For their 10th anniversary ŻiguŻajg will be going online and bringing theatre to homes everywhere for this historic pandemic-friendly edition. Festival director Marta Vella shares her thoughts on launching her first-ever festival during a global pandemic.

The ŻiguŻajg festival launched last Friday. Describe your feelings now that all this work is out there for public enjoyment.

I am beyond proud of the programme that we have put together. ŻiguŻajg’s 10-year anniversary is a big undertaking for any festival director that’s new to the role – and that’s without even mentioning the pandemic. 2020 has thrown so many curveballs our way and to have put together a diverse, dynamic and accessible programme is incredible. This has been possible through the efforts of a huge team of people and I am so grateful to each and every one of them.

Film and theatre are two very different things. How did you go about managing a virtual festival of this magnitude?

It was a great challenge. Eight months into the pandemic we knew that a show put together on Zoom wouldn’t make the cut. We had enough time to plan accordingly and not scramble things together. Some of the shows were filmed in-house. For those that we managed directly we ordered specific equipment to support the exigencies of each respective production. For instance we have ordered a 40-metre green screen and green dance carpet flooring from the UK for specific shows. Consequently we now own the biggest green screen on the island.

We also turned Valletta Campus Theatre into a studio for two weeks in September and filmed a series of shows back to back. The execution of other shows was managed independently by their respective creatives because people within those teams had ample film production experience themselves.

We had to rethink the creative process and work cinematically. We brought a director of photography on board to oversee the whole festival so we’d have cohesion in our aesthetic. It wasn’t an easy journey and it was a huge learning curve as what we’ve set ourselves to accomplish was a first locally.

Are you confident that going virtual was the right decision for the festival?

Absolutely. Children are a vulnerable group in the best of times let alone during a pandemic and the safety of our patrons has always been our priority. With so many uncertainties the question we have always asked ourselves was: which model will we be able to execute no matter what?

Schools are also a significant part of our audiences. Currently educators, parents and students are all bending over backwards to adapt so we also wanted to create a programme that could support the challenges that they are facing at the moment.

With the festival happening eight months into the pandemic, we knew that putting something together on Zoom wasn’t going to cut it. A management-by-crisis approach was never what we wanted to go for. The online programme became our plan A back in May when things were actually looking up. Since then we have committed to our vision in making sure that the result would be nothing short of excellent.

If you have one message you would like to share with your audiences what would it be?

The performing arts have survived wars, arsons, acts of God and even pandemics before.

This isn’t the time when we give up and be complacent. We are proud of the programme we have put together for the festival’s 10-year anniversary. We are looking forward to share with everyone these shows to wrap up the first decade of this wonderful festival and cannot wait for what’s to come.

Where do you see the festival in 2021?

I hope that we’ll be able to welcome thousands of children and their families back to a buzzing Valletta the way only ŻiguŻajg can. What we’ve managed to achieve this year, should in no way be discarded. We didn’t come up with a temporary solution. Yes, the virtual programme was a response to the pandemic but there will always be audiences that won’t be able to make it to the theatre and this is an excellent way to reach out to them. This year we’re wrapping up the first decade of ŻiguŻajg and I’m beyond excited to see what the next decade is going to bring!

Don’t miss out on all the fun! ZiguZajg festival will run from November 20-29 with tickets at just €7 per family.

For the full programme of events and for more information on the festival visit www.ZiguZajg.org or call 2122 3200 today.

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