimension within its wider remit.

“This helps the city’s sustainability, as residents become an integral part of the long-term cultural, economic and social development.”

So what have been some of the residents’ most common – and most frequent – complaints ever since the Forum was first set up?

Mizzi said that some misconceptions about what the Valletta 2018 Foundation and its remit is needed to be clarified first and foremost. According to Mizzi, a large number of residents believed that V18 existed to cater to complaints residents may have about the city, or that it is simply a body which cultivates standalone artistic projects.

“With most residents and associations having to deal with various logistical inconveniences, we did have to face their reactions about this reality. We also needed and still need to convince them to believe that they can come up with collaborative ideas that can indeed take life,” Mizzi said.

As far as the immediate future is concerned, Mizzi flags up two upcoming ‘community projects’ which will aim to put the Forum’s philosophy into practice: with ‘identity’ and ‘food’ being the core themes at play.

‘Belti’ is a project the Foundation is undertaking in collaboration with St James Cavalier and St Elmo Primary School, which aims to “shed light on notions of identity among the residents of Valletta. 

“What does it mean to be defined as a person living in Valletta? How is Valletta a home rather than just a city to its residents? Within the areas of music, art and drama, the students will get to create artistic results that represent these driving concepts.”

Meanwhile, L-Ikla t-Tajba will be – as its name suggests – a cooking project which invites Valletta people to work with a professional chef, and build their own signature menu from fresh, local ingredients. The project and workshops will take place over the summer, and showcase during Notte Bianca on 4 October.

Such community projects, Mizzi said, “encourage Valletta residents to embrace the artistic in their lives, and take a central role in the European Capital of Culture project”.

Mizzi broadly defines the Valletta 2018 Foundation’s remit as having the “logistics” of the European Capital for Culture as its main priority right now – while the Forum is more actively concerned with seeking out and enabling “the human capacity of our people”.

“We need to keep discovering, fostering and highlighting the various talents that lie within our communities. And indeed there are many.”