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Il-Montigate

Yey, we're discussing market stalls again

How is the monti still an issue of national fucking importance?

Is anyone even surprised by the latest-newest-new proposal of the traditional xarabank-style market stall?

I’m actually surprised it took us so long to get here. Next we'll have the Gozo General Hospital in the shape of a gbejna.

So forget all the other issues we should be discussing; let's talk about the Maltese street-hawkers. Ejja

Markets are grand. They are a common feature in several societies, found all over the world, varying in size, produce, vitality and legality.

Most have a grassroots set up, intertwined with the social fabric of the community. 

A market has the rare ability to leave its mark on a place within the community’s mind. Let's use Is-Suq tal-Belt as an example; the one we see today was built and rebuilt over a pre-existing market, except soon it will be turned into a soulless supermarket. 

Most markets are old and have been around the same location for generations.

Love it or hate it, these are some indisputable facts about the monti:

Its set up is fantastic in its adhocracy, each stall unique, born from a traditional modular system. Simple joints and brackets create endless shelving and stall combinations. It’s aesthetically beautiful in its functionality. 

On the other hand, the products sold are mainly contraband and of shit quality. During its setting up and dismantling, havoc reigns in the streets of Valletta. Worse still it leaves the surrounding environment traumatised and filthy. 

Anyone who lives anywhere near the monti knows the 6.30am cacophony of clanging metal, the honking convoy of white micro-asian vans, swearing, football comments, ruzarjus, haq allas and city gossip. If you live in the apartments right above the monti, you'd also know the smell of urine in your entrata and the sight of an obese patron trying on his new pair of UOMO underpants in a corner by your communal stairwell. 

These things don’t really bother me. People need to piss. If there aren’t toilets, fuck it, a corner will have to do. What bothers me really is what is happening now. 

For over a year now, the government, through the newly anointed deputy mexxej tal-partit Chris (il-Mannara) Cardona (also Minister of the Economy and other small things), has been toying with the livelihoods of hawkers.

(Side note: the author acknowledges that the Nazzjonalisti used the hawkers for their own ploys - but the Nazzjonalisti aren't the issue here.)

In the early days of 2015, Hon. Cardona unveiled the great Montigate fiasco, the relocation of the hawkers to Ordnance Street, 75 newly designed stalls that would inevitably spill onto Republic Street…and if you ain’t keen on the deal, then here’s €80,000 for your vote and troubles.

"Anyone who lives anywhere near the Monti, knows the 6.30am cacophony of clanging metal, the honking convoy of white micro-asian vans, swearing, football comments, ruzarjus, haq allas and city gossip."

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'Artist' impression of the xarabank stalls

Kiosk

Cartoonist impression of the saga.

Cue the public crusade (ho,ho) against the proposal. Even our garden-variety chairman Jason Micallef piped up, banding together with top pwieret (plural miksur of perit), and designers. The government that listens dropped the design. A competition was called by the ministry in collaboration with KTP (The Room of Pwieret).

Admittedly, placing the monti under Renzo Piano’s parliament would be quite the spectacle. Like that we can truly use democracy as a urinal.

The winning design was announced two months ago, but has since been axed and kept under wraps by Cardona’s ministry. Instead, they've allegedly replaced it with the new traditional bus design stall thingy. 

The Malta Independent released images of the winning design.

To be honest I may prefer what Cardona came up with. 

A design that looks like something thought up on an after-work bender at some dingy saloon. All the substances mixing, and all of a sudden a heady rush of enlightenment, and then you find the solution to life's mysteries and a great new design for a monti stall.

"Onorevoli, if you can’t get the relocation and redesign of 75 small market stalls, what the fuck is going to happen to White Rocks? Jesus knows, and he’s annoyed."

Onorevoli, if you can’t get the relocation and redesign of 75 small market stalls right, what the fuck is going to happen to White Rocks? Jesus knows, and he’s annoyed.

A solution to all your woes? I'll make a gentle suggestion.

Start by pedestrianising Valletta. This would help tremendously, especially with our cholesterol. 

Location? Ordnance Street is too small for 75+ stalls and the amenities that go with a modern-day street market. And the entrance of a capital city is no place for it. 

But didn't the government somehow manage to strongarm Renzo Piano into restarting works on the Valletta ditch, which was left as a construction site-cum-parking lot? I propose we leave it as a parking lot, people love parking lots. 

As long as you garden roof it. Integrate said garden roof with all the amenities and services the monti needs and Bob's your uncle, you have solved most servicing issues, customer foot-fall, accessibility to and from the centre through all the bastion tunnels, blah blah blah. Plus, people love car parks.

Some might say: “Ah mela, what about the architectural importance of the ditch?”... “Heritage ehhh, don’t touch!” - Well, I don’t see any Ottoman fleet on its way any time soon and the height of the ditch is militarily obsolete. The garden roof doesn’t even need to touch the bastion walls, as seen in the doodle below.

Monti In The Ditch Section Doodle Not To Scale

Why don't we do this instead?

What about the design of the stalls? What about them? Give the hawkers regulated spaces, access to electricity, water, and toilets, they will undoubtably set up a stalls that no fucking perit or designer could ever dream up with their computer renders.

With regard to what type and quality of product they sell, it could be the morning-after pill for all I care, although may be a falafel stall would be nicer among all the thongs hanging for sale.

I don’t expect my doodle to be taken seriously, especially by people I don’t know. But do think about the fact that you've just read an article about monti stalls.

Now please, can we talk about more pressing issues? Like that Britain might be chickening out of Europe? Or the biggest threat to our island: the flaccid Nationalist Party?

READ NEXT: While We're At It, Let's Just Recreate The Old Bus Terminus

Written By

Sebastian Tanti Burlo'

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