The final verdict was given during a press conference, held in St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta by a team of four international judges. The team had earlier toured the island to determine whether or not Valletta has fulfilled the necessary criteria to be conferred the title of European Capital for Culture in 2018.
Manfred Gaulhofer, President of the selection committee, said that the decision to award Valletta the title of European Capital for Culture 2018 was ‘unanimous’. As a final step towards achieving the bid, the Valletta 2018 Foundation presented the bidding document, which collated the proposed projects and the ethos behind Valletta's bid. Officially launched on September 13, the bid book - titled 'Imagine 18' - was described as ‘a culmination of what makes us Maltese’, encompassing not just the more conventional forms of art and culture like theatre, music and the visual arts but also more indigenous and communal aspects like village feasts.
The artistic programme leading up to 2018 will be spearheaded by British composer Wayne Marshall, who will be aided by seven artistic programme directors in selecting projects that will fall under the Valletta 2018 rubric and organising the artistic programme for the critical year.
Ann Branch, Head of the Culture Programme Unit at the European Commission said that apart from being an honour to the Maltese nation, the award is ‘also a European title bringing real prestige’.
First launched in 1985, the annually-appointed European Capital for Culture initiative is set up with the aim to galvanise the chosen city's cultural output, while also aiming to increase tourism for the region.
Valletta's turn as European Capital for Culture is expected to provide a boost to tourism, as well as create cultural infrastructures that could benefit local artists and cultural operators in years to come.