Prolonged uncertainty over the future of traditional Maltese festi due to the COVID-19 pandemic is leading some band clubs to consider whether they should close their doors for good, a representative of the sector has said.
“I’m concerned that if feast volunteers and the general public don’t see hope that feasts can take place, we’ll keep suffering,” Noel Camilleri, president of the Għaqda Każini tal-Banda, said during a recent interview on TVAM.
“Some band clubs are seriously considering calling it a day, and it would be a huge shame if even one of them closes down.”
Despite Malta having officially reached herd immunity against COVID-19 and over 90% of the adult population fully vaccinated against the virus, the health authorities are keeping feast enthusiasts in the dark as to whether their beloved festi can take place next year.
Camilleri said he’s been trying to set up a meeting with Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci for a while to discuss how feasts can return but he has “only found closed doors so far”.
“The feasts as they used to be pre-pandemic are our benchmark but let’s sit down and discuss what can and cannot take place,” he said.
“Feasts require planning, especially since they need prior fundraising. Why don’t they say that feasts can take place in a certain way with the current [COVID-19] situation and that we’ll move a step forward if the situation improves and move a step backward if the situation regresses?”
Some politicians have also started pressuring the health authorities to develop a plan for festi.
PN MP Toni Bezzina said in Parliament that an average feast requires between €30,000 and €40,000 on fireworks alone, over and above other costs such as street decorations and band-related costs.
“These funds are raised through activities that couldn’t even take place during the pandemic,” Bezzina warned. “We need to provide direction on what can happen next summer so they can start planning from now.”
PL MEP Alex Agius Saliba said the health authorities should clearer on when and how feasts can be celebrated next year.
“While I understand that this hinges on how the pandemic situation will develop, organising a feast takes a lot of preparation, money and activism and we can’t leave all the uncertainty until few weeks before the start of the feast season.”
Mqabba mayor Omar Farrugia issued an impassioned plea for a plan, warning that the country risks losing an important part of its culture unless action is taken.
“The time has come to give these volunteers a plan for how they can get the wheel turning again next year. We want them to keep dreaming about how to use their talents to carve out the Maltese identity, we want to encourage them to keep striving and to never lose heart.”
Do you think feasts should return next summer?