Where the parties stand | Arts & Culture

With Valletta becoming Europe’s Capital for Culture in 2018, what is the vision of the three parties for culture?

With Valletta set to become one of the two European Capitals for Culture in 2018, culture is set to take a centre stage in the next five years. In fact, all three parties refer to the Valletta 2018 challenge in their manifesto.

The European Union chooses two countries for this cultural event.  For the 2018 event the EU chose Malta and a city from the Netherlands.

Malta's challenge was to ensure that Valletta fulfils the standards expected by a European cultural city. Therefore in this case, Valletta was competing against itself, rather than against other cities. But had Valletta failed in reaching the required standards, it would not have been chosen.  Debate on culture during the past five years has been characterised by debate on censorship. This came in the wake of the landmark 'Stitching' case that brought the issue to public attention, after local theatre company Unifaun Theatre attempted to stage the UK drama - penned by Anthony Nielson, and staged in Edinburgh with a '14' rating - in 2009, only to be banned by the Film and Classification Board at the time. The debate was further compounded by the obscenity court case against student editor Mark Camilleri and author Alex Vella Gera after Gera's sexually explicit short story Li Tkisser Sewwi appeared on the campus publication Ir-Realta, then edited by Camilleri and distributed at the University and Junior College. Vella Gera and Camilleri were eventually acquitted, and the decision was confirmed by the court of appeal. Pressure - in both cases - resulted in a change of law.

The long-awaited decision to strip the police of all matters related to classification of film and theatre was finally passed in its second reading in parliament in October, after broad agreement on its contents from both sides of the House. The act officialises a proposal to transfer all laws regulating the classification of film and theatre productions from the Police to the Ministry for Culture. The Censorship Board which banned the play Stitching has since been dissolved in favour of a system of self-regulation - as proposed by Minister Mario de Marco in the original draft law calling for a relaxation on censorship laws - however this particular proposal remains to be formalised. With the issue of censorship shelved, the manifestos of the parties focus on maximising Malta's cultural potential.