A Creative City-State
Malta can aim at becoming a creative region, providing a juxtaposition of stimulating creative opportunities, a secure and healthy environment, a vibrant economic hub and a well connected international platform where locals and international creatives develop, produce and launch services which have regional, European and global significance.
A Creative City-State
Malta’s cultural policy reflects the country’s historical legacy to the notion of exchange and builds its international cultural ambitions on its potential to act as creative hub for the region. “The Mediterranean region has always been a meeting place for different cultures and civilisations. Be it through exchange, conflict or co-existence the history of the region is a constant reminder of the diversity that shaped and shapes its cultures. Malta’s culture, in fact, is clearly a result of all the influences the Island has been exposed to, and that the inhabitants have adopted, assimilated or adapted. This geographical positioning puts Malta in the unique position of bridging European and other Mediterranean cultures.”
This vision is also carried forward by V18, Valletta’s bid to host the European Capital of Culture in 2018. “There is one common theme that is constant throughout the history of Valletta and indeed of all Mediterranean cities, but particularly of Valletta, and it is one that poses new challenges. It is an environment of exchange. It is not a marketplace, although it has that, but it is more than that. Capitals of Culture and the Culture of ‘Capital’ (widely interpreted to include not just material but symbolic capital) are built on exchange, intensive exchange – not just of goods, but of people, ideas, resistance, acceptance, theft. We do not see exchange on its own, but as linked to environments in a dynamic process: exchange creates specific environments, but environments create specific exchanges…”
This is indeed a bold ambition that only a City-State like Malta can truly maximise and develop. Within this vision, Malta’s role is transient, a space that comfortably shifts between permanent and temporary creative activity. This is a vision that reflects the true nature of creative work and the ethos of creative people.
Creative people are in constant search for their craft that evolves through cooperation and exchange. They do so, not as representatives of their country’s traditions but as individual holders of identities and skills that are built on cultural particles that can travel, drift away from their original context and are shaped into new forms.
Exchange, collaboration and cooperation are not just intrinsic cultural values but economic drivers for small markets. The Northern European framework places our reality in perspective. Recent literature (2009) by the Nordic Council (encompassing Scandinavian and Baltic countries) notes that the ‘Nordic market’ is too small globally to function independently of external economies. Therefore, from the demand and supply side, it is better to create synergies in a Nordic market as this would stand more chance of being a cultural industries player globally. In this context, we want to consider whether Malta should adopt a similar approach and ask ourselves: ‘If the Nordic circle is small, then what about Malta? Should Malta re-envision itself and its position and build up cultural industry links with North Africa, the Middle East and the islands of the Mediterranean and exploit its geographical / political / historical / linguistic links, diverse as they are?’
This is a cultural challenge and an economic survival mechanism which needs to be addressed as we embark on the exciting journey towards V18.
Malta has successfully built, over the years, an international reputation as a hub for trade, commerce and ICT. In economic as well as in cultural and social terms, the dynamism of creative activity in Malta can be favourably and gainfully compared to that present in small hubs and cities. This is also reflected in the benchmark countries selected for comparative purposes in the Vision 2015 Report, where Luxembourg and Singapore feature as countries with comparable city-state characteristics. While Malta’s current demographic, geographic and economic structures approach those of European medium sized cities, Government’s commitment towards the creative economy is underpinned by an understanding of higher than average value-added generated by this activity.
The international perspective
On the international level, the economy of cities has come to be predominantly characterised by the service sector. As shown in surveys of European cities, in the five largest urban labour markets in the EU 27 - London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Rome, the service sector employment accounts for over 80 percent all employment. In Malta, employment in services has risen from 69 percent in 2005 to 73 percent in 2009. It is significant to note that the economic performance of cities is based on a number of benchmarks directly linked to the performance of the creative sector, namely: GDP per capita; labour productivity; employment rate; rates of long-term/youth/senior unemployed; and participation rates in higher education. The same studies have shown when it comes to the economic performance of cities in Europe, a relation between these indicators and city size no longer exists, meaning that high performance can be expected from both smaller and larger cities. The significance of this for Malta in general, and for the Creative Economy in particular, is that structural demographic and geographic limitations need not limit the sector’s growth and development, especially in view of the enabling technologies allow for active direct participation in the global area.
It is possible to integrate CCIs with the strategies promoting over-all economic development, trade and investment. The Netherlands included creative industries as one of four main areas in its Innovation Platforms while the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise highlights CCIs as a key for economic transformation. Similarly in other instances CCIs has been broadly taken on board in cultural and educational sector policies, as in Finland’s Cultural Exports Promotion Programme 2007-2011.
On the other hand, CCIs are considered to need extra attention to develop international markets, each industry having its own characteristics and processes. Tailor-made strategies and initiatives have therefore targeted the specific circumstances of creative sectors addressing their particular needs. One of the most targeted sectors is film and media, while a more recent phenomenon is the promotion of the game industry. For example France has developed an Internet game Portal, as well as an organisation for the worldwide promotion of French Cinema. Singapore demonstrates a strong inward force with its success in attracting the likes of Japanese games developer Koei Company, international film financing company RGM Holdings, and BMW Group Designworks from USA, in addition to a high number of foreign media companies setting up in the region
Design is also a targeted area with special measures for market development. In Singapore, design companies can qualify for a scheme allowing double tax deductions of expenses related to international marketing. Developing design capacity is in itself instrumental for effective market promotion of other CCIs. Other sub-sectors which generally have tailor-made policies also include Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Music and Fashion.