The aim of “democratising culture and the arts” has been declared, officially, since the year 2000, when a framework document for the establishment of the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts (MCCA) was presented to the Cabinet of Ministers. The National Cultural Policy addresses matters of social cohesion through cultural inclusion involving social, physical, intellectual and economic accessibility. In close collaboration with the National Commission for Persons with a Disability, the Malta Federation of Organisations Persons with Disability, and the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, the Policy supports initiatives that aim to overcome discrimination or exclusion and improving access for all. It also asserts the need for empowerment at all levels of the community whereby Malta’s diversity of cultural expression is rooted in community art and voluntary activity. NGOs, local councils and cultural societies are key players in the thriving cultural life of local communities. The National Cultural Policy recognises that accessing culture may often be hindered by the purchasing power of audiences. However, a large part of the public may feel excluded from certain cultural manifestations for cultural rather than economic reasons. The various agencies are therefore encouraged to create audience development programmes specifically targeting new audiences.
Two new initiatives established in 2011 affirm Malta’s commitment towards further social cohesion in culture. A small funding programme was established under the Office of the President of the Republic of Malta known as Il-Premju tal-President għall-Kreattivita`. The programme targets the development of young talent and the dissemination of arts-driven projects which engage with children and young people in the community. Its focused approach on young people and its emphasis on promoting social and community development programmes through art is a reflection of a society which rewards and fosters talent from an early age, supports the recognition of excellence in art and creativity, and ensures that opportunities for developing creativity are freely accessible to all. The awards programme focuses on the categories children, youth and communities:
- disadvantaged students in primary and secondary schools with exceptional talent. Nominations must be presented by educators in formal, informal or non-formal learning;
- young people between 17 and 25 who would like to conduct research and development in a creative project in collaboration with a cultural operator. These should be projects with professional ambitions; and
- organisations and institutions working with creators to develop projects for disadvantaged children and young people.
Another important initiative is the Ziguzajg Arts Festival for children and young people that presents a week-long festival of Maltese and International performances to children and young people. The festival organised by St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity under the auspices of the Prime Minister is now a yearly festival with the aim of presenting excellent and accessible artistic productions to young audiences.
Voluntary activity on a local level is motivated by strong cultural ownership and pride. The majority of the village halls/ theatres/ music halls are community based with 664 individuals working in these theatres on a voluntary basis (2013). There are 90 village band clubs in Malta providing ongoing musical programmes and music training in honour of the village Patron Saint. Resident and trainee band players in 2010 amounted to 4 123 – an increase of 3% when compared to 2009. Of these, 1 546 were trainee band players – 287 paying and 1 259 non- paying trainees. The share of total band club participation of the total population aged 5-84 was estimated at nearly 8%. The largest number of resident band players was recorded in the South Eastern district (21%), and was followed by Gozo and Comino and the Northern Harbour district. There was also high active participation in local community events (2010) (see also chapter 6.2 participation in community and cultural events).
Relevant culture policy actions:
- enforce measures to improve access wherever possible, in cultural sites and venues and in facilitating the provision of services for persons with a disability, in close collaboration with the National Commission for Persons with Disability;
- establish funding streams to support creativity-oriented programmes that provide opportunities for disadvantaged groups to actively contribute to the cultural life of the community;
- define a programme of initiatives to facilitate access to culture in schools, hospitals, correctional facilities, and other spaces not necessarily associated with culture;
- support the establishment of a Community Cultural Support Network, bringing together cultural entities, Local Councils, NGOs and community support agencies to facilitate capacity building, to promote creativity, social inclusion and cultural accessibility, and to maximise resources;
- conduct a review of cultural operations and events that are publicly funded, to assess existing outreach and audience development measures, and define outreach criteria for event selection or public funding; and
- prioritise the inclusion of, and relevance to, local underprivileged communities in the culture-led regeneration of urban environments.