‘Capital of culture needs to have value for money’

‘Capital of culture needs to have value for money’

Video: Chris Sant Fournier

Valletta 2018 Foundation directors unanimously decided not to renew the contracts of their seven artistic programme directors, according to chairman Jason Micallef.

He said the board of governors, made up of 10 people, including previous chairman David Felice, felt that paying €16,000 a year to each artist was “not value for money”.

“We have to get value for money and that does not mean contracting individuals for thousands of euros,” Mr Micallef said.

He said the team was led by artistic director Wayne Marshall, on a €50,000 contract. However, because the international conductor was busy abroad, one of the artistic programme directors was given an extra €4,000 to act as a coordinator.

“The foundation feels Mr Marshall is a very, very good conductor but certainly not an artistic director... we have to be responsible when handling public funds,” Mr Micallef told Times of Malta.

He said there was “this perception out there” that the EU was giving Malta money to organise V-18.

The activity is so vibrant that you start asking: what is the Eurobarometer survey referring to?

“In fact, it’s not the case. The only small, ‘token’ fund the EU gives is the €1.5 million Melina Mercouri prize, which, hopefully, we’ll get in October 2017 in appreciation of our efforts,” he said.

The rest of the funds must come from the central government, he said, expressing optimism that The Big 15, the largest corporate businesses on the islands, would collaborate.

“It is the reason why the number of members on the board of governors has been upped from six to 10 to make it more representative of Maltese society and to include more businessmen,” he said.

He denied that having former chairman Mr Felice on the board gave rise to awkward dynamics.

“We are both professional people. I did not know David before but, today I consider him as one of my friends and I imagine he does too.”

He said the artistic programme directors had not been resting on their laurels for the past year.

“Let me make it clear: we will keep on working with these artists on a project basis,” Mr Micallef said. “Also, we have to give an injection to other artists who would want to take part.”

There was no cultural programme in place between now and 2018, he said. The long-term vision is to increase the V-18 human resources and to work with other cultural entities, like St James Cavalier, the MCC and the Manoel Theatre.

A forum of cultural bodies has been set up and all the chairmen meet periodically.

“We have one public fund budget and I believe in sharing the budget and resources,” he said.

He stressed that V-18 would now be involved in all cultural events “to educate people on the work of the foundation”.

He pointed out that it was no coincidence that Albert Marshall was the deputy chairman of V18, the deputy chairman of PBS and the chairman of the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts.

“You might have noticed that the cultural content of PBS is increasing.”

Yet, according to a Eurobarometer study, culture ranks low in Maltese life.

“We are discussing the survey internally,” Mr Micallef said, “but how can Maltese people not be taking part in cultural activities? We had 80,000 people in Valletta for Notte Bianca, and Żigużajg was a huge success...”

When it was pointed out that both events were free, he admitted the Maltese did have a tendency, “historically”, to like something that was free of charge.

He also mentioned Earth Garden, which he said was a huge success, the Salesian Oratory in Sliema, bursting with cultural activities, and the popular Gozo theatres.

“The activity is so vibrant that you start asking yourself: what is the Eurobarometer survey referring to?”

There was no denying that the survey was correct on the fact that most Maltese were not readers, Mr Micallef said. In his role as chairman of One Productions Ltd – his full time job – he said he would insist on more programmes urging people to read.

Culture Quiz

• Book he’s reading now: Alex Ferguson, My Autobiography.

• Last play he’s seen: “(Long pause)... I watched it at the Oratorju tal-Mosta but I don’t remember the name of the play.”

• Last museum he visited: St John’s Co-Cathedral Museum.

• Culture credentials: “I worked as a producer with PBS for 16 years on programmes like Natura Ambjent, Djar u Ideat and other productions like Kif Għadda ż-Żmien, which required a lot of historical research, particularly on Valletta.”

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