Escola Normal: A collective transforming Madeira's cultural scene
Updated: Aug 8
Today, we are excited to share a story that will be included in an e-book as the final result of the "My Soft City: From Flâneur to Entrepreneur" project. This two-year-long endeavor involved partners from France, Romania, and Sweden. Among the five most successful stories we wanted to highlight from Madeira, we chose one that holds a special significance.
If you're a newcomer or a local in Funchal, you've likely already heard about or even participated in the weekly jam sessions hosted by a renowned collective called Escola Normal.
The tale of this international hub began in 2021.
Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, two visionaries, Andreas Sidenius from Denmark and Catarina Trindade from Portugal, shared a purpose: to create something extraordinary. As professional musicians, they were tired of living in a small box-like apartment in Copenhagen and yearned for a more fulfilling life. Around the same time, their son Alban was born prematurely, adding emotional and physical challenges to their journey. In search of a much-needed change of scenery, the family visited Madeira and decided to make it their new home, pursuing a long-held dream.
In addition to this unique family unit, the household also includes individuals from France, Iceland, Poland, and Italy, making it a diverse and multicultural environment. Regular visits from people of various nationalities further enrich their diverse community.
"With lesser financial pressure, the opportunity for people to evolve in their art increases drastically," explains Andreas, who is also responsible for planning and budgeting within the collective. However, it wasn't just the affordable living that attracted them. Madeira, with its vastly different climate compared to Copenhagen, provided the perfect setting to start a new chapter. "Most importantly, we realized that in Copenhagen, many cultural projects had already matured and were well-established. In Madeira, on the other hand, we didn't witness a significant wave of art in the city. While there are many artists, most of the art is geared towards tourism. There was no apparent place where you could explore and play music freely. That's how the jam session was born. We enjoyed playing in that manner, and now we can confidently say that many other people on the island also enjoy playing like that: free, improvising, sometimes wild - but above all, in a space that welcomes everyone who behaves," he adds.
Their events captivate the audience by offering active participation rather than mere spectatorship. One rule stands firm: 'covers' are not allowed during the jam sessions. This rule encourages musicians to explore new sounds, progressions, and melodies. Sometimes, magic occurs when a group of experienced or amateur musicians, who may have never played together before, creates something entirely new on the spot. Alongside these sessions, the collective actively promotes and showcases local bands and artists in larger events. Last summer, they organized the Battle of the Bands, featuring the participation of 7-9 talented local bands.
With increased funding, Escola Normal aspires to elevate the Madeiran music scene to even greater heights.
The ultimate goal of Escola Normal is to establish a sustainable cultural hub in Madeira that provides funding and financial support for both artists and organizers. This cultural center aims to engage with the local community, transcending differences in interests, backgrounds, and ages, to create a space for art, culture, and gathering.
The vision for this artistic hub extends beyond being a mere venue for events; it will be a creative space where ideas can be exchanged, artists can collaborate, and new projects can emerge. Escola Normal firmly believes that art has the power to unite people, and a cultural hub with such a vision will make a significant contribution to the island's cultural scene. While this may be a long-term goal, the team is determined to turn it into a reality, fully aware that it will require tremendous hard work, dedication, and community support.
This Tuesday during the regular jam session at Museu Cafe, Escola Normal graciously bent their only rule, which prohibits performing covers, to accommodate our music residents from the "Hristina Morfova" National School of Music and Performing Arts, Bulgaria. The group performed a mix of covers and their original track, and they were fantastic. The audience thoroughly enjoyed their performance. We take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Bri, an inspiring artist, singer, and performer who guided the group of talented students in the field of music, theater, and dance throughout their artistic residency.
This story from Madeira shows the transformative power of art and the passion of individuals coming together to create something extraordinary.
The whole story will soon be available online.