[WATCH] Valletta residents proud of V18, but say they have been neglected

As the capital city prepares to officially take on the mantle of European Capital of Culture for 2018, MaltaToday spoke to residents who shared their enthusiasm, concerns, and reflections on V18

After all the hype, V18 is finally here. With the official opening expected this week, the capital saw the beginning of a number of new structural projects and the completion of others – most notably the Triton fountain – as well as plans for regeneration, various events and a significant amount of embellishments.

But what do Valletta residents think of all this, and how has the change affected these people in the areas they live in? MaltaToday took to the lower parts of Valletta to hear what they had to say.

One woman told us that it is a positive thing that more tourists are being attracted to the capital as a result of V18. “It didn’t affect me much personally, though I’m happy to see that the projects are finally improving the look of Valletta,” she told us.

But while general consensus was that Valletta was worthy of the title of European Culture Capital, there are parts of the city which still needed some work. A man who owns a bar in the lower part of Valletta showed us pavements and a light-post which he believes should be fixed this year. “There is a lot to be done. The public convenience in this area, which has been closed for the past 40 years, should be reopened as tourists visit often.”

The government is supposed to be making progress, the man said, but there is a need to repair and develop the area. He is optimistic, saying that developments are being done step-by-step and that he thinks they will eventually reach the lower parts of the capital. “I do feel that this area has been cut off from the rest by both administrations. Not much happens here.”

“They said that these things will be fixed in 2018. I hope that this promise is kept.”

We have been forgotten for so long… the public convenience has been closed for over 40 years - resident
We have been forgotten for so long… the public convenience has been closed for over 40 years - resident

“I think they have forgotten us for a long time,” he said, adding that he wishes the many empty flats in the area would be occupied. Another man said that V18 is an ‘honour’ for Valletta residents, and that he looks forward to when carnival rolls around. However, much like many other residents, he felt that the outskirts of the city required some attention. “[The area] needs to be repaired because it has been abandoned,” saying that the work hasn’t even started. “It is unacceptable that a city like this only has five squares. Aren’t we human beings too?”

“In the 60s and 70s, we were 23,000 voters. Nowadays, with children included, we barely make up 3,000 residents.”

I was born here and I will die here… we have a lot to benefit from - bar owner in lower Valletta
I was born here and I will die here… we have a lot to benefit from - bar owner in lower Valletta

“We don’t even have where to live. Mostly foreigners live here, while the children of locals are crying because they want to come live here,” he said, adding that the government ought to build a retirement home as soon as possible and secure residences for the younger generation. “Every building is sold to foreigners. This isn’t fair.”

But he is hopeful that V18 will change things for the better.  In fact, part of the legacy projects for V18 include a plan to build a retirement home in the lower part of Valletta. Several regeneration projects were also promised by the chairman of the V18 foundation Jason Micallef this month.

Our elderly mothers are crying for an old people’s home...  aren’t we human beings too? - resident
Our elderly mothers are crying for an old people’s home... aren’t we human beings too? - resident

“I was born here and I will die here,” another resident told us, adding that there is a lot to be proud of. “We used to be neglected, nobody used to take care of us, and we never used to see such things in Valletta.”

Despite the fact that there is more to be done, he said, he is enthusiastic as he thinks that things will improve slowly.

There are many reasons why Valletta should be the capital for culture for 2018, he told us, and in fact he thinks the city should have been nominated earlier.

But mostly, with the current projects brought on by V18, he said that the conditions for residents are finally improving. “I am happy now, and we have a lot to benefit from.”

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