Over the years, the Malta International Arts Festival has established itself as a platform for multidisciplinary works that support diversity, encourage artistic collaboration and strive to forge creative synergy. Site-specific curation, music, visual arts, theatre, dance, opera, installations, films, community projects, interactive and participatory events and much more have merited not only fondness of the locals, but also a prestigious Europe for Festivals, Festivals for Europe (EFFE) label for the second time running. The label is a sign of a festival’s artistic commitment, community involvement and its international and global outlook. “This year’s festival is looking at the Mediterranean with all its multifarious facets – be they colour and diversity, passion and celebration, or resurgence and humanitarianism,” Artistic Director Michelle Castelletti stated upon receiving the award.

This year MIAF marks a special celebratory European Capital of Culture edition. Festivals Malta director Annabelle Stivala called MIAF “the highlight of Malta’s cultural calendar.” Across the festival’s varied programme, artists are again encouraged to push boundaries through a wide spectrum of innovative practices and performances.

In addition to the celebratory element, the festival also features an underlying humanitarian and political aspect throughout. This includes National Geographic photojournalist Reza Deghati’s Exile Voices, the story of refugees told by the refugees themselves, together with the poignant work of photographers Darrin Zammit Lupi and Charles Mifsud, also documenting the plight of refugees. Israeli choreographer-composer Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother is a grand-scale work about political indoctrination and totalitarianism, described by The Guardian as one that “shows that new dance is for all, not just those in the bubble”.

It is not only about socially engaging visual arts, of course. Classical music lovers will indulge in hearing the greatest orchestras in the world: for their first performance in Malta, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra will play Mozart, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. Malta Youth Orchestra will perform alongside the Concertgebouw, and the educational programme will feature masterclasses with Hofesch Shechter, a residence with Kamea Dance Company, children’s workshops in stop-motion, an open workshop with the Clare College Cambridge Choir, the annual Dance Hybrid as well as other calls.

The festival celebrates all art forms – from dance with the Italy-based company No Gravity to a fusion of writer Immanuel Mifsud’s text, visual arts by Vince Briffa and Paul Portelli, and music by Kris Spiteri. Debussy’s music will be not only performed but also celebrated visually in Watercolour Madness, a watercolour exhibition by Kenneth Zammit Tabona.

The MIAF runs from 29 June to 15 July. More information is on the festival’s website.