The chairman of the National Book Council is appealing to authorities to intervene to ensure the full unrestricted use of premises traditionally used for the Malta Book Festival after news emerged that part of the building would be reserved for use by Cirque du Soleil.

The Malta Book Festival’s yearly appointment at the Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC) is in jeopardy as the Cirque du Soleil has booked its November dates, prompting a call by the National Book Council for political intervention to ensure the beloved festival can continue as it has for the last 30 years.

Taking to Facebook, the National Book Council’s (NBC) chairman Mark Camilleri called for Prime Minister Robert Abela to support Maltese small businesses in the culture industry by intervening in the matter.

It is ridiculous that the NBC and the book industry have to compete for public space at MCC with foreign artists funded…

Posted by Mark Camilleri on Wednesday, 20 January 2021

“It is ridiculous that the NBC and the book industry have to compete for public space at MCC with foreign artists funded by our own Government,” Mr Camilleri said. “Government should put its money where its mouth is and look at the interests of small businesses.”

Mr Camilleri continued, “Robert Abela we are asking for your intervention to support Maltese small businesses of the culture industry to address the bizarre and also illegal situation government bureaucrats have created by funding a show of foreign artists with public funds which is competing with Maltese businesses.”

Mr Camilleri referred to Dr Abela’s outspoken support for the restaurant and catering industry, which was badly hit by the pandemic.

“We need your back now. Come on and step up. We don’t need to fight our struggles alone, we are also part of the economy and an integral part of society. The book industry deserves your support too.”

Concluding, he asked, “Did you know that we write and publish the books your daughter is using for her education?”

In comments made to this newsroom, Mr Camilleri insisted that the Prime Minister should intervene to ensure that the Malta Book Festival has full access to the MCC, pointing out that the Council has been “the most consistent and loyal client” of the conference hall, holding its annual book festival there for 30 years.

He also drew attention to the fact that the NBC was one of the only customers who kept their bookings last year as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the events industry.

He also expressed his disappointment that the Malta Tourism Authority’s backing of the theatrical spectacular meant that the Government was effectively competing with the Book Council.

“The MTA should not be competing with us over use of the MCC,” he said.

Turning to the relevance of the hall in question, Republic Hall, Mr Camilleri explained it is used to host the large shows for school children in the morning and the major weekend events.

“When we used Republic Hall for the first time the festival was much more successful,” he said, “because we could invite many more people to the festival in terms of capacity.”

“Reducing our use of MCC would significantly reduce the number of people attending the book festival, and that ultimately means less sales for us.”

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