Festival of the Month: Waking Life

Waking Life in Portugal is now in its second year and already seems to be hitting the spot amongst festivalgoers, many of whom described last year’s event as their best festival experience of the summer. British House DJ OCH wrote, “[It was] one of the most colourful festivals I’ve had the pleasure of playing at in recent years” and Christine Kakaire commented in her review on Resident Advisor that “The level of aesthetic detail and artisanship made it clear that the festival was the product of people who have been taking notes at events for many years.” Naturally, this made me curious to find out more. 

I reached out to the organisers, who told me that this year should be better, as they are better prepared and have learned a few things after their experience of the first edition of Waking Life. The measures they are taking to increase comfort and hygiene are probably the biggest changes, and they are also planning to have more shaded areas. Finally, there will be a new chillout stage, further away from the other dancefloors. Other changes can be found in their article A Walk in The Park on the festival’s website.

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Located in Northern Alentejo, one of the most deserted regions in Southern Europe, which only appears to be emptying further, the festival brings life to this sleepy part of Portugal. The main reason for having the festival here is because the organisers wanted to put on an event with a 24 hour license and this location was the perfect size and structure, despite not having electricity or running water (they have to produce this themselves). 

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Waking Life seems to attract an open-minded crowd, with equally open hearts and last year, there were absolutely no incidents. Having a conscious crowd, who are willing to support one another in such a way, and respect the environment, is key for the organisers and for this reason, they don’t promote the festival too much. In 2018, the number of attendees will be restricted to just 3,500, which is still 1,000 more than the first edition. The team are trying to make the festival as noncommercial as possible, which is naturally rather hard, as they rely wholly on private money and ticket sales. They have no sponsorship, though if ever they were forced to choose between getting a sponsor or giving up on Waking Life, they would be sure to select one that ties in with the festival and its values. It’s really a choice between remaining an independent, not-for-profit festival, with fewer people, stages and artists and getting a sponsor to maintain this “purist” line-up, which is so essential to the team. The music is the festival’s main draw, and the reason it attracts so many foreigners, but House and Techno DJs are particularly pricey, and they won’t lower their fees simply because a festival is not sponsored. Variety is also essential for the team and, in the future, they would like to offer more stages with Trip Hop, Ambient, Disco and even Classical music, none of which is easy to achieve on a budget.

The organisers stated: “I think we have quite a special line-up that you don’t see in other festivals. We are really happy with the musical program.” In his opinion, one of the must-see artists is London keyboardist Kamaal Williams and he’s pleased that in general, there is more of a live aspect this year, as he doesn’t want Waking Life to be regarded as just a Techno festival. As it grows, he hopes to incorporate more Hip Hop, Dub and Roots but, seeing as he worked in Techno and House for eight years, he felt it made most sense to begin with these two genres. Ultimately, the idea is to have not only stages, but sounds emerging from all over, such as on the beach, which would fit better with the festival’s organic feel. Overall, Waking Life’s unique selling point is that it combines this organic feel with a friendly (and eco-friendly) crowd and a great line-up, on a small scale. The focus is on building a quality program, complete with non-stop music and performative arts. The team also strongly encourage people to get creative and coordinate unusual activities, such as body scrubbing and painting by naked grandmas and grandpas, as this breaks down barriers and gets you more mentally prepared for a weekend of craziness. If you have any ideas for such activities, or would like to get involved in Waking Life in any other way, visit the Get Involved section on their website.

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Waking Life takes place from August 21 – 24. Click here to purchase your ticket for just €105.

For more articles on my favourite festivals, visit the
Festival of the Month section on my website.

Written by: Milly Day
Photos: www.facebook.com/225011164237594/photos/

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