27th February 2010

Dr Petra Bianchi, newly elected executive president of Din l-Art Helwa in her address to members at the Annual General Meeting of the heritage organisation held in Valletta on Saturday 27th February 2010, urged the authorities to protect the environment and its dwindling resources. “Our environment is in shambles” said Dr Bianchi, while welcoming Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco’s commitment to draft an environmental policy and strategy for the country.

She said, “The countryside is scarred with development everywhere and enforcement on illegal buildings is wholly inadequate. Little progress has been made with alternative energy or the control of emissions. Our coastline and marine environment are under huge pressure, and our water resources are endangered. Important historic sites such as Fort St Angelo and Fort St Elmo are crumbling to pieces.”

During the meeting the heritage NGO approved four resolutions all of which brought home forcibly the urgent need to conserve Malta’s principal natural resources – its water, limestone and endangered fish stocks, as well as to protect its air quality.

Turning to the designs for the entrance to Valletta, Dr Bianchi said that while it was inevitable that aspects of this project would not be met with consensus, Din l-Art Helwa believes that its overall impact will greatly benefit our capital city. She stated that, “Din l-Art Helwa backs the implementation of these imaginative designs, which we regard as a major step forward in the ongoing rehabilitation of Valletta. Din l-Art Helwa believes that this is a project of an exceptionally high standard and that the time has finally come for the entrance to Valletta to receive the attention and the expenditure that it deserves.”

On the opera house ruins, she stated that both an outdoor and an indoor theatre on the site would be acceptable on heritage grounds, however Din l-Art Helwa “favours one holistic vision for the entrance to Valletta following contemporary designs of the highest standard.” Dr Bianchi pointed out that, “in the past various designs were put forward for a new roofed theatre on that site, yet none of the designs were ever accepted and at times they engendered as much controversy as we are witnessing today about the proposed outdoor theatre. The Prime Minister has stated that he is still open to ideas from theatre practitioners for this site, and we await the outcome with interest. However a decision must be taken and Valletta must be allowed to move on.”

Din l-Art Helwa was pleased to note that the designs would now also extend to the bus terminus and the façade of the residential block at city gate.

This year Din l-Art Helwa spent another €100,000 on its restoration programmes, mainly on St Anthony’s Battery in Qala, Gozo, the Delimara Lighthouse and works at the organisation’s premises in Valletta. It also continued its work on the Red Tower in Mellieha, the altar piece at the chapel of Bir Miftuh, and on several landmarks and statues around the island. Din l-Art Helwa has spent €700,000 on restoration in the last seven years.

The creation of a new Corporate Members scheme, the updating of the DLH web site to include payment facilities online for subscriptions and memberships, the creation of the Heritage Saved Limited Edition prints by Kenneth Zammit Tabona, and the concerts at Bir Miftuh were just a few of the fund-raising initiatives undertaken by the heritage organisation and its volunteers to raise important funds that enable Din l-Art Helwa to continue with its work.

Ian Camilleri has been appointed as secretary general of Din l-Art Helwa taking over from Edward Xuereb, while Simone Mizzi will be vice-president. Martin Scicluna remains vice-president.

Dr Bianchi, who is 42 years old, was director of Din l-Art Helwa from 2006-2008 and vice-president in 2009. She holds a B.A. (Hons), and M.A. from the University of Malta, and a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford. She takes over as executive president from Martin Galea who steps down after his period of office.