Saving our band clubs

Altogether, the government's expenditure to secure the ownership of 12 band clubs will reach €19 million.

Updated: The Ministry for National Heritage, Arts and Local Government has announced that it has concluded the purchase of the headquarters of the Maria Regina Marsa Musical Society A.D.1977.

The Journal has learnt that the government is set to rescue another band club from the brink of eviction.

Just last week, the San Gejtanu band club in Ħamrun was the most recent beneficiary of government intervention, with a €2.8 million agreement reached to purchase the premises the club had been leasing. This follows three other transactions that were completed in the previous month, including the acquisition of the Duke of Connaught’s Own Band Club in Birkirkara, which alone amounted to €4.5 million. Altogether, the government’s expenditure to secure the ownership of 12 band clubs will reach €19 million.

By means of this action, the government is actively engaged in a mission to safeguard cultural and national heritage by taking steps to acquire premises occupied by band clubs, which currently face the threat of eviction due to uncertain property titles. This initiative is governed by legislation specifically designed to regulate such properties, with significant amendments introduced in 2009 and 2018.

The two phases explained

The strategy unfolds in two primary phases: the first involves the identification of at-risk properties and the appointment of architects to evaluate their worth. A specialized negotiating team, consisting of professionals, has been assembled to facilitate the acquisition process within predefined parameters.

The second phase is dedicated to formulating a practical approach that ensures the completion of promise of sale agreements and the finalisation of contracts, all with the aim of preserving Maltese cultural traditions and facilitating social activities. Upon acquisition, the Malta Arts Council will assume ownership of these properties, guaranteeing that they are subsequently leased back to the band clubs. This arrangement also includes an option for band clubs to repurchase their premises during the lease term at a set price, provided that the terms are both coordinated and viable.

Was there any other way?

Hardly. The Government had to intervene in a direct response to the recognition of the deep cultural and social dilemma posed by the potential eviction of band clubs, which play a pivotal role in local traditions, including the celebration of the Maltese festa, now recognized as an intangible UNESCO World Heritage.

The government is responsible to intervene and secure these heritage sites, because it is committed to promote community interaction, cultural development, and social involvement. More than just preserving buildings, this initiative seeks to protect the heritage and social fabric that these structures support.

It all started four years ago

The foundation of this initiative was laid in late January 2020, when the importance of securing the future of band club premises was recognized by Dr José Herrera and Minister Owen Bonnici. The government’s investment in this project not only underscores its commitment to conserving architectural integrity and heritage sites but also aims at enhancing tourist appeal, stimulating economic revitalisation, and improving community well-being.

By adopting a fair and equitable approach to negotiations and prioritizing cultural significance alongside economic interests, the government aims to resolve long-standing disputes harmoniously, ensuring that these heritage buildings continue to enrich communities and foster a sense of identity and belonging. This initiative reflects the government’s dedication to fulfilling its manifesto pledge and demonstrates a profound commitment to protecting community heritage, thus promoting social cohesion and continuity.

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