Why we are turning into a bunch of uncultured dullards

meme about maltese lack of love for cultural eventsLet’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.



  1. Andre Delicata says:

    Hear hear Ramona. As somebody for whom culture is not only important, but a way of life, I simply cannot understand how people fail to recognise its validity. The following song is a good example of the feel-good factor which cultural events can give you. I’m listening to it quite a lot lately because it simply puts me in a great mood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlooPiwGdO4&feature=share

  2. Ros says:

    One issue that was not tackled in that survey is the lack of awareness that there tends to be on what’s going on,when and where.Nowadays it seems that unless you receive a Facebook Event Invite, there is no other way to find out what’s happening.

    In summer,they usually send out brochures through the mail promoting events such as the Malta Jazz Festival, Marsovin Wine Fest, The Beer Fest etc etc. I reckon there should be more effective advertisement of events- not limiting the ads to a flyer or two…. or to a billboard placed just outside the locality where the event is being held.

    Living in a technology-based world, perhaps the organisers of whatever event is happening should aim to make better use of the internet to raise more awareness re: their events.

  3. Patrick Galea says:

    What this article boils down to is that a lot of Maltese people do not have a middle-class worldview and middle-class tastes. Personally I don’t think that’s a revelation. But I am somewhat uncomfortable with the biases involved. It’s understandable, mind you. In general everybody, including me, thinks that their own tastes are objectively ‘better’ than those of others and that their preferences and cultural dispositions should be endorsed by all of society, but in reality tastes are just an indication of the cultural background of that person. One just doesn’t wake up and decide to go to the theatre. There are various issues in between a person leaving their home and going to the theatre. Issues like educational level, cultural capital, networks etc.

    Then there is the question of what does one understand by the term “cultural events”. Are rock concerts cultural events? I think so. Did the people who participated in the survey think so? I don’t know. To be honest, I haven’t looked at the wording of the survey. Are DJ parties cultural events? What definition of culture are we adopting here? Is it high-brow, street, pop, youth etc. etc. So I’m not sure what weight I would give the results. I’m not the type to accept statistics at face value.

    At the end of the day, I know this was just a blog post not an academic journal, so I’ll give the benefit of the doubt. I just commented because it doesn’t cost a dime. And I like free events. : )

  4. jean says:

    I cant agree with you enough Ramona. I think another problem also might be that a few that will be willing to attend , don’t , because their friends prefer going to other (obvious) places.

  5. Maybe this is true, but what are we doing about it,,,,,,,,,, NOTHING.

  6. Claudio Carta says:

    I have to say that I totally agree with this article. Every time I go to the theatre I keep recognising the same faces among the audience. That means that people are enjoying what one is doing and they keep coming back however I believe that as artists we need to target more to what the people crave for. Why is this Johnny Kawboy selling out all the shows? Because it’s what they want. I do not mean to do only satirical comedies but we maybe they want more shows on current affairs and our history, maybe they want more mind blowing dance shows, or concerts.

    In the long run everyone is trying to improve this indirectly but we might be taking the wrong approach

  7. I am mainly interested in literature, so nobody notices my interest in culture because I enjoy it either at home or alone on the beach, maybe sometimes in connection with a cigar.