Ever since The Sliema Street Art Festival came to an end some two weeks ago, it’s been a constant barrage of whining and myopic complaints on all media, including online. The proverbial cherry on the cake appeared on the print version of this media house a couple of days ago.

“That was not arts, it was rock music,” screamed Mr Martin Spillane in not one, but two letters to the editor which you can read here and here.

Well, he didn’t actually scream it, but one gets the impression that we only have the limitations of the medium to thank for that.

Shock horror and oh my gosh. Rock music, indeed. Since when does ‘rock’ music have anything to do with art? We have it on Mr Spillane’s authority that only pretty landscapes have any business being part of a street art festival.

Well, Mr Spillane, it’s about time we pushed a few truths in your general direction.

1. You need to brush up on your definition of ‘street art’. Maybe you missed the memo, but there’s a bit more to street art than traditional visual art. Perhaps you’re not too impressed by literature, music, dance, street art, film and the rest of it, and prefer to limit yourself to pretty landscapes.

This is your right, but some of us actually enjoy having our minds stimulated by more than that. Please do not try to stop us.

When Marseille was one of the European Capital of Culture cities last year, one of the events combined street art with skateboarding and underground music (you’d probably call it ‘rock’). To quote your letter, Marseille probably billed the event as an arts festival “in order to obtain a permit, which would otherwise not have been granted,” huh?

2. You make a huge song and dance (if you’ll pardon the pun) about the ‘rock’ music and the dancing on the beaches, thus betraying the real reason behind your exhortations to the local council to rethink one of the best events that hit Sliema in recent years.

If you don’t like ‘rock’ music or the dancing, no-one is forcing you to take part.

3. At the risk of being called a pedant, not all loud music is rock music. In actual fact, a good number of the bands performing were not rock bands. Does the distinction matter? It only does because you made it a point to show where your prejudice lies. Other than that, a rose by any other name etc etc.

4. Excessive noise in residential areas can, indeed, be a problem, but in this case it was not the real problem. If it were, your complaints – and those of all the others – would have been accompanied by similar exhortations to the local council to ban petards, continuously pealing church bells, band marches, political gatherings and the like.

This particular festival takes place once a year, unlike the other, constant noise pollution. Is it so terrible to deal with it for three evenings out of 365? I say this as a Valletta person born and bred, who has had to deal with continuous – as opposed to annual – noisy street events. And guess what I did? I dealt with it. And so did all the other residents.

5. Constructive criticism is all well and good, but sweeping statements that carry a hidden agenda are not. During my other job editing the culture section for the Sunday Times I make contact with many local artists. Some have incredible talent that should be encouraged to grow, as opposed to stunted by would-be critics who take a rather limited view of the arts.

Seems like we still have a long way to go.



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