Submittet by Peter Åstedt
The 9th edition of Westway Lab took place as usual in Guimarães, Portugal, 7 to 10 of April 2022. Like most other festivals, the past two editions have been digital so this year they presented a hybrid version. The focus was live but you could access the festival panels online and tag along there.
Of course, the hybrid side is an effect of Covid and the shadow from Covid was still hanging over the event and will do so with many of the events for the remainder of 2022. Portugal still has restrictions like masks and other rules that of course affect the festival. Still, it was well executed with gig places all over Guimarães and not even heavy rain stopped the festival to present a great outdoor stage. It was almost not noted as a visitor and the team was doing an excellent job solving the rain problem with expediency.
The biggest Covid effect was that the festival had half of what it used to present with delegates and artists. On the other hand, Westway Lab delivered a very high level of speakers and networking as usual. The lesser capacity gave more time to have deeper conversations with everyone in attendance. The smaller scale still provided big business in the form of great meetings and personal professional relationships formed.
The topic on Westway Lab has always been more political and has a strong focus on the creators. Like previous years, they arranged and coordinated a very successful artist residency. On the political side, you saw many topics around the EU and creative Europe. In addition, new ideas about the environment and suitability. Here the panels are more made up of professionals working in the industry. It’s more to learn a topic than a discussion so the panels are at the top level in their subject and expertise.
Another Covid side effect was that this year you had more Portuguese artists performing. Also, the artists were more established in the Portuguese music scene. That made it interesting to see what was really cooking in the whole Portuguese market. A trend in Portugal that shined through was many acts played instrumental music. There were a few artists from abroad and also some collaborations that came out of the residency.
One of the character platforms with Westway Lab is the round table discussions at the conclusion of each day. The famous artist talks in the local bar were carried out as usual. On the last one of the festival, they also revealed next year’s dates to be 12 to 15 of April 2023. That also marks the festival’s tenth edition and they promised a bigger and new experience for next year’s Westway Lab.
In the closing talk, a subject came up that you probably will get in many festivals this year. The crew felt like it was like starting over again with the festival. It was a new beginning since Covid stopped different processes and provided a new opportunity to re-arrange things to make it better with new innovative ideas while retaining the successful parts.
It’s going to be interesting to see what the 10th edition of Westway Lab will contain since their first edition after Covid was excellent and gave good business opportunities and an even greater opportunity to experience and embrace the Portuguese music market.