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The proof of the pudding

Well, all I can say is thank God it’s all over at last. The cam­paign that was unswervingly positive has prevailed big time over the campaign that was unswervingly negative, proving that, yes, as in 1987, the Maltese people have voted for change. They have voted not for any great change in policies, be they social or economic, but for a radical change in our attitude towards each other.

Negativity has been the PN’s ultimate nemesis

The Maltese, myself among them, believed in democracy in the pure sense of the word, one which was demonstrated by now Prime Minister Joseph Muscat so ably over the divorce issue when he refrained from making the Labour Party take a stand for or against it. The sagacity of that decision and others like it will in coming months will be analysed ad nauseam by the pundits of both parties, however, the divorce referendum and its result was the turning point in the fortunes of the Nationalist Party.

Nothing much changed since and the party became more defensive and more aggressive than ever despite the providential appearance, due to Dalligate, of Simon Busuttil, far too late in the day to apply the damage limitation.

The wound, as self-inflicted as Amfortas’s, was too far gone and, therefore, people like me who kept on speaking their minds became subject of calumnies and insults.

Not one detractor has ever bothered to sit round a table and attempt to discuss what I find wrong but, instead, will pontificate about how grateful I should be to have organised a baroque festival the likes of which Malta has never seen!

I did not organise the baroque festival for myself but for Malta, for you, dear reader and to attract cultural tourists over to Malta during a shoulder month, to create a baroque academy, to perform music by Maltese baroque composers, to utilise the beautiful buildings we have in Valletta, to have something appropriate and commensurate with Valletta’s intrinsic beauty when we have international occasions like the EU presidency in 2017 and the Capital of Culture in 2018.

I have the artistic directorship of the festival because I believed in it so passionately that I was ready to risk my artistic and intellectual reputation to pull it off. And pull it off I did, with lots of help from my friends; a superb team made up of staff from the ministries, the Mediterranean Conference Centre and the Manoel Theatre.

Yes, it was a success story that happened barely two months ago and which brought a plethora of tributes from the people lucky to have experienced it, including one who recommended me to receive the Order of Merit. And, yet, barely a couple of weeks later, when I dared criticise that total lack of attention given to the future of art and culture in the PN manifesto, I was torn apart and many of those same 1,100 who queued up in pouring rain to listen to the Bach Magnificat performed by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, were assiduously reading a certain poison blog with alacrity while the same correspondent who had written to award me with the Order of Merit wrote again to deplore what I said.

The most alarming thing about the PN manifesto was that it ignored all the good work that the ministry had achieved and was a cut and paste exercise from 2008.

Negativity has been the PN’s ultimate nemesis and, in art, Nemesis is depicted as a woman.

Oddly, what I did say was nothing different to what I have been saying consistently for the past four years expressing my concern about the lack of auditorium for our Philharmonic, the lack of a proper public library, the separate museums of modern and contemporary art, a versatile exhibition space and a state-of-the-art national theatre. If you read this article online you will notice towards the right a box entitled ‘related articles’ and there you will find them all dating back to 2009!

I have never changed. I have worked as deputy chairman of the Manoel Theatre and artistic director of the Manoel unstintingly to improve programmes and facilities in this beautiful gem of a theatre and, yes, I do thank the minister for giving me the chance of proving what I had preached for decades, namely that quality pays.

It was for this reason that I set up the Friends of the National Museum of Fine Arts a couple of years ago where we raised thousands of euros for frame restoration by holding dinners in the museum where the cooking and the serving, let alone the washing up, was done by us to be able to give a sizeable sum to the museum without unnecessary overheads.

Yes it’s true. I do know what I am saying where art is concerned but I do make a lousy politician and am completely at sea when it comes to manoeuvring between Scylla and Charybdis, which is what the political parties suddenly transmogrify themselves into at election times. I cannot bear it.

I am an artist at the end of the day and not a politician and if I speak about anything it will be arts related. Art transcends politics and always will. My true disenchantment with the PN or, rather, several of its key elements, because there are plenty of valid and brilliant people in the party as there are in both, came after Austin Gatt declared on TV that the people of Malta have to understand that, as we live in a democracy, what the Government says goes! This was in reply to a letter sent in by the late Prof. Peter Serracino Inglott and another 127 artists in 2009 to the Prime Minister to reconsider the roofless tragedy being planned for the former opera house site.

If that is not an eye-opener I don’t know what is! The travesty is there; half built so not all is lost.

I am confident that this new Government will reassess the infrastructural needs that Valletta and Malta require for Valletta 18 and beyond as these are vital to our cultural and intellectual growth.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

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