This month, EuroPride comes to Malta. A pan-European international LGBTIQ+ event with a Pride march at its heart, the event will cast rainbow light over Valletta.

The packed programme of 60 events from September 7-17 includes performances – including a EuroPride 2023 Official Concert headlining Christina Aguilera – and participatory events, exhibitions and debates.

There are more than 20 venues among which Pjazza San Ġorġ and Pjazza Tritoni, Spazju Kreattiv, the Manoel Theatre, the Phoenicia, the Granaries in Floriana, Esplora in Kalkara, Ħaġar Qim Temples and several other venues in Gozo. Most events are free.

A scene from the drag show <em>Queenz</em>. Photos via EuroPrideA scene from the drag show Queenz. Photos via EuroPride

“The arts programme has been curated to embody the spirit of Pride which, while first and foremost a march during which the LGBTIQ+ community and allies come together to honour and celebrate diversity within the community and achievements in equality, but also to raise awareness about issues which [people] still face within society,” explains Toni Attard, artistic director of EuroPride Valletta 2023.

“The arts programme includes art, theatre, dance and music. However, while celebrating queer culture and history with joy and colour, there’s an important element of protest too.

“In the wider region, there is still significant discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people, even within Europe, and globally, 68 countries still criminalise homosexuality. Pride is also a stark reminder that the rights we enjoy here today are not a universal guarantee for the future.”

Chucky Bartolo will be performing the drag show <em>Drag Spectacular</em> during EuroPride.Chucky Bartolo will be performing the drag show Drag Spectacular during EuroPride.

EuroPride’s arts programme aims to increase the visibility of queer arts in Malta as a form of artistic expression with its own aesthetic in diverse styles ranging from the more well-known artistic genres such as drag and pop to more experimental forms.

A large collective art exhibition, The wind blows… …waves in all directions showing at Spazju Kreattiv, draws together the widely-different experiences of 24 international artists from 11 Mediterranean countries including Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. The pieces on show include, for example, an illustration of a bodycheck undertaken by Tunisian police on a man who has been accused of being gay. While cheeky, it’s undeniably hard-hitting.

Within The wind blows… …waves in all directions, one will also find a section of the tripartite Representing Pride photography exhibition, curated by Amsterdam-based German/Maltese filmmaker Samira Damato, the main body of which will be presented large-scale in Triton Square as part of the Pride Village, a hub of activity for the whole 10 days.

Drag queen Coco Bordell&nbsp;will host an open-air evening of cabaret and clubbing.Drag queen Coco Bordell will host an open-air evening of cabaret and clubbing.

“Throughout the arts programme, there’s a common thread of personal experience” continues Attard.

“Individuals open up about their identities, fears and vulnerabilities, sharing their minds, hearts and experiences. It’s both brave and thought-provoking.”

The rights we enjoy here today are not a universal guarantee for the future

On stage, Polyester Princess, directed by Vikesh Godhwani, is an introspective show in which writer and performer Elliot Ditton takes the audience on a personal journey that’s a fairytale like no other.

Referencing Disney’s Snow White, this inventive yet poignant self-discovery is part Beyoncé concert, part puppet show, and part autobiography. While funny, it tackles with sensitivity difficult themes including living with Body Dysmorphia Disorder and the daily insecurities of gay men.

<em>The Chosen Haram</em>, an award-winning circus act from Scotland.The Chosen Haram, an award-winning circus act from Scotland.

Attard’s top picks, of which there are many, also include The Chosen Haram, an award-winning circus act from Scotland probing the conflict between sexual identity and religion. Valletta Campus Theatre will also host two dance shows: The Other Door by Moveo Dance Company choreographed by Dorian Mallia and Outcasts, a new work choreographed by Chakib Zidi.

“We’re also delighted that the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra is holding a concert with Dutch conductor Ali Groen celebrating the works of queer composers and highlighting the historical underrepresentation of minorities in classical music. It makes you wonder how Tchaikovsky would be treated if he lived in St Petersburg today. It was probably easier being openly gay in 19th-century Russia than it would be there now,” Attard muses.

“We also have a selection of films showing, drawn from 10 European countries, Canada and Ukraine: the short film Pride is not available in your region describes the life of Ukrainian queer people during the war. It brings to mind the quote ‘None of us are free until all of us are free’ – something we must all work towards as a community together with our allies.”

The circus act <em>The Chosen Harem</em> probes the conflict between sexual identity and religion.The circus act The Chosen Harem probes the conflict between sexual identity and religion.

Home-grown talent turns the spotlight on sexual identity in Malta today. In Queer Notions, queer literature, prose and poems will alternate with songs and instrumental music. Reflecting the mood of the festival in general, some acts are even a bit naughty, while others touch upon serious or sad topics.

At the Phoenicia, singer-songwriter Claire Tonna presents Body of a Thousand Hearts – a concert resplendent with resilience, courage and unwavering spirit.

“I’m also looking forward to Kor Kwir, the first community queer choir in Malta where young, old, queer and straight have come together simply for the joy of singing. Their very first concert will be held in the Pride Village,” says Attard.

EuroPride is organised by ARC (Allied Rainbow Communities) and supported by Government of Malta – Parliamentary Secretariat for Reforms and Equality. For further information onthese events and many more, including a Pride boat Parade around the Grand Harbour, visit europride2023.mt.

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