Watch: Interview with man behind the gianpula village empire
Gianpula Village has been around for almost 40 years. From indoor to outdoor nightclubs and sun-kissed rooftops to festival arenas, it is one of the best entertainment destinations in Malta. We catch up with the Managing Director, Matthew de Giorgio, to find out more
How did it all start?
Gianpula Village has been around for 40 years, when my parents started the business in 1980. It started, to be fair, as a small gathering between friends not with the intention of it becoming an entertainment spot. After a number of years it started growing slowly slowly. Also, it just started inside only, and then after a while it also evolved outdoors. A lot has been going on over the years, but obviously due to competition and all we had to start changing things up completely.
Tell us a little about how you got started in the business.
When I started at the age of 17/18 years old, the idea was to turn Gianpula into an entertainment village, with various nightclubs with different types of music. My father waned me to start out at a very young age so I had started out by cleaning glasses and also making hotdogs. There was one saying I always remember him telling me. He td me “ I’m going to throw you into the pool, and it’s for you to get out of the pool or you’re going to drown”. That is what kept me sane in the sense f always wanting to achieve more and not let him down. It was a lot of pressure but at the same time it was something that I always wanted to do.
I studied in the UK for 5/6 years. To be fair I never went to university, but headed straight into the business. I took over from my father completely, and he took a side in it when I was only 18 years old.
I just hit the road running. I new exactly what I wanted for the entertainment industry in Malta because I knew from living abroad what Malta lacked. It was always a vision of mine to create an entertainment village.
How has Gianpula Village grown into what we know it as today?
When people started coming to Gianpula, they were always a certain type of people. Now for me to get different types of type and different genres of music, I needed to open more outlets. You come here on a Friday night and you can listen to commercial In one club, techno in another club, and you can listen to reggae ton in a completely different club. That is what made me want it to become an entertainment village. Saying that, I hardly drink and it’s more about me focusing on the business and wanting to succeed and take it to the next level… into an international level.
What Gianpula milestones stick out in your mind?
Our biggest achievement as a club, was becoming the 57th nightclub around the world. We were the first Maltese nightclub to become part of this listing in 2017.
How has the pandemic affected you and your industry?
It’s been very hard for us. I think at the beginning we didn’t accept it… we thought it was just a short span and everyone would get out of it pretty much quickly. June did come quickly but we were only open for 5 weeks. Now it’s hitting us even harder. We’ve realized that now it’s going to be for the long haul. The only situation for us to get back into business in the nightlife industry is for us to hit herd immunity, which according to the health department, is looking like September. For discos and nightclubs, this could be a complete disaster, not just Gianpula but even our competitors, who we speak to. They are basically telling us the same thing. This cant carry on for song long cause we will just be wiped out completely and will not be able to restart. We need actual help for the actual business, because one needs to understand that apart from wages, we have water, electricity and maintenance. You cannot just shut down the business and expect to reopen in September. It doesn’t work like that.
What are you working on, seeing as clubs are currently shut down?
Well, at the moment, what we are basically doing is maintaining the venue. I’m not spending too much, because there is obviously a limit. This is a big circle and I think the government needs to help out immediately, with not just bars and ‘kazini’ but also discos and nightclubs in general.
We worked on a project, The Magical Illuminated Trail, which was a blessing in disguise. For a start, it helped us do something completely out of the norm. There were only two drive thrus during Christmas time. I was very happy because both of them did very well. At the end of the day, this helped suppliers and individuals who have been hit hard by the pandemic as well, so it was a blessing in disguise.
What about plans for the near future?
There aren’t many ideas at the moment. We’re just hoping to restart as soon as possible because at the end of the day, a drive thru helps, but it’s not going to help long term. We have people telling us that we should change the way we operate. It is very difficult to change the way you operate as a nightclub. We cannot even do seated events at the moment. Hopefully, if bars and kazini restart, at least discos and nightclubs might actually restart as seated events and then obviously go onto the normal standing events. It’s a nightclub… you cannot tell people to come to sit on a chair. If people go to a nightclub, they want to go to listen to music, dance and enjoy it with friends.
Post pandemic we are hoping to restart and restart with a bang. The advantage over here is that if we do restart in September, at least we do have indoor venues. Here we have a total of 11 venues… half of them are outdoor and half of them are indoor.
Has Gianpula always been known for clubbing?
I diversified into a corporate venue and it only lasted for two years. It didn’t work for us. We had to change it completely into a nightclub venue and it actually worked much better than the corporate side. People know Gianpula and Gianpula village as a brand more toward nightlife rather than corporate as well. So we had to find a balance and we took the decision of having all our venues completely nightclubs. I think more festivals are coming over. The help of foreign festivals coming over is helping the image of Malta grow drastically and even helping nightclubs to level it up and make it even more appealing when foreigners come over to the country.
What do you envisage for the post-pandemic clubbing scene in Malta?
I think festivals in general will increase especially in 2022. Because of the situation of COVID-19 and not knowing when we can exactly restart, it is very hard for us to even plan what will happen this summer.
Any final words or tips?
I do hope that many people will take the vaccine because that’s the only way for us to get back to some sort of normality. Is there going to be a passport to enter an event? At the moment we don’t know. It will be great if we do know, but at the stage, from our end, we have no issue if there’s a vaccine passport as long as we restart.
The name Gianpula came from before my father’s time. There were two people on the land; Gianni and Paola. This how it became Gianpula.