Introducing the Festival de Música de Setúbal

I don’t want to boast, but I do attend quite a lot of launch events. Some work, a lot don’t.

The well-thought out well-executed launch event achieves two important things: they sell the event and they provide a networking opportunity.

Such events foster a warm spirit and sense of anticipation for the product the press event is selling.

Attendees leave the event wanting to speak favourably about the pitch not because of the wine or the nibbles, but because of the spirit that exudes the event.

Case in point. Festival de musica Setubal‘s launch event yesterday.

Not heard of it before? Unsure of Setubal’s location? You’re not alone. That doesn’t really matter. Setubal is in Portugal. And given that the nine-year-old music festival brings international musicians and young people from the locality in community-focussed music-making, it’s perhaps not surprising it’s not on the radar of most classical music-related festival goers.

Ian Ritchie (left) with Ed Vaizey

Artistic Director Ian Ritchie began his introduction in the EU Commission in London just as Geoffrey Cox stood up in nearby Parliament to offer his views on the ‘Joint Instrument’.

There was an irony to proceedings.

An invited crowd convened at Europe House – the EU’s London HQ in St Johns Smith Square – to hear British arts administrator Ian Ritchie introduce this year’s festival (23-27 May 2019). His presentation deftly illustrated how differently one European nation regards the value of music education, and the way in which participation can promote wellbeing in the community. 

At the same time just 5 minutes walk away, enraged red-faced Leavers were screaming at similarly bedraggled-looking Remainers, one side demanding an immediate withdrawal from Europe, whilst the opposing side could be heard singing ‘Shove Brexit, shove it up your arse’ to the tune of ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’. 

What makes Setubal’s offer compelling is the way events – a mixture of low-price and free admission – are built as active experiences for audience and participants alike.

The four-days of events bring international musicians, young Portuguese professionals, and composers together designed to inspire around 1500 young people in the Setubal area. Community ensembles and local schoolchildren participate in song-writing projects, drumming parades, and site-specific performances.

It’s difficult not to feel uplifted by the idea of professionals and young people sitting side-by-side in creative endeavours intended ostensibly for the community.  A sort of four-day youth orchestra infused festival of musical loveliness that leads on social inclusion and celebrates music’s power in our everyday lives.

And at its heart, a two-day symposium exploring music, mental health and wellbeing featuring contributions from industry leaders, thinkers and influencers. 

An altogether rich and authentic event in an unexpected location. 

At least that’s my impression. That’s my hope. Because, as I mentioned to an education person during my third modest glass of red (at lunchtime), I can’t think of any funded arts festival in the UK that is built first around community engagement.

Tickets via the Festival de Música de Setúbal website.