Birgu Fest 2009

BirguFest 2009 Poster


In the early nineties, the Malta Tourism Authority started organizing the Mdina Festival, better known as the Flowers Festival. Later on, the Valletta Festival was also organized. It was in the 1990, after the insistency of the Birgu Local Council, when the Malta Tourism Authority came up with the idea to start organizing a festival in this maritime city.

The success of the first edition of the BirguFest was unforgettable. Thousands of Maltese citizens and foreigners flocked the city of Birgu to see and experience the historic sites, various exhibitions which were purposely held, concert and band marches, the very fine decorations synonymous with the city of Birgu, the historic re-enactments which included the triumphal entry of the Grandmaster in Birgu.
The festival was repeated for three consecutive years. The BirguFest was then being alternated every year with the Mdina Festival and recently it was amalgamated with another event – “The Historic Cities Festival” – which incorporated the six historic cities in Malta. This was all leading to the diminishing of the BirguFest.
It was at that time the Malta Tourism Authority and the Birgu Local Council introduced the “Birgu by Candlelight” event as a part of The Historic Cities festival. The typical narrow and winding streets of this city lit by candlelight created a magical ambience. This event has been ongoing for five years and nonetheless never stopped from its popularity.
Last year the Birgu Local Council thought of reviving the festival which was extremely popular in the 90’s and tried to combine it with the Birgu by Candlelight event. Finally the BirguFest had been revived and its success was seen by the massive attendance of the thousands of people who invaded the narrow streets of this maritime city.
Courageously the Birgu Local Council decided once again to organize another edition of the BirguFest, which will undoubtedly be a great success like the previous one. The BirguFest 2009 will be held on the 9th, 10th and 11th of October. 
This information package signifies some of the highlights of the festival, descriptions of the programme and the full timetable of the events.
9:00-13:00      Couvre Porte and various streets in Birgu
                        Historical re-enactment – The Town Crier
Poste of Castille – Telghat il-Foss Street
                        Historical re-enactment – “Distortion of the Turks Camp”
Near to the Conventual Church of St. Lawrence
Historical re-enactment – “Distortion at the Turkish camp”
Near to the Conventual Church of St. Lawrence
Historical re-enactment – “The Turkish Fleet”
The Cloister of the Dominican Priory
Historical re-enactment – “Life at the priory during the Great Siege”
Poste of France
Historical re-enactment – “Fort St. Elmo defeated”
Foss Street
Historical re-enactment – “The Turks have invaded Malta”
                        Auberge De France
                        Historical re-enactment – “The Knights Armoury”
                        Victory Square
                        Rescue Exhibition – Civil Protection Departement
                        Sally Port – “It-toqba”
                        Exhibition set up by the Maritime section of the Armed Forces of Malta
18:30-23:30    27, Triq Santa Skolastika
                        “Historic townhouse tour and roof top reception”
Set up by “The Three cities Foundation”.
19:00-23:00    Auberge De France
                        Historical re-enactment – “The Knights Armoury”
19:30-23:30    Various streets around Vittoriosa
                        The Jackson Pipe Band
20:30-00:00    Victory Square
Live Concert by “The Drop-out band” with Ritianne and Manuel Xuereb and participation of Norbert Bondin and the group“Firelight”
21:00-00:00    Gnien il-Kunsill
                        Live Concert by “Tribali”.                 

