Rarely do you come across cultural events celebrating the heritage of a red light district. However, the Stretta Festival in Valletta will do just that, beginning on the 18th September at 19.30. It will kick off this year’s four day extravaganza, celebrating Valletta’s infamous red light district in Strait Street, which was more commonly known as The Gut. After the success of last year’s Stretta Festival, the organizers, Strada Stretta Events, with the support of the Valletta 2018 Foundation, hope to recreate that atmosphere once again, although perhaps in a slightly more tasteful fashion.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, The Gut, was the centre of dubious entertainment in Malta. Visiting sailors and forces personnel, would spent their nights in Valletta’s red light district, which was centered around the bars, eateries and bordellos of Strait Street. It had a bustling, cosmopolitan atmosphere filled with pubs, restaurants and clubs of a more seedy nature. The popularity of this area waned in the mid-twentieth century with the departure of many of the military personnel that had been based on the island.
The last few years has seen Strait Street returning to its former popularity, albeit without the dubious reputation, and many bars and restaurants have re-opened along its narrow street. The owners of these establishments have collectively made an effort to promote the area and organize various events to remind everyone and celebrate the historical importance of Strait Street. Earlier this year saw the inaugural Strait Street Beer Festival, which proved very popular and they hope to once again harness people’s enthusiasm and encourage them to have a good night out in Valletta.
Strait Street will host local artisan markets, art installations, re-enactments and plenty of good food and drink. There will be three stages of live music every night, featuring local bands and jazz and swing music and there is also a free concert of traditional Maltese Folklore Music on the 20th September at 8pm, featuring well known għannejja & kitarristi including John Saliba, Victor Grech, Anglu Theuma, Joe Grech, Grezzju Dalli and Yvette Buhagiar.