Published on Friday 12 October 2018

A new cultural policy will provide a coherent government-wide policy for culture which reflects the changing artistic scenario while also taking a more participatory and evidence-based approach

The status of the artist as a professional, the centrality of arts education and the need for internationalisation are some of the key issues raised during meetings held with stakeholders to help shape the new cultural policy.

The policy will set out to lay the foundations for all initiatives, strategies and decisions in the cultural and creative sectors within the public sphere in Malta between 2020 and 2025. Its beliefs will provide the basis for other documents, such as Arts Council Malta’s strategy for 2020-2025 as well as other public cultural organisations’ strategy documents.

Published in 2011, the previous cultural policy set out as its central vision the transformation of cultural and creative activity into the most dynamic facet of Malta's socio-economic life in the 21st century. To it can be traced back the roots of the creative economy strategy launched in 2012, the Cultural Participation Survey published in 2012, Valletta’s bid for the European Capital of Culture as well as the restructuring of Arts Council Malta.

Almost a decade later, the cultural sector has been transformed. New public cultural organisations have been set up, Malta has returned to the Venice Biennale after an absence of 17 years, new funding programmes have been designed and investment in the cultural sector has increased steadily. Valletta becoming European Capital of Culture throughout this year is only the climax of the momentum that has been generated in recent years.

The need was felt for a policy document which would encompass this new scenario while also taking into account recent developments in the creation of policy documents. So while the first document focused on laying out the broad values, this one will aim to draw from the lessons learnt in the past few years and to take into account the greater body of research that has been accumulated since the publication of the first policy.

For the first time in fact, the working group tasked with the drafting of the policy includes cultural policy researchers that will provide a much-needed evidence-based approach. It is also made up of government officials as well as representatives from heritage, band clubs, media, youth studies and education, the arts sector and local communities, aiming for as broad a representation as possible.

The new policy will also in fact aim to give people a greater say, through a participatory model of decision-making, allowing the general public to provide insights and ideas. This was done through a series of 10 themed meetings held earlier this year as well as through an online survey to be completed by members of the public.

The result, as least so far, has been a bringing to the fore of aspects of themes which previously tended to be glossed over in favour of the broader principles at work. So, apart from key themes in the arts, the new document also encompasses other aspects such as digitalisation, well-being and the environment.

Arts education and the key role played by the arts in a holistic education was one of the themes discussed in the meetings. The cultural policy has to support the framework for formal, informal and non-formal learning in arts, media and culture, including measures that support both learners and trainers.

Cultural Heritage and sustainable development were also discussed. The rapid transformation of the Maltese landscape has brought about numerous challenges for the preservation and management of cultural heritage. This has to be safeguarded, protected and promoted. We need to ask ourselves whether governance structures in this sector need to be further strengthened or developed.

The meetings also discussed cultural communities, taking into account the role of NGOs, volunteers and traditional practice. What is the role of cultural policy in encouraging different cultural NGOs and cultural communities to develop further their capacity to contribute to local, social and cultural wellbeing?  How can traditional and new cultural communities be empowered to act as important partners in cultural development?

It also included an emphasis on international cultural cooperation: how, for instance, can cultural policy encourage further mobility of artists and facilitate the mobility of works of art?

Young people and their practice and participation were also addressed, particularly ways for ensuring access for all youth as well as to obtain knowledge on their priorities in cultural practice and participation. Artistic practice by young people and cultural participation by youths are recognised as cultural rights in an equitable culture that provides for active citizenship, critical thinking and empowerment. The policy will look into bringing a long-term synergy between cultural policy, youth organisations and youth workers.

Diversity and social inclusion was another topic discussed during the meetings. How do we ensure that people from diverse communities and all walks of life become active participants in culture and the arts? A new policy should ensure that people from diverse communities and all walks of life become active participants in culture and the arts.  Doors need to be open for different minority groups for their active participation.

This time round, a greater emphasis was placed on regional cultural development in Malta and Gozo as a key theme in the policy. In recent years, regions and local councils have become active players in regional cultural development. From numerous yearly festivals to ongoing initiatives for communities, local government has become an important stakeholder in culture and the arts. In order to be sustainable, new frameworks may be proposed that support stronger collaborations in cultural planning by regions and local councils in Malta and Gozo.

The policy will also include a focus on innovation in Cultural and Creative Practices. Malta’s creative economy is driven by thousands of cultural and creative practitioners who through their skill, talent and entrepreneurial drive are shaping the growth of the sector.  The policy has to recommend tools to sustain this growth, leverage access to finance, support new business models and facilitate inter-industry cooperation.

The Professional Status of the Cultural and Creative Workers was also discussed. The majority of professionals in the cultural and creative sectors operate through small enterprises, often in an individual capacity as a freelancer, shifting between numerous projects, different roles and different sectors. There any specific challenges that are limiting the professionalisation of the cultural and creative workers which need to be addressed and the cultural policy can serve as an instrument to address the status of the artist and cultural professionals to achieve sustainable activity that produces the highest levels of quality.  

You too can contribute to the new cultural policy by taking the online survey