London to host Maltese celebrations

 Although a day late, come Saturday 9th September, the UK's Maltese community organizations will celebrate Il-Vitorja, the feast of Our Lady of Victories. In recent years the Maltese diaspora has congregated together to celebrate what is perhaps Malta's best-loved and historically important feast on the Saturday nearest the 8th September. The festivities recall Malta's victories against great odds and over adversity in the great sieges of 1565 and 1942. Despite the passage of time the feast still reflects the valour and beliefs that the Maltese people cherish in their island home and wherever fate and fortune has taken them. It may seem surprising that the traditional Maltese festa has carved its niche in London and perhaps that the statue of the Bambina stops the London traffic as it wends its way in procession along the roads of the English capital from Westminster Cathedral to the Horseferry Road Sacred Heart Chapel of Ease at the head of three generations of Maltese. The Maltese diaspora has migrated to the United Kingdom at times when jobs in Malta were scarce. War and revolution uprooted from their homes along the North African littoral. The most recent wave follows Malta's accession to the European Union, mainly young professionals and technicians who gave up Malta based jobs for more rewarding positions or better compensation packages. Throughout the years generations of Maltese immigrants have integrated well within their adoptive communities. In the years that preceded World War II and shortly after that terrible catastrophe Maltese brides married sailor sweethearts and their male counterparts took British wives. They set up home in the London area, the south of England and Wales. The next wave followed in the sixties and seventies. During the latter part of that period the flow of unemployed technicians and their families was augmented by medical practitioners at odds with government and explains the presence and success achieved by Maltese doctors in British hospitals and health institutions. Many of their children, grandchildren and others who migrated to the UK in more recent times occupy important and prestigious positions in the UK's professional and cultural milieu. Some have started successful businesses and followed innate Maltese entrepreneurial instincts. Now back to the 9th September. The day begins with the ten o'clock opening of a fair in Westminster Cathedral Hall where Maltese families and British friends line up for pastizzi, qassatat, mqaret Maltese soft drinks, beer, wine and souvenirs. This year the High Commission stall will display a novel stock of prize pottery and glass items, delicate filigree ornaments and genuine hand-made Malta and Gozo lace. An Oompah band plays as other stalls offer memorabilia, Malta-made goods, knitwear and art and the George Cross Island Association, Air Malta and The Malta Tourist Office in London give out information and angle for custom. The fair closes at 2pm and everyone troops off for Holy Mass at Westminster Cathedral. The celebrant this year is Dar il-Providenza Director Monsignor Lawrence Gatt. The Sacro Cuor Sliema Parish choir, under the direction of Tony Perry, features well-known soprano Francesca Farrugia in Schubert's Ave Maria, and will sing during the Mass. Maltese community organisations work hard throughout the year to make a success of the festivities. After Holy Mass the statue of our Lady of Victories leaves Westminster Cathedral and is met by a barrage of firecrackers as it reaches the Cathedral Square. It is then carried in procession through the streets of London. The day's climax is a Gala dinner dance at the Royal National Hotel where special guests Georgina, her husband Maestro Paul Abela and their young son will provide the evening's entertainment. The Malta Day-UK Committee works tirelessly to ensure the success of the Bambina festivities. The Committee, chaired by High Commissioner Michael Refalo, ably supported by Deputy Commissioner Olaph Terribile and Cultural Officer Annabel Meli, includes representatives of Maltese organisations such as Maltese Culture Movement, The Malta Charities, George Cross Island Association, Association of Maltese Communities of Egypt, the Malta League, Air alta and MTA and other members who have given sterling service to Malta and the Maltese community for many years. Nothing comes easy and without the support of sponsors the Malta Day-UK Committee would not be able to find or raise the funds required for an event of such magnitude demands. The Malta Day-UK's main sponsor is Air Malta but other valuable help and support comes from Malta's major banks and hotels. This year the Malta Day-UK Committee and the High Commission staff expect a bumper crowd and look forward to meeting as many Maltese as possible. For further information either write to Malta Day UK Committee at Malta House 36-38 Piccadilly WIJ OLE or email and/or or phone 02072924800. Source: Malta House

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