Maltese festa set to join UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage

Culture Minister Owen Bonnici tables UNESCO technical committee’s favourable recommendation to have the Maltese village festa recognised as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity

Parishioners in Haż-Żebbuġ admiring a display of fireworks, which are an intrinsic element of the traditional Maltese festa (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Parishioners in Haż-Żebbuġ admiring a display of fireworks, which are an intrinsic element of the traditional Maltese festa (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

The Maltese festa could make it to UNESCO’s world list of intangible cultural heritage if the international body approves a technical committee’s positive recommendation next month.

The favourable recommendation by the technical committee was tabled in parliament on Wednesday by Culture Minister Owen Bonnici during his ministry’s budget estimates debate.

Malta’s bid to enlist the traditional festa in the prestigious list received praise from the technical committee that recommended it be inscribed on the list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

The recommendation also “commends the State party for an excellent video which displays broad consent from the communities concerned” and complements Malta for “safeguarding measures that demonstrate inclusion of people with disabilities”.

A final decision on Malta’s bid will be taken during UNESCO’s conference to be held in Botswana in December.

“We trust that the recommendation, which praises the work done in preparation for the bid, should be approved without difficulty,” Bonnici said in parliament.

The minister praised the Band Clubs Association that put forward the nomination and other organisations and entities, including the Directorate for Culture, for the intensive work done to prepare the bid.

“It is good news that the Maltese festa, which is the fulcrum of celebrations in our communities and squares,  and which provides a strong cultural element, is being considered for this nomination for all its positive values and attributes,” Bonnici said.

Culture budget to increase

Culture Minister Owen Bonnici
Culture Minister Owen Bonnici

The minister said the budget for culture and the creative economy next year will increase by €20 million when compared to 2023. The funds allocated for 2024 surpass the €100 million mark.

A significant portion of the increase will go to a fund through which government buys band club premises that are at risk of eviction. This fund has a budget of €6.5 million next year.

Bonnici said the property used by the Antoine De Paule Philharmonic Society of Paola was the first band club premises to be acquired from the owners.

He added that there are five pending promise of sale agreements and talks are underway on the purchase of four other properties.

“Government negotiated a just price with the owners of these properties, which it will then rent out at a fair price to the musical societies so that government will also receive a return from its investment,” Bonnici said.

The minister also announced that the first phase of restoration at the Grand Master’s Palace in St George’s Square, Valletta will be inaugurated in the coming days.

The extensive restoration works on the palace, which used to house the parliament, are expected to have cost €30 million and are partially funded by the EU.