17 years after it was first held, Teatru Unplugged has become a highly-anticipated fixture on the local social calendar. Here, founder and producer of the popular concert Jonathan Shaw, tells us why the money raised from the last edition of Teatru Unplugged, went to cancer research.
Art and research have long been bedfellows; so much so, that some of the best anatomical drawings we have, including a series by all-round Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci, were done by painters conducting research for their art.
That relationship still exists in the modern world, but the ways in which it is carried out are much more varied; so varied, that some may even assume that those two elements inhabit different spheres altogether.
Yet, as entrepreneur Jonathan Shaw, who is known as one of the minds behind one of the most successful cultural ventures on the island, knows, together they can still do great things.
“Teatru Unplugged was an idea generated in 1997 between Nirvana Azzopardi and I,” Shaw explains. “The concept was to attract a new and younger audience to the Manoel Theatre, a place which was mostly the haunt of classical theatre-goers for classical events. To counteract this, we came up with a musical variety show that includes rock, jazz and bits of classical in short bursts, so the patron would get a taste of the different genres.”
Today, Teatru Unplugged is the longest-standing fixture on our cultural calendar, attracting both great names to perform in it and host it (a list for the latter includes Lou Bondi, Pawlu Borg Bonaci, Clare Agius, Josef Bonello and Pia Zammit), as well as a great audience to enjoy the show.
“A part of the proceedings or the money raised through initiatives associated with Teatru Unplugged have always gone to good causes,” Shaw continues, “but ever since Nirvana passed away, we’ve committed ourselves to doing it towards cancer-related causes.
“This year we decided to go further than that, and got involved with RIDT, the research Trust of the University of Malta. We believe that Investing in research to help find possible or potential solutions to a problem is just as important as helping those who are currently facing that scenario.
“Nonetheless, I see that it may seem less humane or emotional, maybe even clinical and scientific, but, in my opinion, it’s important to channel support to the long-term solution at the root. In other words, to use an analogy, if you have poverty, you can give money so they can buy food in the short-term, but you can also invest in training programmes to help those people in the long run. And, historically, the latter is more important.”
Before taking this decision, Shaw spoke to Nirvana’s parents, who still have an active role and say into where the proceedings go. “They also see the importance of donating towards research,” Shaw adds.
“Moreover, the research funded through RIDT is being done locally at the University of Malta so, in a way, raising funds for RIDT works both ways. This year, for example, we’re supporting a PhD student for a local scholarship.
“And, yes, from a practical business point of view, when you’re faced with a world-wide situation like cancer, and when so many countries and companies are trying to find a cure, many may find it hard to believe that Malta will be the place in which a cure will be found. But we can’t reason like this. We have to believe in our researchers – even when we know that there is no immediate result, but a long term investment in the research process ,” he adds.
Shaw’s determination to see the funds go towards research came after he visited the labs and researchers at the University of Malta, and was guided through all the breakthroughs they’ve made and the plans they have for the future. “But there’s so much more that needs to be done, and RIDT needs more funding to be able to continue its work,” he concludes.
The hard work behind this year’s Teatru Unplugged yielded another successful edition, and the memory of Nirvana still lives on in this incredible endeavor and all that comes out of it. The research is also going at a relentless pace. Nevertheless, funds are continuously needed to ensure it doesn’t cease.
You can be part of this fascinating world of research too, by helping many others achieve their breakthroughs in all the faculties of the University of Malta. Please click here for more information on how to donate to research of this kind through the Research Trust (RIDT).