(University of York)
Paper Short Abstract:
A study of Strait Street, Malta, and the stories and experiences of those that worked there and live there still, with the ruined bars and music halls central to this unusual archaeological investigation.
Paper long abstract:
People visit Malta for many reasons. I first went there to discuss its Second World War heritage, before returning in 2004 to study an alleyway - Strait Street or 'The Gut' - that runs through the World Heritage city of Valletta. Valletta, like Malta, is a place of contradictions and surprises, and Strait Street has these contradictions in abundance, writ large in every building that lines this 'sleazy, wreaking ditch'. In this presentation I will give an example of what archaeologists do with ruins, why we are interested in them and how an archaeological gaze contributes to their understanding. It is a journey that will recall the British naval presence in Malta, up until c.1970, and the places frequented by sailors on shore leave - bars, music halls and brothels, and what happened to these places when the navies finally left. It is a surprising story, and I believe an uplifting and an important one. It is about people that have left Malta behind, but it is also about people still living in Strait Street, in abject poverty, that Malta has left behind. Strait Street was once described as the 'street that shames hero island'. The shame now is the condition in which people live in Strait Street, people who have pride in the lives they lived here before, when Strait Street was a lively, bustling, rough and dirty place. Strait Street is a fascinating place, with fascinating people. This is their story, told through the fabric and the material culture left behind.
Ruins: perception, reception and reality