"This has been our salvation." These words of relief came from the vice-president of the Malaga English Cemetery Foundation, Jaime Aguilera, after the signing on Friday of a two-year collaboration agreement with the Unicaja Foundation. The agreement will guarantee the viability of the historical graveyard through two essential strategies: to curb the deterioration of the site and boost its cultural and tourist activity.
The English Cemetery, founded 190 years ago by British consul William Mark to provide a burial ground for non-Catholics, can now embark on a new era following the crisis caused by the pandemic. Health restrictions and a lack of funds to meet the 30,000-euro annual upkeep costs forced the foundation to announce in February the closure of the cemetery from Monday to Friday, drawing attention to the "unsustainable" situation.
The foundation now hopes that the "lifeline" offered by the Unicaja Foundation, initially signed for two years, will continue in the long term.
While the exact terms have not been published, Aguilera said that the agreement signed by the president of the Unicaja Foundation, Braulio Medel, and the president of the English Cemetery Foundation, Bruce McIntyre, "means we don't have to worry about the main problem, which was the financial one".
The Unicaja Foundation said on Friday, "The aim of the agreement is based on the need to improve the condition of the site and contribute to its own promotional projects, widening its visibility and strengthening its position as a cultural and tourist asset, a venue for concerts, exhibitions and guided tours, as well as cultural activities adapted to its unique characteristics."
With the agreement taking immediate effect, the cemetery - officially declared a Bien de Interés Cultural (Asset of Cultural Interest) in 2012 and home to St George's Anglican church - hopes to increase its contacts with institutions and businesses "to raise funds to invest in the facilities", added Aguilera.
The foundation's talks with other representatives of the cultural sector are "very advanced", he said, with the aim of putting February's "absolutely desperate" situation behind them for good.
Aguilera said that they were now "happy" and "grateful" for the message of support received during the last four months. "It's clear that Malaga is fond of the Engish Cemetery and that is very important for us."