Valletta 2018 ‘lagging behind expectations’, says EU advisory panel

Preparation of Valletta 2018 “lagging behind the expectations... team should focus on regaining momentum and concretise plans for 2018”

V18 foundation chair Jason Micallef addresses the Valletta forum meeting
V18 foundation chair Jason Micallef addresses the Valletta forum meeting

The European Union panel monitoring the European Capital of Culture has said it is concerned about the status of development of the Valletta 2018 programme.

It complained that the preparation of Valletta 2018 was “lagging behind the expectations at this stage of development and that the team should focus on regaining momentum and concretise plans for 2018.”

“Clear milestones should be set for the development of the programme and these milestones should be closely monitored. A list of projects including timetable, budget, legal status, EU dimension and producing and co-producing partners, should be sent to the Commission for transmission to the panel before the end of 2015 and then regularly updated.”

In a report on a meeting with the Valletta 2018 foundation held earlier in September, the panel said that although the V18 programme should be the core of the preparatory work, it does not seem to have developed much since the last post-designation meeting.

“Moreover the European Dimension of the overall programming – in all its three facets – is under-developed. Also, the list of projects in the report seems very general.

“The foundation explains that the calendar is being plotted with a monthly big event and other projects happening during the year alongside these highlights. The panel stressed that the programme should differ from normal business not only in size and scope but also in artistic and cultural quality terms.

“This programme should also be clearly communicated to the rest of the team. The main idea of ECoC program of Valletta 2018 is not clearly perceived from the presented material. When this would be clear the communication through different tools would be easier.”

This report follows a meeting in Brussels on 15 September 2015 between Valletta, one of the two European Capitals of Culture (ECOC) in 2018, and the monitoring and advisory panel.

Valletta was formally designated for the 2018 title in May 2013.

Valletta 2018 was also told that a clear priority should be given to the development of the programme, which must be in line with the original bid-book. “The overall concept and vision of the programme should be further refined and communicated to the whole team to ensure consistency. This vision must be clearly European. Specific projects must be developed in line with this overall narrative. To do that, the programme team would need to be strengthened.”

The panel said that V18 also needed “coherence” between highlight events and the daily programme, calling for stronger links between the artistic director and the programme team

The panel welcomed the greater emphasis being placed on dealing with migration issues including the strand “Exiles and Migrants” and the information given about how the ECOC deals with minorities. “ [The panel] finds interesting the approach of including minorities in communities not directly linked to origins but more on interests, in a fluid manner, to foster integration and the intended collaboration with SOS Malta.”

The panel will visit Valletta in late 2015 or early 2016, with the aim to meet the new artistic director and to review with the artistic team the development of the programme for 2018.

Interaction with cultural stakeholders involved in the programme for an exchange of views will be of interest for the panel.

A second monitoring meeting will take place in the first semester of 2017. In its report issued after this meeting, the panel will recommend to the Commission whether or not to award the Melina Mercouri prize to Valletta. The award of the prize is not automatic. The condition for the City to be awarded the prize is that it meets specific criteria and fulfils commitments made at selection phase and implements the recommendations made by the panel in its various reports.

By contrast, Valletta 2018’s fellow European Capital for Culture in 2018, Leeuwarden, fared far better in its session with the same Advisory Panel. Despite not being as much of a tourist attraction as Valletta – with the report suggesting that this particular challenge be addressed more actively by the city in its Capital for Culture initiatives – the panel found very little to criticise in its progress towards 2018 so far, commending its sound financial plan and encouraging it to “stick to its solid monitoring and reporting arrangements”. Additionally, and unlike the case of Valletta 2018, the advisory panel did not deem it necessary to arrange a future visit to Leeuwarden to suggest the review of its artistic programme. 

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