The Setubal Music Festival was established in 2010/11 as a partnership between the Municipality of Setubal and the British-based Helen Hamlyn Trust, a charity that supports education, culture and social inclusion with a focus on young people. The starting point of this initiative was a process of collaboration with the city’s public and private institutions / associations in education and participation programmes for young people: workshops in diverse drumming skills and creative song-writing took place during the several months leading up to the first Festival in late May 2011. 

This is a project which was grown from the ground up rather than delivered from the top down, an approach which was essential to the immediate success of the Festival in 2011 and its prospects for sustainability. 

The Festival itself ran for four days, in late May, involving concerts by first class visiting performers from both Portugal and overseas and performances by many local groups of young people. All the professional artists are invited to share their experiences with local young musicians and to involve them in their professional performances within the Festival. 

The Setubal Music Festival activities reach and represent the different groups across the region, including the immigrant’s communities and the people with special needs, as a mirror of the real society of Setubal region.

By starting within the local community, responding to their needs and especially those of the children, we have been able to lay the proper foundations on which to build.



Following four years of work developed by the Setubal Music Festival with the local community, and benefiting from the support of Gulbenkian’s Foundation recently established PARTIS scheme - Artistic Practices for Social Inclusion, a new step was taken in creating opportunities and the consolidation of musical experiences for the young musicians from Setubal. The creation of an ensemble or a small youth orchestra, in which some of the most talented young musicians in the region may continue musical journey after finishing high school and before undertaking professional adult life, began to take shape in late 2014.

The concept is uniquely inclusive: the ‘orchestra’, mirroring the Festival’s approach, truly reflects the nature and music-making of the local community and therefore it includes drummers in the African / Latin American tradition (20% of the population coming from the former Portuguese colonies), classical instrumentalists, jazz musicians, and young people with special needs who are now learning to play music using assistive technology.  Importantly, the Youth Ensemble of Setubal gives regular work to young composers, just as orchestras always used to do, because a new repertoire needs to be specially composed or arranged for this unique musical democracy.

The Youth Ensemble of Setubal is a project developed by A7M – Cultural Association for Setubal Music Festival, under the direction of Ian Ritchie as artistic director and guided by three specialist music leaders: Rui Borges Maia, Pedro Condinho and Fernando Molina.

“This is a unique and ground-breaking project, but its philosophy and methodology can both be adopted and adapted by local communities almost anywhere in the world.  We are proud that Setubal is now home to the very first ‘orchestra’ that genuinely gets rid of cultural and social barriers, which often stand between people of different backgrounds and music of different genres, in the pursuit of artistic quality as well as equality.” says Ian Ritchie, the Artistic Director.

 These two projects developed by A7M – Cultural Association for Setúbal Music Festival are supported by The Helen Hamlyn Trust, Setubal Municipality and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.