Let’s move away from the political circus and back to real life, for a change. We have just been informed that more than half of Maltese are not interested in cultural events. Well, not unless they are being organized free of charge, anyway. In which case you can bet your last gas cylinder (in this cold, infinitely more precious than chocolate) that Mr & Mrs Borg will attend with enthusiasm and with their 2.5 brats in tow just so they can make a nuisance of themselves shouting into their phone and yelling at their 2.5 brats to “ieqaf igri ghetdtlek ghax nghezzizlek snienek“. Which is commonly translated as “quit running or I’ll bash your teeth in”, only in Maltese somehow it comes across as being more… colorfully eloquent.
Because you see, the majority of misguided souls that inhabit this island believe that that which comes free is not valuable. And so we have people approaching cultural events that come without an admission fee (exhibitions, concerts, whatever) with the same mindset as though they were going to spend an evening at the Trade Fair. To say that they ruin it for the rest of us, who are genuinely interested in whatever is going on, is an understatement. Am I suggesting that free events should be scrapped cos we are undeserving? Hells no. Would I cut off my nose to spite my face? I’m only gently suggesting that we grow up a bit.
Back to the original problem at hand: if it is not free, apparently, 52% of Maltese are just not interested. If you think that this survey is inaccurate, think again. My experience tells me that 52% is probably a modest number. I’ve seen it happen with a number of cultural festivals where attendance is so poor it discourages the organizers from having another stab at holding another event. The only exception is children’s festivals, especially when free. Parents attend in their droves in an attempt to keep the little ones amused and out of their hair for an hour or two. Which shows a degree of hope for a more cultured future generation, hopefully.
As to the rest of it, it is easy to see why many Maltese won’t bother:
Many of us still suffer from an insular mentality, scared of experiencing that with which we are not familiar. Which means that the reaction towards any given artist/musician/theatre production will be on the lines of “nah, never heard of these, it’s not my thing”. Opening our minds to new perspectives remains an alien concept.
Many of us will only agree to go to theatre if there is a promise of slapstick humour. There is a reason why productions featuring the likes of Zoo and Johnny l-Kajboj, or those based on British comedies or comic sketches, always play to a packed house. The majority still have to evolve beyond the Laurel & Hardy approach to humour. Wit? What would that be, I pray. Slapstick has a place in contemporary culture: it’s only a problem when the nation refuses to experience anything but. The survey revealed that only circa 30% of us attended theatre in the past year. What do we bet that 80% of those 30 went to watch Johnny l-Kajboj?
Many of us will always take the easy way out when it comes to entertainment. I’ve been occasionally guilty of this myself, particularly after a long day at work when a DVD and a glass of wine start looking infinitely more attractive than dressing up, driving and killing someone to steal their parking space before settling down to enjoy the event. The truth is we are lazy bastards. But I promise anyone reading this, the effort is usually worth it.
So get off those butts and join the rest of Europe, why don’t you? Or things are gonna get very awkward in 2018 when the rest of the world is wondering whether the culture in our cultural capital is limited to the buildings.