‘The arts will take at least 2-3 years to return to pre-pandemic levels’ – Toni Attard

Last Updated on Thursday, 3 March, 2022 at 12:55 pm by Andre Camilleri

New independently-run creative incubator to launch in coming weeks

The arts sector’s recovery from the pandemic will be an arduous journey ahead, and it must continue to work together with the next government to ensure its survival, says TONI ATTARD, founder of Culture Venture and vice president of Malta’s Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA), in an interview with Dayna Camilleri Clarke.

“There’s no denying the arts were already suffering locally, pre-pandemic,” admitted Attard. “What’s paramount now is that we turn survival into growth. We have to acknowledge this sector needs to be involved hand in hand with the next government and appreciated as a strand that can help diversify Malta’s economy. To achieve this we cannot have the government competing against us but working with us. Since its foundation in 2020, MEIA has been working relentlessly to propose a definitive, significant and robust plan to reboot the creative economy to address the unprecedented disruption in Malta’s arts and entertainment sectors. We need to do this, and overcome these challenges together.”

Acknowledging the sector has been heavily hit for all involved, Attard paints a hopeful picture of the current scenario, with work picking up the pace as the live arts resume. “Although our doors are open, we must recognise there will be a gap from the time when productions were not being made. Right now, we are presenting a backlog of postponed shows and we must acknowledge audiences may no longer feel comfortable sitting in packed halls. It’s going to take some time for audiences to return to pre-pandemic levels and its economic recovery is expected to take two to three years.”

Attard also stated a cultural shift must be on the next generations to inspire them to work and create locally. “We continue to risk losing great talent to foreign countries; those in the sector need to know, together, we can create jobs. We can turn this sector into one of Malta’s best assets and I genuinely believe that. We have some very talented performers, not just those in the spotlight; but all the individuals who work behind the scenes, on sets, design and the tech side of things. We must grow and nurture our talent. We must also attract back talent we have lost.”

Attard revealed to The Malta Business Weekly that his company is launching a creative incubator to help with this endeavour. “Over the pandemic, we have been hard at work, bringing an idea to life to benefit the community by setting up an independent creative incubator. We have set up a small hub in Zurrieq to serve as a space for creative start-ups to come together, to get guidance and bring their ideas to life. We also wanted to give ourselves a home and create a space we could share with others to brainstorm ideas, design projects and connect other creative enterprises.” The space is indeed bright and welcoming.

Attard has decades of experience in the arts sector. Culture Venture was founded in 2018 initially as a one-person enterprise providing international advisory and training services for the cultural and creative sectors. Culture Venture is also a founding member of the Cultural Policy Designers Network, bringing together more than 30 independent cultural advisory companies and experts in Europe. On a local level, Culture Venture now works with various artists and arts organisations to support their funding applications, start-ups and project design. In 2020, Culture Venture became the national partner for the Creative Business Network – an international network established to organise the creative business cup across 80 countries. But, as a long-time arts producer, theatre director and occasional actor, Attard admits he couldn’t hold back from adding creative projects to Culture Venture’s portfolio. Since then, the entity has grown into a solid team along with his independent production house Udjenza, a brand that focuses exclusively on arts production.

What does the future hold for the sector? Attard is quick to reply: “We need to move fast to work on the interface between the arts and technology, here there is room for great creativity and the possibilities are truly endless.”

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