If you’re planning to visit Valletta as part of your holiday itinerary, you’d do well to include a visit to what is arguably the islands’ cultural hub: the St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, housed in, but seemingly ‘hewn out’ of one of the fortress bastions straddling Valletta’s city gate.
The building’s renovation and conversion from gloomy vaulted bastion into a vast contemporary, cultural centre with open spaces and light was the work of leading Maltese architect Richard England. Love the conversion or hate it, the centre has proved a very valuable space in Malta for all things cultural and arty; so much so that most of us can’t imagine where some events were held before. Launched in 2000, the centre was created to support the contemporary creative culture. Simply by arriving on the scene, the centre has expanded the range and often quality of arts’ events in Malta.
It manages to house, in an intimate atmosphere despite the building’s size, an array of exhibition areas, a cinema, a theatre in the round and a music room, along with its Inspirations café with al fresco patio, and a fine dining restaurant. Both eateries are very popular and not just with those attending events.
This place has become a one-stop-shop for operas, plays, musicals, exhibitions of contemporary pieces as well as past masters, classical and popular concerts and recitals. It holds a wealth of activities aimed at kids, including a regular Saturday club offering crafts, drama, story-telling and more. St James’ cinema shows some of the finest contemporary films as well as numerous foreign language films generally not screened at the popular cinemas. It’s a great place to catch up on films you missed first time round; you’re usually guaranteed a quiet auditorium without rustling wrappers and fidgets!
Apart from its creative pull, St James’ attracts too for its history. The building is, in fact, a feat of military architecture. Designed in 1569 by the Knights of St John, its original purpose was to provide raised gun-platforms to counteract land attacks. Since then, the fortified building has been used as a food store by the British Armed Forces, and later to house a government printing press. All this, before it underwent it last conversion to the centre for creativity.
For its calendar of events, check the St James’ Cavalier website.