The Malta International Arts Festival (MIAF) has been awarded the prestigious Europe for Festivals, Festivals for Europe (EFFE) label for the second time running. The label is a sign of a festival’s artistic commitment, community involvement and its international and global outlook.

The MIAF, which runs from 29 June to 15 July, marks a special celebratory European Capital of Culture edition. Festivals Malta director Annabelle Stivala said: “We are proud to announce that the Malta International Arts Festival, the highlight of Malta’s cultural calendar, has been awarded the EFFE label for the second time. The festival promotes freedom of artistic expression through a programme that embraces various art forms and invests in artists and audiences alike.”

In addition to the celebratory element, the festival also features an underlying humanitarian and political aspect throughout. This includes National Geographic photojournalist Reza Deghati’s Exile Voices, the story of refugees told by the refugees themselves, together with the poignant work of photographers Darrin Zammit Lupi and Charles Mifsud, also documenting the plight of refugees. Israeli choreographer-composer Hofesh Schechter’s Political Mother is a grand-scale work about political indoctrination and totalitarianism, described by The Guardian as one that “shows that new dance is for all, not just those in the bubble”.

Speaking about this social strand to the festival, Artistic Director Michelle Castelletti noted how “the Arts have the power to transform people’s lives and we have the power to make a difference. And therefore, this year’s festival is looking at the Mediterranean with all its multifarious facets – be they colour and diversity, passion and celebration, or resurgence and humanitarianism.”

In keeping with its continuous efforts to seek excellence in artistic integrity, the festival boasts one of the greatest orchestras in the world: for their first performance in Malta, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra will play Mozart, Mendelssohn and Beethoven.

The festival crucially believes in education and the nurturing of talent and is this year offering an enviable array of opportunities namely that for the Malta Youth Orchestra to perform alongside the Concertgebouw; masterclasses with Hofesch Schechter, a residence with Kamea Dance Company, children’s workshops in stop-motion, an open workshop with the Clare College Cambridge Choir, the annual Dance Hybrid as well as other calls.

The festival’s programme is its richest yet as it celebrates all the art forms from dance with the Italy-based company No Gravity, whose name says it all, the premiere of a new work that stems from writer Immanuel Mifsud’s text and fuses other art forms with the work of visual artists Vince Briffa and Paul Portelli and musician Kris Spiteri. Debussy’s music is celebrated in a number of concerts as well as visually in Watercolour Madness, a watercolour exhibition by Kenneth Zammit Tabona.

The festival takes great pride in reaching out to the community and has programmed a plethora of street theatre, dance, music, visual art, cinematography, puppetry and alternative experiences, to name a few, by local and international artists in the streets of Valletta.

This is just a snippet of the rich and diverse ingredients of this year’s festival. For further information, visit www.maltaartsfestival.org.