Upcoming Program


One hundred years ago at Schloss Leopoldskron, Max Reinhardt, Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal founded the world-renowned Salzburg Festival as a “Festival of Peace” to transform “the whole town into one stage.” Were the founders alive today, what radical act of re-imagination would they launch? What is the societal significance and creative potential of festivals for people and planet in today’s conflicted era?

Building on Salzburg Global’s internationally-acclaimed series on Culture, Arts and Society – which advocates for the transformative power of culture and the arts on policy agendas and catalyzes exchange across disciplines and sectors – this program will bring groundbreaking practitioners and disruptive innovators together from around the world to catalyze breakthrough ideas, actions, and connections in an age of polarization, dehumanization, climate crisis, and techno-colonization.

By invitation only


Description of March 10-15 Program to be updated for rescheduled dates October 24-28, 2020  

2020 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the world-renowned Salzburg Festival, founded by Max Reinhardt, Richard Strauss, and Hugo von Hofmannsthal in 1920 in the baroque palace of Schloss Leopoldskron. As World War I drew to a close, they proposed an act of radical re-imagination: a “Festival of Peace” to transform “the whole town into one stage.”

Less than 30 years later, Salzburg Global Seminar was born out of another global conflict in the same inspirational location. Committed since 1947 to challenge current and future leaders to shape a better world, we seek to use this centennial as a springboard to explore the significance and potential of festivals for people and planet. In today’s conflicted era, what would Reinhardt, Strauss, and Hofmannsthal launch if they were alive today? Why do we create festivals? For whom? By whom? And to what end? Are they ephemeral or can they catalyze breakthrough ideas, actions and connections in an age of polarization, dehumanization, climate crisis and techno-colonization?

Festivals have energized communities since time immemorial. Rooted in rituals, stories and faiths, they embody local and indigenous culture and celebrate deep bonds to nature, land and the seasons. Modern festivals range from intimate experiments to gigantic mega-events, showcasing ever more diverse creative practices, from the performing, visual, and traditional arts to photography, film, literature, street arts, food, light, design and ideas-based, future-focused, eco-inspired events. Whatever their focus – creative innovation, activism, city branding, wellness, entertainment – festivals speak to fundamental human needs. They let us share in a density and intensity experience, revel in specialness beyond day-to-day routine, and join – as the German word “Festspiele” infers – in “celebratory play.”

This 2020 program of Salzburg Global Seminar’s Culture, Arts and Society series will be framed around three interlinked areas of inquiry:

  • Roots and Voice – Exploring the origins of festivals as a lens to critically analyze their current manifestations and potential for future impact at local, regional, and global levels;
  • Resources and Sustainability – Focusing on the future interface between festivals and resources – both economic and planetary; and
  • Designs on the Future – Examining how festivals are uniquely placed to leverage their distinctive characteristics to inspire collective imagination and civic engagement in coming decades.


  • Facilitate dialogue across the global festival community and reimagine forms of networking and programming aligned with a sustainable development agenda for our planet;
  • Inspire, incubate, and catalyze new South/North/East/West festival relationships and collaborations;
  • Convene a public discussion with international participants and Austrian cultural institutions and stakeholders around the future of festivals;
  • Compile a “What Future for Festivals” Reader, with thought pieces by program participants;
  • Develop research agendas for the measurement of the impact of festivals;
  • Share learning from Salzburg Global through dynamic reporting (including blogs, newsletters, and a substantive report) with a broad, international group of stakeholders, and with the help of a media partner.


  • Why do we create festivals? For whom? By whom? And to what end? Are they ephemeral or can they catalyze breakthrough ideas, actions and connections in our conflicted age?
  • With new models of localism and co-creation emerging against the backdrop of globalization and climate risk, do festivals foster development of a communal identity? Can they engender feelings of belonging and new social bonds? Can they play a cohesive and humanizing role for societies in conflict or across generational, social, economic and political divides? Can festivals offer a “way in” when formal structures in society do not?
  • Who designs festivals and who or what are the underlying drivers? For which audiences are festivals designed? Whose stories are told and whose voices are heard? How can diversity and equity be promoted and supported through festivals of the future?
  • How are festivals helping to regenerate more livable and inclusive cities and communities that celebrate uniqueness and authenticity? Are radical business models needed, especially for legacy festivals? Can new forms of business-arts partnerships be imagined?
  • Given that festival-goers produce huge quantities of waste and international travel related to festivals remains problematic, how can explicitly greener festivals stimulate take-up on the grand scale?  
  • What new forms of festivals could emerge, driven by technical innovation such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence? What top-down, bottom-up, or hybrid festival models will appear in coming decades?