9:30-12:30      Various Streets around Birgu
                        Historical re-enactment – “The Town Crier”
10:00-11:30    Various Streets of Birgu and in Victory Square
Parade by the “Massed Band” formed by “The Wallace Pipes and Drums Band” from Malta together with the “Juva Pipes and Drums Band” from Switzerland
18:30-00:00    The Streets, Squares and Fortifications of Birgu
                        BIRGU BY CANDLELIGHT
18:30-23:30    27, Triq Santa Skolastika
                        “Historic townhouse tour and roof top reception”
Set up by “The Three cities Foundation”.
19:00-23:00    The Dominican Hall, Convent Street
                        Audio Visual Show
19:30-23:30    Various Street of Birgu
                        The Jackson Pipe Band
Historical re-enactments: Traditional Maltese sellers on carts providing petroleum, bread, milk and vegetables
Violinists playing behind the window shutters and galleries of various residencies
19:30-23:30    Main Gate Street
                        “The Terramaxka”
19:30-20:00    The Church of St. Lawrence
                        Choral concert by Greta Attard
19:30-23:30    The Cloister of the Dominican Priory
                        Historical re-enactment – “Life at the priory during the Great Siege”
                        Foss Street
                        Historical re-enactment – “The Turks have invaded Malta”
                        Auberge De France
                        Historical re-enactment – “The Knights Armoury”
19:45-20.45     Annunciation Church, Main Gate Street
                        “Voice and Organ Recital” – Concert by Oralities group from Evora, Portugal
20:00-23:00    Triq il-Majjistral
                        The group of Mario Azzopardi
20:00-23:00    Couvre Porte
                        Concert by Oralities group, Ensemble Mocarabe, from Mertola, Portugal
                        Extract from the play “Il-Kerrejja” of Guze Chetcuti by the group “Faces”
                        Home made honey for sale
20:15-20:45    Santa Skolastika Church
                        Concert (in English) by Maltese Oralities group, Gukulari Ensemble           
20:30-21:00    St. Lawrence Church
                        Concert by Oralities group, Madzhi Dimitar, from Sliven, Bulgaria
20:30-23:30    Palazzo Vittoriosa, Hilda Tabone Street
                        Concert by Fiona Cauchi
21:00-21:30    Santa Skolastika Church
                        Concert (in Maltese) by Maltese Oralities Group, Gukulari Ensemble
21:00-22:00    Annunciation Church, Main Gate Street
                        Concert by Oralities group, Resonet, from Ourense, Spain
21:30-22:30    Poste of Castille
                        Concert by Oralities group, Companhia Alforge, from Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal
21:30-22:00    St. Lawrence Church
                        Michaela Gardini and Filippo Pantieri
                         –  Concert by Oralities group from Ravenna, Italy
21:30-00:00    Victory Square
                        “Echoes from the past” – Concert by Candlelight
10:00-13:00    Poste of Castille
                        Historical re-enactment – “Distortion at the Turks camp”
                        Poste of France
                        Historical re-enactment – “Fort St. Elmo defeated”
                        Foss Street
                        Historical re-enactment – “The Turkish Fleet”
10:00-11.30     Various Streets of Birgu and in Victory Square
                        Parade by the Military Tattoo – Massed pipes and drums band
19:00-20:00    Next to the St. Lawrence Church
                        Concert by “Combined Russian Choir”
                        Annunciation Church
                        Concert by the “Aquarell Russian Choir”
One part of the main ingredients of the Birgu Festival are the famous historical re-enactments which will be held all around the City of Birgu. This year we will be seeing the following:
Couvre Porte and various streets in Birgu
Il-qari tal-Bandu; “The Town Crier” – A group of knights will be marching around Birgu reading the town crier to notify the general public with all that is currently happening and will be happening during the festival. This was the method used by the Knights of the Order of St. John to deliver news to the public.
Poste of Castille
“Distortion of the Turks Camp” – Here we will see a re-enactment depicting the Turks discussing one of the battles during the Great Siege.
Near to the Conventual Church of St. Lawrence
“The Turkish Fleet” – In this scenario officials of the order of St. John are discussing the Turkish fleet and their almighty power, thus bewildering the fear that the Turks will win and take over the islands of Malta.
