TAP-INTO Report from Malta
Emma Thomas, General Manager at Seaton Delaval Hall, shares her experiences with Din l’Art Helwa in Malta
As I watched the sun setting over the sea from the top of the Dwejra Tower on Gozo, I had to pinch myself. I was on a research trip with Din l’Art Helwa (the Malta National Trust or DLH) to advise on the acquisition of a new property. After the trials of the past two years, it all felt pretty unreal.
But real it was. And an important opportunity to support one of INTO‘s founding member organisations after several months of online planning. My job was to spark ideas and offer recommendations on how the Qbajjar Battery could be used as a cultural heritage site.
The visit was funded by TAP-INTO, which supports the exchange of best practice amongst the global national trust community. I was selected for my experience with the transformational Curtain Rises project at Seaton Delaval Hall, as well as my earlier roles in contemporary art. The brief was to develop a creative and relevant concept for the communities of Gozo, restoring, conserving and giving a new lease of life to the Battery.
As the visit was also about meeting and strengthening relationships with INTO colleagues, Catherine Leonard, INTO’s Secretary-General, joined me. Together we visited recent conservation projects and other DLH sites. I really enjoyed meeting DLH’s wardens, volunteers and council members. We even had a courtesy visit with Malta’s Cultural Heritage Minister!
Our initial concept ideas included creating a venue for outdoor cultural events, a contemporary observation post and a space to learn about the history and local area. Close to a local town, there is potential for a small café as well as restoring and reusing the beautiful nearby salt flats.
Since returning, I have continued to support the incredible DLH colleagues we met. The organisation is almost entirely volunteer-run, and their passion, enthusiasm, creativity and professionalism was a privilege to see and learn from. It was also a brilliant opportunity to step out of the National Lottery Heritage Fund supported project at Seaton Delaval Hall, at a time when there is a lot going on and to return feeling energised and inspired as we move towards completion.
Finally, on a personal level, my Great Uncle, A. J. Hodgkinson, was based at RAF Luqa in Malta during World War II. He took his last flight from there on 10 July 1943. The news that he had been awarded the DSO came through to Malta the following day. At this time, Qbajjar Battery was operating as a nearby Observation post (No. 5). It was incredible to see and understand more about this history.
TAP-INTO aims to build the capacity of our members through knowledge sharing. These small grants run in rounds throughout the year. It’s all about commonality, shared learning and bringing trusts together.Find out more