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Editorial

No candle in the wind

The Maltese theatre may be dead, dying or writhing in agony, as some would argue, but there is no doubt that it has a strong will of its own which makes it rise from the dead, if that is the state one believes it to be in.

So, Sir Elton John is coming to visit us. His show's expensive seats are selling like pastizzi, and many visitors will be coming from abroad just to be able to listen to him live, and watch him from near, perhaps to touch him. It is certainly a most fulfilling moment to be so close to a world icon, and we will be privileged to have him here.

But did the authorities, or organisers, foresee what it would mean to have Elton John perform next door to the capital? Didn't they foresee that traffic would be unreasonably disrupted for several weeks, while a major traffic artery into the capital is closed for the physical stage work to be done, the show put up, the construction removed, and the debris swept away?

Parking in Floriana and on the granaries will be severely curtailed, motorised access to homes by those who are elderly will be difficult or impossible. Sarria Street is already closed, and will continue to be closed until July 11. When asked whether two weeks was not a long time for the closing of a busy road, NNG Promotions replied that "they had done their utmost to cut the time to a minimum... The original request was for the road to be closed for six weeks".

The choice of the granaries was made apparently by Elton John's people themselves, perhaps unaware of the dire consequences. They wanted a historic setting, it is understood. Historic settings in Malta are not rare. If the authorities were aware of what was intended, it was highly inconsiderate of them to allow the choice to fall on the granaries, which should have been out of bounds for the activity. If it was history that was sought, just across from the granaries is the independence arena. It is where the ceremony was held which gave Malta independence from her colonial power of 200 years. Is that not historic enough?

The independence arena is probably big enough. If they wanted something bigger, they could have gone to Ta' Qali. That, too, is historic. It had a wartime airfield, for one. Linkage with the war is not only historic, for Malta it is also heroic. Malta, it will be recalled, was awarded the George Cross for her sacrifices. It does not need much imagination to play up the history of such a place. And Sir Elton's entourage could have organised the concert in such a way that the history of the war would have had the backdrop of the historic, walled city of mediaeval Mdina and its cathedral, which look down on Ta' Qali from close by. There would have been modern and ancient history combined, in that setting.

But the authorities chose instead to bring the huge volume of traffic that is expected to oxygen-deprived Floriana, suburb of the capital, which every morning draws traffic like a magnet because the government operates from Valletta, there are government offices at Floriana, and in the capital there are also businesses and offices. For a commercial activity, thousands of motorists are being seriously, and inconsiderately, inconvenienced every morning.

The traffic snarl will be costly for the country, from the fuel being consumed as car engines are idling, and from the pollution they will be belching into the air. This is no candle in the wind, but a raging bushfire. It is a tragic farce. Long live the theatre.

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