The Funky Monkey Music Shack Set To Be Biggest Loser In Manoel Island Project

The future looks bleak for Manoel Island's eclectic nightclub

Untitled Design 81

Photo: The Funky Monkey 

It has become a staple of Malta’s underground live music scene since opening its doors in late 2015, but The Funky Monkey’s days look numbered after major development plans for Manoel Island took a step forward this week.

“We still don’t have all the details, but yes, the likelihood is there will no longer be any room for The Funky Monkey as luxury apartments go up on Manoel Island,” the nightclub's owner Ferry Jehle told Lovin Malta. “I had expected The Funky Monkey to be successful from the start, but I hadn't expected it to be this successful. It has become a meeting point for many people and it will be sad to see it go.”

Jehle said he intends to re-create the concept in another location but has no indication as to where that might be at this stage. 

Set up in late 2015 as per an agreement between Jehle and the Gżira boċċi club - which has for long leased these premises from the government - The Funky Monkey has become renowned for showcasing new and emerging bands and artists and for offering a nightlife environment that can be both relaxed and wild.  

Untitled Design 80

The Funky Monkey's location in the bird's eye view of the proposed Manoel Island project 

However, its days seem numbered now that development consortium MIDI has started filing applications with the Planning Authority as per a concession it had signed with the government back in 2000 that will see Manoel Island transformed into a mini-village complete with houses, shops and a family park. Fort Manoel will be converted into a cultural and art centre, the crumbling Fort Lazzaretto will be restored as a five-star hotel, the yacht marina will be significantly upgraded, and a new football pitch will be built for the local Gżira United FC. 

To keep the developers in check and ensure the public’s interests are preserved, a guardianship foundation was formed last week - composed of Gzira mayor Conrad Borg Manche, deputy mayor Ralph Mangion, environmental lawyer and activist Claire Bonello, and MIDI CEO Mark Portelli. 

The actual fate of the government-owned The Funky Monkey building post-development is not yet known, but it will no longer be required by the boċċi club, which will be given new premises right next to the new football pitch that will be built to the right of the Manoel Island yacht yard. 

A bird’s eye view of the proposed project shows that buildings will be constructed all around The Funky Monkey, including on the area that currently serves as its makeshift carpark. If The Funky Monkey does somehow manage to make the cut, parties will have to take place in the middle of a residential area instead of in an open area cut off from society, which is what gave it its charm in the first place. 

17620319 837313486409356 1498053272447636650 O

Photo: The Funky Monkey 

However, Gżira mayor Conrad Borg Manche said he would be glad to see the back of the nightclub. 

“It’s out of the way at the moment, so we don’t get many complaints from residents about it, but we do find syringes around it occasionally,” he said. “Personally, I would much rather a family park instead of it.”

MIDI is waiting for its applications to be approved by the Planning Authority before setting any development timelines, but confirmed that the first phase of the project will involve relocating the Gżira football pitch. 

21314300 924908014316569 4294380387188488257 N

Photo: The Funky Monkey 

Moviment Graffitti: ‘Manoel Island’s fate should serve as an eye-opener’

Activist group Moviment Graffitti, which had taken an active role in a ‘reclamation’ demonstration of Manoel Island two years ago, said the island’s fate should serve as an eye-opener to the dangers of privatising public land. 

“The people will not benefit from a hotel in the historical Lazzaretto hospital, nor from the building of luxury villas in an already over-commercialised area,” it said. “Unfortunately, similar privatisation processes continue unabated to this very day, with lands such as the ITS site and Żonqor recently transferred to private companies, and plans for the White Rocks to suffer the same fate. The case of Manoel Island shows that when public land is privatised, not only is it siphoned from the people and gifted to the rich, but it is also used for projects that are harmful to the surrounding communities.”

That being said, Graffitti welcomed the guardianship agreement as a positive development, one it said was only rendered possible thanks to public pressure for Manoel Island to be saved from “developers’ greed”. 

What do you make of the Manoel Island project? Let us know in the comment section 

READ NEXT: Why I Broke Into Manoel Island

Written By

Tim Diacono

Tim Diacono tends to clam up when asked to describe himself. You can contact him on [email protected]