There is a small town called Guimarães in the north of Portugal. Since five years this very special place opens its door in the name of music for people around europe. Here, were Portugal was born, the Westway LAB Festval got it‘s roots too. For me it was a excellent oppurtunity to meet people around the european music business and also a lot of new acts. First of all I had an interview with the executive director of WHY Portugal and Conference Director, Westway LAB, Nuno Saraiva. So he can tell us more what it is about:
Nuno, when started the Westway LAB Festival and what is the idea behind it?
In 2014 the AMAEI – Portuguese Independent Music Trade Association, made up of labels and self-released artists, started Westway LAB in partnership with A Oficina, Cultural Agency for the City of Guimarães, who runs the amazing CCVF venue. The idea was to establish Portugal’s very first showcase festival and professional music conference, but right from the beginning Festival Director Rui Torrinha wanted to take it further – so we added the artist residency component which is a bit more rare, combining different artists in residence, multinational new music projects.
Who are the people visiting the Westway LAB Festival?
For the PRO conferences, we have top-notch keynote speakers each year, like Peter Smidt, Charles Caldas, Keith Harris, Peter Jenner as well as key networks or industry associations like EMEE – European Music Exporters Exchange, IMPALA – European Music Companies Association, WIN – World Independent Network, INES – Innovation Network of European Showcases, and of course Westway LAB is Portugal’s first participating member in ETEP – European Talent Exchange Programme. That’s all on the professional conference side. On the music loving public who love to discover new music we sold out the festival this year with people coming not just from Guimarães but all the surrounding areas to see Leyya and Manel Cruz: Braga, Barcelos, Porto, Coimbra, Lisbon and other places.
Why does it take place in Guimarães?
It wouldn’t be the same to do it anywhere else. Guimarães is inherently a special place, as you’ve seen; but just think of the best music events you’ve been to, from Eurosonic to SXSW – if you think about it, they never take place in big cities or capital cities – they take place in smaller cities where people really go because they WANT to be at the event, not because the city itself is an attraction. Of course, once you’ve come to Guimarães, you will probably come back year after year… we have several PROs who are not regulars by our 5th edition, and some have now been here 5 times.
What was is the unique selling point of this festival? Why should people visit it?
It is probably the world’s smallest music conference, but it features the same level of top-quality c that you’ll find at the major events; which leads to a lot more facetime with the people that you actually want to meet, the speakers, professional delegates and other participants are all top professionals. You might be able to meet them for a fleeting moment at bigger conferences, but here you share the same space over the course of 2 or 3 days and strong relationships are built.
Then you have the absolutely unique results from the artist residencies: unique concerts that you either can’t see anywhere else, or you see them first in „absolute debut“ form here at Westway LAB before they go on to become ongoing side-projects. Either way, it is an absolutely unique and very special experience both on the professional music business side but also on the creative music festival offerings it produces.
What are your expectations for next year?
We had an absolutely amazing edition this year with sold out festival concerts as well as a PRO conference that doubled its numbers from last year; so right now it feels pretty hard to beat – but I’m sure we’ll think of something, haha. No, seriously, I am sure it will grow a bit more both on the festival side as well as on the conference side, and we just need to get the good news out to more people.
Which was your favorite panel and which act did you really enjoy?
I personally loved the artist residency concert that resulted from Cari Cari + O Gajo. As to the favourite panel, as conference director I did not get to see them all, however I heard rave reviews from several PRO delegates regarding Markus Linde’s synch panels (the ones moderated by Markus Linde) so I’d have to go with one of those based on popularity. I personally would name our keynote speaker Peter Smidt interviews by Allan McGowan! We’ll need a bigger room next year!
Thank you Nuno and the whole team for having us!