Strait Street (Valletta, Malta)

A general view of Strait Street, aka ‘The Gut’.

Strait Street (part of which is also known as 'The Gut') is full of contradictions, and the deeper one digs, metaphorically and literally through the dust and rubble, the more obvious this becomes. Malta identifies strongly with the Catholic faith yet at the heart of Malta's capital city and a World Heritage Site is a street whose business supported visiting and resident navies from at least 1800 until Malta declared independence from Britain in 1964. Independence caused a steep decline in the numbers of British and American servicemen on the island, and from the 1970s onwards Strait Street closed down. Such a stigma remained as to ensure Strait Street stayed empty and seemingly unloved for some forty years. The people who live in Strait Street - former barmaids, dancers, musicians and cabaret artistes - some of whom live above the former bars where they were the star attraction, now feel marginalised. Yet attitudes are slowly changing, and the fabric of the street, its former bars and music halls, and the signs and advertisements, appear to be driving this process through the memories they evoke. While outsiders often prefer not to talk of Strait Street, those who have lived and worked here appear enthused and encouraged by this attempt to construct an alternative view to the conventional histories of Valletta, and incorporate what some may consider counter-heritage into the mainstream.

This project was funded by the British Academy and the Farsons Foundation, Malta.