By Alex Vella Gregory, Freelance Musician and Teacher
So the Project Development Workshop for Band Clubs, organised by Arts Council Malta (ACM) at the Archbishop’s Seminary in Rabat earlier this month, was crucial in fostering dialogue across different sectors. The seminar was aimed specifically at band clubs looking to explore the Creative Communities Fund. Although a few band clubs have already benefitted from the fund, there are still many who have not yet approached the fund or else have done so, but been unsuccessful.
The seminar helped to bridge the gap between two very different realities; that of the band club operating at a very grassroots level and resting mostly on voluntary work, and that of artists and cultural institutions working in a predominantly professional environment. The seminar not only addressed community projects from an institutional point of view, but also gave the opportunity for the band clubs themselves to voice their concerns and pitch in their ideas.
I was invited by ACM to speak about submitting innovative projects for band clubs both in my capacity as a freelance musician who has worked with band clubs as well as someone who has been an evaluator on several funding boards. I was thus able to look at projects from both sides of the equation.
A key principle in submitting good proposals is understanding the nature of your organisation. Unlike a lot of voluntary organisations, band clubs have a long and illustrious history that has shaped their role within the community. Very often they forget that they are not just about festas or band marches, but about an important cultural landmark within their community that has the power to bring together all sorts of people. Band clubs are not accessible only to musicians, but also to a host of other individuals, whether they are carrying out an alternative cultural activity or simply for leisure.
This puts band clubs in an advantageous position when it comes to community projects, a position that perhaps they themselves often do not realise. That was in fact the starting point of my presentation: understanding the nature of band clubs and the contemporary cultural landscape in which they operate. Indeed creating a project that simply fulfils the aims of the fund would be a simplistic approach, and would yield few benefits.
The focus of the Fund is ultimately not the end product, but an inclusive process that seeks to engage as many participants as possible. Such processes open up new possibilities and foster a dialogue that can only enrich band clubs’ cultural heritage. The Creative Communities Fund is there to help finance projects but, most importantly, it is there to help organisations connect with the community. Some have already started that dialogue, and I am certain that many more will follow suit.