Giving band clubs the security they need | Alex Muscat

We are fortunate that the money will come from those who invest in Malta through foreign direct investment initiatives

For too long many band clubs have been in a precarious position, not knowing how long they could remain in their premises, always living with the fear of eviction. The latest initiative from the National Development Social Fund will give them peace of mind. The Fund intends to negotiate with private property owners in order to acquire the premises that band clubs call home. Once acquired, they will be transferred to the respective band clubs under a new title of long lease.

The owners will not lose out. Independent evaluators will ensure they get a fair price. And there will be no burden placed on taxpayers. We are fortunate that the money will come from those who invest in Malta through foreign direct investment initiatives.

What this initiative does is recognise the supreme importance of band clubs within Maltese culture. It pays homage to their role in the past and secures their future for generations to come. It’s an investment in communities across our islands.

Figures from 2017 show band clubs had a total membership of almost 30,000. On top of that, thousands more participate in their organised activities.  A study at that time found that nearly 52% of Maltese saw local band clubs as relevant to society and acting as a source of cultural identity. Band clubs introduce youngsters to the joy of playing a music instrument and, let’s face it, what would any festa be without the local band club marching through the streets, providing nightly entertainment?

Some band clubs will not need to avail of this initiative because they already own their premises. But they will remain in a superior ownership position because the clubs being granted a long lease are escaping the threat of eviction, not being gifted an asset.

This is another example of how it is possible to find a solution to an age-old problem, just as the Government came up with a way to deal with pre-1995 leases, allowing landlords to charge a market rent but without putting extra burdens on families living in such properties.

It was only right that we recognised the serious worries that had been plaguing band clubs while making sure that private property owners were not short changed. It also gives us a chance to pause and appreciate something that is truly part of Maltese culture and be thankful for the contribution made by our newest citizens to keeping our heritage alive.

We have missed our village feast celebrations during Covid but things will return to normal eventually, and we can be sure that band clubs will be there to play their part for many years to come.