The Cloister of the Dominican Priory
“Life at the priory during the Great Siege” – In this scene, we will see the Dominican priests discussing the Great Siege while helping out those hurt during the battles. One can feel the fear of the priests that this city will be the next victim of the Turks after Fort St. Elmo.
Poste of France
“Fort St.Elmo defeated” – Obviously this scene did not take place in the fortified city of Birgu. However it had great impact on the residents of this city. Here we will be seeing the last minutes before St. Elmo was defeated and won by the Turks.
Foss Street
“The Turks have invaded Malta” – In this scenario we will meet and see the reactions of the residents of this city as soon as they have heard that the Ottoman Empire is invading Malta.
Auberge De France, Ancient Street
 “The Knights Armoury” – This scenario will depict the workshop of the armoury of the Knights of St. John preparing all their armoury.
“Oralities” – a project which started in 2008 and is co-financed by the European Union – is an intercultural exchange through musicians and artists. The project both values the local musical products and promotes dialogue between cultures. The main idea is to preserve, systemize, publish and recover the intangible cultural heritage in Europe through a circulation of musical groups of researchers and experts in oral tradition. For further information about the project please visit
In BirguFest there will be performing six international musical groups and one local representing the City of Birgu and thus Malta. One of the international groups is Resonet from Ourense, Spain. It was born in 1990 under the promotion of Fernando Reyes, the conductor of the band and the expert of ancient string instruments, and the soprano and ancient music specialist, Mercedes Hernandez. Resonet has participated several festivals around Europe performing early music and renaissance music.
Mertola, Portugal will be represented by a band which specializes in medieval music including Portugese-Galicia, Sefardithe and Arabian songs in addition to Eduardo Ramos’ compositions. In this musical group, called The Ensemble Mocarabe, Ramos is also responsible for singing and the Arabian lute. Tiago Jonatas plays Derbuka and Bendir, and Vilma Keuch plays flutes. Ensemble Mocarabe includes motion as well, for Carolina Ramos is performing oriental dance. The other group from Portugal comes from Idanha-a-Nova, Companhia Alforge, whichconsists of a group of artists, gathered around a creative forum mainly dedicated to music. Through research and experimentation over a vast repertoire of traditional and folk music, the group questions those musical relationships and recreates them nowadays in an innovative and singular approach. The performed repertoire is based on their own original compositions, European folk music, as well as medieval and renaissance themes. The third group coming from Portugal, Evora, the lead partner of the prjoject, adopts its musical influences from Italian music and Portuguese composers. Soprano Joana Godinho and organist Rafael Reis explore the relationship between those musical styles and their evolution from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.
Mixed Chamber Choir, Madzhi Dimitar from Sliven, Bulgaria will show in BirguFest the beauty and the specific characteristics of the Orthodox Church music, which – besides their religion – helped the Bulgarians save as a nation during the years of Ottoman yoke. The repertoire of Eastern Orthodox chants of this self-dependent choir is conducted by Todorka Bineva. There will also be an Italian representation in BirguFest from Ravenna, which consists of the talented duo, cellist Michaela Gardini and pianist Filippo Pantieri.
Birgu’s own Oralities group, Gukulari Ensemble, gives the audience a tour of Malta in the Medieval and Renaissance period. The group is committed to giving new life to Malta’s music and musical instruments and its repertoire includes both the music of the upper strata of society as well as Malta’s folk music performed on a combination of modern and folk instruments.
One of the most anticipated events is surely the “Birgu by Candlelight” event, which will be held on Saturday 10th October from 18:30 onwards. This year Birgu by Candlelight will be held for the 6th time. This extravagance gives an unusual view of Birgu as it once would have been before the advent of modern street lightning. The success of Birgu by Candlelight is undeniable and it is expected to be repeated again this year as Vittoriosa residents are gearing up for another magical night.
