Published on Monday 28 February 2022

As Head of Funding at Arts Council Malta, Rita Falzon is currently responsible for the overall management of the Council’s funding portfolio. As part of the Funding and Strategy Directorate, among numerous other tasks she coordinates the yearly planner, the evaluation processes and the monitoring of projects. She also updates and publishes guidelines and application forms related to the various schemes and calls on a regular basis. She also manages and oversees the funding processes. She talks to Kevin Saliba about her passion for languages, the ubiquitous importance of innovation and creativity and the virtues of pragmatism.

Rita Falzon is a language person. Being one myself, the prospect of exchanging a few words with language people often fills me with some suspense and lots of questions. Why some people tend to pick languages? Why anyone these days – in such a world arguably dominated by visuals – would opt to stick to them? What are their favourite languages and why? “Like most children of my generation I grew up watching Italian television. Paolo Bonolis’ Bim Bum Bam, Ciao Ciao and the like. Nonetheless, in secondary school I put italian on the backburner and choose French and then Spanish. Eventually I went on to specialize in the latter at the college and later in other schools,” she explained. I raised my eyebrows right away, as any (would-be) Boulevard Saint-Germain faithful would do. Maudits Français! as they say in Quebec. Still, why would anyone choose Spanish over French, I wonder. “Fácil!” she retorts. “To my mind it’s a common-sense option: Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world, and I wanted to be able to communicate with largest number of people possible. I just felt I should heed the Pragmatists. It paid off a few years down the road, especially when I broke into the tourism industry. I am a tourist guide by profession as well,” Falzon revealed.

Falzon’s professional interest in the holiday business earned her a Tourist Guide Certificate and License from the Institute of Tourism Studies and a first class Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Malta’s Institute of Tourism, Travel and Culture. All this while brushing up her Italian at advanced level as an autodidact. After a number of years working in the tourism sector, she moved on to greener pastures with yet another pragmatic choice. “I wanted to further my education by doing a Masters degree, but back then most post-graduate programmes available were very far from my interests. In the end I enrolled for an MA in Creativity and Innovation at the Edward de Bono Institute for the Design and Development of Thinking. Let's face it, creativity and innovation have become incredibly important skills in all trades nowadays, regardless of one’s field,” she pointed out.

Especially in arts and cultural management, one would think. As Head of Funding at Arts Council Malta, Rita Falzon currently acts as general coordinator for the funding and investment portfolio of the Council to ensure efficient, effective and transparent fund management, evaluation, monitoring and reporting. This entails coordinating the funding team and overseeing the funding processes while consulting with the Director Funding and Strategy and respective Executives. Among her tasks, she updates and publishes guidelines and application forms related to the different funds on a regular basis. She also establishes and oversees a comprehensive yearly planner for all funding programmes with clearly defined frameworks and dates for programme launches, application deadlines, screening, evaluations, pitching sessions, publication of results and reporting dates. On the monetary front, Falzon oversees the funding processes ensuring the proper distribution of funds. Furthermore, she monitors the funded projects awarded to beneficiaries who have been allocated funds to ensure that the projects are being implemented as per agreement between the Council and the beneficiaries while coordinating the monitoring support, reviewing and sharing regular reports about the funds distributed with the associates. She also oversees communication processes related to the various ACM's schemes and calls and discusses effective ways of executing the funds communications plans, the information sessions and the comprehensive support services to the prospective applicants. Finally, she communicates with various stakeholders on issues related to the Council’s funding portfolio. Whoof! Another long list of tasks indeed. I’ve yet to meet a Funding and Strategy Directorate team member who is not a busy bee...

As soon as our time ran out my mind was filled with more to think about, especially apropos this insoluble dogmatic/practical dichotomy that has plagued me for years. Obviously, no contradiction has been resolved and I won’t be taking Spanish evening classes anytime soon. Nonetheless, by the time Falzon disappeared into the ether I became perhaps a little wiser, a little more discerning. Chapeau!