[WATCH] Despite falling out with Mario Philip Azzopardi, Sean Buhagiar to collaborate on V18 projects

Despite resignation, former assistant artistic director Sean Buhagiar will continue “collaborating” with Valletta 2018, Chairman Jason Micallef says, while vowing to elevate carnival float-making into a bona fide national art form

Jason Micallef (centre) said the Valletta 2018 Foundation will continue collaborating with Sean Buhagiar, who resigned after a falling out with Artistic Director Mario Philip Azzopardi
Jason Micallef (centre) said the Valletta 2018 Foundation will continue collaborating with Sean Buhagiar, who resigned after a falling out with Artistic Director Mario Philip Azzopardi
V18 Chairman talks Mario Philip Azzopardi, 'elevating' Carnival • Video by Chris Mangion

Valletta 2018 Foundation Chairman Jason Micallef said that despite the falling out between the Foundation’s artistic director Mario Philip Azzopardi and assistant artistic director Sean Buhagiar – which led to Buhagiar’s resignation from the Foundation – the Foundation will largely remain unaffected.

He was speaking during a press conference on security measures and data gathered after this year’s edition of Carnival.

He added that Valletta 2018 is made up of a “fluid” team that adapts to circumstances, and that it will continue to collaborate with Sean Buhagiar in the future, and that Buhagiar’s departure will not have a negative effect on any projects currently being piloted by Mario Philip Azzopardi. He also said that next week, and important new appointment within the Foundation will be announced. 

"The person concerned will strengthen the Foundation's European dimension," Micallef told MaltaToday.

On the spat between Mario Philip Azzopardi and Sean Buhagiar, the V18 Chairman said, “It is unfortunate that a private disagreement between two individuals has led to this,” adding that he did not wish to get into details of the row between Azzopardi and Buhagiar, which made the news last week after Buhagiar resigned from two separate posts which he was engaged in with Mario Philip Azzopardi: one being his post as Azzopardi’s assistant director at the Valletta 2018 Foundation, the other being his position as a partner with Azzopardi at Stagun Teatru Malti, a Maltese-language theatre production company for which Buhagiar often served as director and producer.

Asked whether the condemnation of Azzopardi’s hot-tempered and aggressive professional behaviour, which emerged from various sources following Buhagiar’s resignation, will have any effect on Azzopardi’s current role as Valletta 2018’s artistic director, Micallef said that he had no interest in engaging with “witch-hunts and character assassinations”.

“It’s very convenient for all those who don’t agree with Mario Philip Azzopardi to come out against him now that he’s in the limelight, but by the same token, I can assure you that I’d be able to find just as many people who like him and are more than keen to work with him,” Micallef said, adding that he would only consider taking action against Azzopardi if his work as artistic director turned out not to be up to scratch.

Micallef stopped short of specifying what role Sean Buhagiar will have within the Foundation, only saying that they will continue to work with him on individual projects – among them Notte Bianca, for which Buhagiar also serves as artistic director.

During the conference, Arts Council Malta Festivals Director Annabelle Stivala Attard said that attendance to carnival increased by 30% this year, while Carnival Director Jason Busuttil praised the quality of the floats this year.

“Health and safety was also top priority, with a particular incident involving a float suddenly spouting exhaust being taken care of straight away,” Busuttil said.

Micallef added that the Valletta 2018 Foundation intends to elevate the art of float-making and other carnival activities into a bona fide national art form.

“We want to remove any stigma the carnival may have. Let me be blunt, it used to be considered a “hamallu” pursuit, but has now well and truly become a central part of Maltese culture,” Micallef said, adding that the Foundation will look into commissioning bona fide Maltese artists to work on carnival floats in the near future, and that the announced Carnival Village – set for completion in Marsa in 2018 – will also serve to fully professionalise float-making and create full-time jobs for enthusiasts. 

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