In this event, when Birgu is lit with thousands of candles, the whole maritime city has a special feel of the past times. The traditional food, street decorations, music, theatrical representations and dance enhance the evening ambience along the streets.
In BirguFest the entertainment will be ongoing from morning till late evening. There will be BAND MARCHES, MUSICAL PROGRAMMES, CONCERTS from Maltese singers etc. In few words, the festival offers something for everyone. Just to mention a few, in BirguFest there will be “Massed Pipes and Drums Band” by the Military Tattoo, “The Jackson Pipe Band” playing traditional Maltese music with traditional instruments. Also the group of Mario Azzopardi will perform traditional Maltese music on guitars. In addition to Oralities groups there are other live concerts as well, for example by the original, mesmerizing Tribali, another one by Fiona Cauchi and another by Greta Attard, and finally by “The Drop-out Band”, which is accompanied by Ritianne and Manuel Xuereb as well as participation of Norbert Bondin and the group “Fire Light”.
In addition the audience may hear “Echoes from the past – A Concert by Candlelight” of the legendary Maltese group New Cuorey, accompanied by the children of Sammy Bartolo, Deborah, Ryan Abela, Gorgina, Ludwig Galea, J. Anvil and Claudia Faniello ass well as a remix of Maltese songs by the group Fire Light. Not only, there will also be a performance of two Russian choirs: the “Aquarell Russian Choir” and the “Combined Russian Choir”
Besides these spectacles, on the occasion of BirguFest all the places of historical and cultural interests, museums and exhibitions will be open from 10 o’clock in the morning till late in the evening. Vittoriosa boasts various places of interest including CHURCHES which are worth visiting. These include The Conventual Church of St. Lawrence, The Annunciation Church and St. Anne’s Church. On Friday 9th October in the morning at the Annunciation Church there will be the historian Mr. Anton Attard giving an explanation on the history of this church, and at the Parish Church of St. Lawrence the historian Mr. Gregory Gauci will give an explanation of its history.
In Vittoriosa you’ll find also the Oratory of the Holy Crucifix, the Dominican Priory and Cloister as well as the Prince of Wales Own Band Club and the St. Lawrence Band Club in the latter. There will be an exhibition and a book sale during the festival.
The MUSEUMS in Vittoriosa attract many visitors of the BirguFest. The entrance of the Inquisitor’s Palace on the Main Gate Street and the Maritime Museum on the Vittoriosa Waterfront will be reduced to 2 euros from 5 o’clock in the evening. Also, various EXHIBITIONS will be held purposely on the occasion of the BirguFest. This year’s festival exhibitions include for example novelty woodworks, candles made of honey and grape pressing. The exhibitions will take place in Auberge de France, Hilda Tabone Street, Palazzo Vittoriosa,  No.7 ‘Levita Martri’, Nestru Laivier Street and the Auberge d’Anglettere, in Mistral Street.
The essential part of the festival are naturally the TRADITIONAL FOOD AND DRINK STALLS, which will be set up and administered by the societies found in the city of Vittoriosa. Through the voluntary help of the two external feast committees of St. Lawrence and of St. Dominic, the city will also be embellished with STREET DECORATIONS to create a feast like ambience.
The Fortini Football ground and the area in front of the Bormla Primary School with an agreement with the Bormla Local Council will be open and available for parking.
All those coming with their private vehicles should observe all the directions and instructions given by the Traffic Police Constables, who will be controlling the traffic in the area so as to try and avoid traffic congestions which may arise.
Sea Transport Service with Frejgattini
There will also be a transport service by frejgattini between Isla, Birgu and Valletta till midnight.
Public Transport
Public transport on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th from the bus terminus of Birgu to the Bus terminus of Valletta will be available till midnight.
For further information, kindly contact the Birgu Local Council
Tel. 21662166 or email birgu [dot] lcatgov [dot] mt or visit
The organizers of the event will also issue an information leaflet which will include a map of the city of Birgu to guide the general public outlining all the places of interest, re-enactments and interesting sites. This leaflet will be distributed for free from the information stand found at Victory Square.


