As the sound of music fades away and the lights dim, the air clearing from the smoke of the fireworks that mark the closure of a year that imprinted Valletta’s name in bold letters on the cultural diary of Europe and beyond we can now sit back, think, and analyse the effects that V18 has had on our Capital.
What does Valletta represent? Besides being the capital city of Malta, Valletta is undoubtedly a gem. It is a rare gem that had been neglected for decades and now that it has been polished, leaves everyone breathless. Although miniscule when compared to other cities in Europe, it holds treasures that are the envy of many. Treasures that many Maltese, and even more so Valletta residents, had taken for granted, overlooked and unappreciated; that is before V18. Valletta opened its heart to those who wanted to explore, learn and be inspired by what the humble city had to offer. Valletta wore its best dress for a yearlong event, and was on display for those who wanted to see, sang for those who wanted to listen, painted for those who wanted to appreciate and discover talents that were a so far unknown. This is a dress, that will not go out of fashion a dress that will keep regenerating itself and self adjust with the times, a dress that all of us that love this city had a part in completing, a dress that was sown into perfection with the help of many.
V18 will leave a legacy, an indelible mark on the identity of our beloved capital and indeed on the whole country in a way or another. I had the pleasure of speaking with Catherine Tabone the Executive Director of the Valletta 18 Foundation, who firmly believes that in order to preserve this legacy and to ensure that Valletta keeps benefiting from this success, there are concrete plans backed by a recently published legal notice to establish the Valletta Cultural Agency. This organisation will ensure continuity, creating a comprehensive cultural plan for Valletta whilst producing an annual cultural programme for the City, this in collaboration with other Public Cultural Organizations. We have managed to transform culture into one of Malta’s strongest resources and as such it is and should always remain at the centre of Valletta’s future. Ms Tabone also spoke about the renewed pride of the people in their city and Maria, a septuagenarian with whom I spoke as well and who was born and bred in Valletta, confirmed this. Maria participated in a play called il-Hasla, where the actors were all people coming from all walks of life, all living in the city coming from different backgrounds, with different political beliefs, praying to different saints even. The only thing binding them together was the love for Valletta, none of the participants had ever acted before and for Maria this experience was life changing even at such a later stage in her life. Projects like this helped the participants express their latent love for their city, and how it brings diverse people together.
The legacy will also be visible on an infrastructural level, MUZA pioneered a new concept where it comes to community fine arts museums, easily accessible, aesthetically pleasing and a pleasure to visit by art connoisseurs and not. MUZA will evolve constantly making it the cultural and artistic heart of our Capital. V18 went beyond that though, a former rundown space has been transformed into a creative environment for artists and artisans to work in, all this to complement the restoration of historical buildings and churches. To top all this, the embellishment of Triton Square, which bar the kiosks on the sides, personally I find so beautiful, so peaceful even with the hustle and bustle of the commuters, the open space gives one a sense of freedom and anticipation as if to prepare you to the joy you will encounter as you enter the city and the beauty of all this is that you will experience this feeling even of you do so on a daily basis, Keats must have surely dreamt of it when he wrote – “A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness; but will keep a bower quiet for us, and sleep full sweet dreams, and health and quiet breathing”
Finally but surely, V18 left a positive impact on businesses, Paul a restaurateur in Merchants Street told me that not only business boomed but that the customers have come to appreciate our cuisine, our wines and traditions and are more open to try our specialities. Patrons have a myriad of eateries to choose from in the Capital, according to Paul this healthy competition makes one aspire to be the best thus focusing incessantly to better one’s product.
V18 will not just be a particular year in our annals. Hopefully it is the start of a new way of life where people will take more time to appreciate what goes on in the capital, where we come to realise that there is much more to Valletta than meets the eye, and this is a big statement to make when that that meets the eye epitomises the sublime.