As Malta’s capital, Valletta stands proudly as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former European Capital of Culture, Valletta Cultural Agency CEO Catherine Tabone speaks about her role highlighting: “My overarching goal is to cultivate a cultural landscape that is both dynamic and inclusive”.


  • Could you describe your leadership style and how it has contributed to the success of the Valletta Cultural Agency?


My leadership style is rooted in collaboration, approachability, and shared responsibility.  I firmly believe that by working closely with my team, valuing their input, and fostering an environment of open communication, we can achieve remarkable results together.  I think that this approach has been instrumental in building a cohesive and motivated team at the Valletta Cultural Agency.  By recognising that our achievements are collective and that my role revolves around nurturing collaboration rather than simply giving direction, I believe I have contributed to the development of a stronger sense of belonging and commitment within the team.  This style has helped us navigate challenges, innovate, and realise our vision for the cultural landscape of Valletta.


  • Could you share some of your notable experiences and achievements in recent years that have had a significant impact?


Throughout my career, I consider myself fortunate to have been involved in cultural projects that have had an enduring influence.  One standout memory is the collaboration with the Holy See during my tenure as Malta’s Director for Culture (2013-217), where Malta was selected as the first foreign state to collaborate with the Vatican in creating a Nativity scene for St Peter’s Square and in holding an orchestral concert in Rome.  Another achievement that fills me with pride is undoubtedly Valletta’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2018.  The meticulous planning and dedication that were invested in this endeavour not only boosted Maltese economy but also left an indelible impact on various sectors, particularly on culture and the arts.  These experiences have undoubtedly solidified my commitment towards nurturing cultural growth and artistic expression. In addition to these achievements, I hold two more projects particularly close to my heart.  Last year’s collaboration with Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia on the production of Mozart’s Requiem and the more recent collaboration, earlier this year, with Teatru Manoel on the opera production of Tosca with internationally acclaimed tenor José Cura epitomised the potential of artistic synergy and the power of culture to transcend boundaries and create transformative experiences that resonate at both local and international levels.


  • Can you provide an example of a project that you spearheaded, and how your leadership impacted its outcome?


The metamorphosis of an abandoned historic building into the Valletta Design Cluster is, I believe, a project that encapsulates the essence of collaborative leadership.  By leveraging the strengths of each team member, we breathed life into this neglected space, creating a hub for creativity, innovation, and community engagement.  The project’s recognition in both local and international awards affirms the potential of culture to rejuvenate urban landscapes.  Through my role, I always encourage a holistic approach, recognising the importance of preserving heritage while also embracing contemporary artistic expression.


  • As CEO of the Valletta Cultural Agency, what were your biggest challenges?


Without a shadow of doubt, the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic just over three years ago presented an unprecedented challenge.  The abrupt halt to live events and cultural gatherings required a rapid reimagining of how we engage with our followers and audiences.  My team’s adaptability and resilience were truly remarkable as we swiftly transitioned our events to virtual formats, ensuring that cultural experiences continued to enrich people’s lives.  Negotiating the complexities of the pandemic while upholding Valletta’s cultural vibrancy demanded innovative thinking and an unwavering commitment to our mission.

One particular example that comes to mind of the challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic and of solutions reached together as a team to make the best out of a very difficult situation is the last minutes transformation of a project which risked being outright cancelled on the day of the performance due to a situation which was beyond the Agency’s control.

George Benjamin’s opera Written on Skin was scheduled to be performed on 13th March 2021 at the MCC.  All foreign cast, as well as musicians from abroad to join the  ranks of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, arrived in Malta and rehearsals commenced accordingly.  During rehearsals, a number of MPO musicians tested positive for Covid 19 and were placed in quarantine, together with other musicians who were in close contact with them, as per sanitary regulations in place at the time.  This required a change in programme since the opera could not be performed with a reduced orchestra formation.  Thus, an alternative programme was devised to be recorded on the 12th and 13th of March for broadcast.

Unfortunately, another issue cropped up in the afternoon of the 13th of March – that is, a few hours before the performance was scheduled to take place – when the VCA was informed by the MPO that additional musicians had tested positive to Covid-19.  At that point the VCA had two options: either cancel the entire project (which would have come at full cost seeing as cancellation would have taken place a few hours before the performance) or else create something with the artists who were not in quarantine in the few hours available.  Thanks to their willingness and efforts to save the situation and thanks to a highly adaptable and ingenious team, they came up with a concert programme, entitled Songs of Hope, which was broadcast on TVM in May 2021.



  • As a cultural leader, what are your primary goals, priorities and aspirations for the future of Valletta’s cultural landscape?


My overarching goal is to cultivate a cultural landscape that is both dynamic and inclusive.  Strengthening collaborations with public and private entities and with local and international organisations is paramount to enrich our cultural offering.  Speaking of such collaborations, I am strongly committed to encouraging and promoting cultural education; culture enriches not only our economy but also our souls, and deserves adequate support and importance at educational and government levels.


  • Valletta is renowned for its historical and architectural significance. While leading the Agency, how do you strike a balance between preserving the city’s heritage and fostering contemporary cultural expression?


The delicate balance between the two is a core principle that underpins my approach towards my role as CEO of the Valletta Cultural Agency.  Valletta’s historical significance is the foundation of its identity, and protecting it is non-negotiable.  However, embracing contemporary creativity ensures that the capital remains relevant and vibrant.  This balance entails integrating modern artistic endeavours with sensitivity, respecting and maintaining the city’s historical charm and its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site, while allowing for innovative cultural exploration.


  • Valletta has been designated as the European Capital of Culture in 2018. How has this prestigious title influenced the city’s cultural scene and long-term development?


Valletta’s designation as the European Capital of Culture five years ago was a seismic cultural shift.  I believe it was more than a mere title; it was a catalyst for transformation.  The recognition heightened Valletta’s global cultural prominence, attracting attention and engagement from diverse sectors.  This momentum continues through the Valletta Cultural Agency, set up in 2019.  By capitalising on the legacy of that year, we have ensured a sustained cultural momentum.  The European Capital of Culture status was not a fleeting accolade; it boosted the local economy and ignited a stronger passion and commitment towards culture and the arts in Valletta, reinvigorating the city’s economy and enriching its future.