The Magical BirguFest in the City of Vittoriosa Is Drawing Nearer

October is coming and it brings along one of the key features of Malta’s cultural events. The event in question is called BirguFest 2009.
This year BiguFest is a three-day event in October 9th and 11th. It is an event out of ordinary expects, which takes place on the beautiful, quaint harbor town of Vittoriosa – a sight itself.  The festival is organized by the Birgu Local Council with collaboration of the Malta Tourism Authority, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, and with the full co-operation of the residents and various societies.
The city of Vittoriosa – popularly known by its ancient name, Birgu – celebrates the unique festival with lots of interesting twists, respecting the historical heritage of this maritime city and its eventful past. One of the highlights and much awaited annual event is the Birgu by Candle Light. It is the 6th time when the streets and narrow lanes of Birgu are deprived of their normal electricity lights to be lit instead by thousands of candles.

The Victorious City of Birgu – a Jewel in the Maltese History

Vittoriosa is situated at the southern side of the Grand Harbour. Together with Senglea and Cospicua, it makes up the so-called “Three cities”, which all are firmly fortified. Vittoriosa is the only one in which the principal thoroughfares in the city all lead to the civic centre, the city square. This layout is an excellent example of medieval city plan.
Citta Vittoriosa, “the Victorious City” takes its name from the Great Siege of 1565, as it was the place  that Grand Master La Valette and his troops were based, and where they made their final stand against the Turks. The knights and the inhabitants fought bravely to prevent the forces of Suleiman the Magnificent from capturing the city. Their efforts lead to the final victory, and Birgu – being the centre of operations and the scene of the victory – was deservedly awarded with this prestigious title.
Vittoriosa occupies a leading part in Malta’s history. For many centuries it was Malta’s port city and as such provided the only link of the island with the outside world.
All through the centuries and under the influence of various rulers, Vittoriosa became the centre of religious cults, technology and commerce. In prehistoric times, the first settlers built temples in honour of their gods and goddesses in which they performed their religious rites.
From medieval times, this ancient maritime city was distinguished from the rest of the island by its cosmopolitan characteristics, now reflected in its chequered history, artistic and architectural heritage, as well as in its traditions, folklore and legends.
During World War II, Vittoriosa, together with the areas around the Grand Harbour, became the target of enemy action. Various historical buildings and sites were demolished and parts of the city were rebuilt on modern lines, with no regard being given to the city’s original architecture.  Fortunately most of the pre-war city plan remains more or less intact.
Vittoriosa has been less insular than the rest of the island. It has witnessed the influx of an ethnic admixture with the presence of Genoese, Pisans and Venetian seafarers. In this unique, rich, historical milieu authentic traditions and legends flourished in great abundance. In spite of the social revolutions in post-war Malta, Birgu has revived and the new generation has imbibed the spirit of their forefathers, strongly determined to preserve and promote traditions and festivities.
The history of Vittoriosa can be perceived by looking around in the city: The fortifications, which were built in the most vulnerable parts to strengthen the defense of the city, the quiet, narrow backstreets where the Knights had their auberges from 1530 until 1570 when they moved to Valetta, the bastions, churches, old buildings, palaces and museums. These places all are worth visiting for those who have culture at heart – and at the time of BirguFest they seem to flourish even more than usual.

The Unique BirguFest Offers Something for Everyone

BirguFest is an extravaganza highlighting Birgu’s glorious past and celebrating Malta’s oldest maritime city. The first edition of the event was in 1994. At that time, many Maltese citizens didn’t know anything about the Victorious city of Birgu, but the situation changed after the unforgettable success BirguFest had. Thousands of Maltese and foreigners have flocked the city of Birgu in each BirguFest  that has been organized ever since.
The programme of the festival is based on historical themes centered round the city. The festival offers a vast supply of culture – theatrical representations, musical shows, city tours, local bands, dance and various manifestations.   Also the popular and educating re-enactments – dramatizations of real events that took place in the history – are an essential part of BirguFest.
During BirguFest the town has been full of open-air exhibitions. There have been book fairs, pageant and military band marches, the handicrafts and folk items bazaars, and last year there was even a huge risottata dish cooked in public to feed more than 5,000 people.
BirguFest offers local delicacies, traditional and more commercial food and drinks, sold at the street stalls. The traditional food, candles and street decorations enhance the evening ambience along Vittoriosa’s streets, giving a taste of this maritime city’s wartime feel. In addition all the museums and churches are open to the public on this occasion.
The story of the BirguFest can be called a success. For example last year’s edition of Birgu by Candlelight, the candle-lit extravaganza was attended over 20, 000 visitors. It is certainly a night to remember when Birgu is literally seen under a different light and appreciated even more for its historical heritage.
The entertainment in the festival will be ongoing from morning till late evening. The programme of the BirguFest 2009 will be released soon.

For further information, kindly contact the Birgu Local Council
birgu [dot] lcatgov [dot] mt
tel. +356-21-66 2166