Program Info
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Adel Abdelwahab
Artistic Director, Theatre is a Must, Alexandria, Egypt
Ping-Ann Addo
Associate Professor of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA
Jordi Albareda Ureta
Founder and Director, FairSaturday, Bilbao, Spain
Enrique Avogadro
Minister of Culture of the City of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mariana Aymerich
Director, Cervantino Festival, Guanajuato, Mexico
Hope Azeda
Artistic Director, Ubumuntu Arts Festival, Kigali, Rwanda
Guy Ben-Aharon
Founder and Director, The Jar, Boston, USA
Airan Berg
Artistic Director, Festival der Regionen, Upper Austria; Theater Maker, Vienna, Austria
Ron Berry
Artistic Director, Fusebox Festival, Austin, USA
Jacob Boehme
Creative Director, YIRRAMBOI First Nations Arts Festival, Melbourne, Australia
Françoise Callier
Program Coordinator, Angkor Photo Festival, Siem Reap, Cambodia and Paris, France
Andrea Caruso Saturnino
General Director, Brasil Cena Aberta, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Inge Ceustermans
General Director, The Festival Academy, Brussels, Belgium
Silvija Ciuladyte
Founder, CROSSROADS Festival, Salzburg, Austria
Rose de Wend Fenton
Freelance Arts Producer and Advisor, UK
Kathrin Deventer
Secretary General, European Festivals Association, Brussels, Belgium
Shihaam Domingo
Owner and Producer, Domingo Effect, Cape Town, South Africa
Sharupa Dutta
Teamwork Arts; Producer, Jaipur Literature Festival, India
Ahmed El Attar
Director, Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival, Cairo, Egypt
Angele Galea
Director, Science in the City, Valetta, Malta
Beatriz Garcia
Director, Cities of Culture Research Observatory, University of Liverpool, UK
Tina Heine
Artistic Director, Jazz & The City Festival; Artistic Director,Supergau Festival, Salzburg, Austria
Paul Heritage
Professor of Drama and Performance, Queen Mary University of London, UK
Sarah Hopwood
Managing Director, Glyndebourne Festival, Glyndebourne, UK
Lily Hughes
Programme Manager, Edinburgh International Culture Summit, UK
Petra Jansa
Cultural Producer; Ph.D. Candidate, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Rojeh Khleif
Director, Haifa Independent Film Festival, Haifa, Israel
Yuliia Kolzovets
General Coordinator of the International Book Arsenal Festival, Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine
Sun-Chul (Sancho) Lee
Founder, Potato Blossom Studio, Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea
Veronika Liebl
Co-Director, Ars Electronica Festival; Director of Organization/Finance Ars Electronica Festival/Prix/Exhibitions, Linz, Austria
Suzan Monteverde Martins
Art Commissioner, Associação Folclórica Boi Bumbá Garantido, Parintins, Amazonas, Brazil
Sabrina Motley
Director, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington D.C., USA
Keng Sen Ong
Artistic Director, TheatreWorks; Founder, International Curators Academy, Singapore
Michael Orlove
International Relations Director, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington D.C., USA
Andrei Pamintuan
Founder and Creative Director, FringeMNL; Director, The Gayborhood Festival, Manila, Philippines
Mety Panagiotopoulou
Director, Giortes Rokkas Festival; Founder Metaxoto Cultural Space, Crete, Greece
Federico Pardo
Director, 20 Fotógrafos, Latin American Photo Festival, Colombia
Ricardo Peach
Director, Vrystaat Kunstefees/Arts Festival/Tsa-Botjhaba, Mangaung, South Africa
Martin Posta
Founder, Director and Curator, Signal Festival, Prague, Czech Republic
Smriti Rajgarhia
Director, Serendipity Festival, Goa, India
Yannick Roman
Business Development Manager, The Festival Academy, Brussels, Belgium
Jason Ryle
Executive Director, imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival, Toronto, Canada
Monica Sassatelli
Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
Johannes Schwaninger
Founder, Kultur Raum Zell, Zell am See, Austria
Sepehr Sharifzadeh Golpaygani
Artistic Director, NH Theatre Agency, Teheran, Iran
Joe Sidek
Founder, George Town Festival; Festival Director, Rainforest Fringe Festival, George Town, Malaysia
Eckhard Thiemann
Artistic Director, Shubbak Festival, London, UK
Kenneth Uphopho
Artistic Director, Lagos Fringe Festival, Lagos, Nigeria
Michael van Graan
Artist-in-residence, University of Pretoria; President, African Cultural Policy Network, Cape Town, South Africa
Valentyna Zotova
President and CEO, CANactions Festival, Kyiv, Ukraine
Program Format

This highly-interactive incubator program will be structured around an inspiring mix of presentations, curated conversations, informal interactions, creative interventions, knowledge exchanges, and small group work. The process seeks to combine theory, policy and practice across regions and sectors, opening up new perspectives and intensive learning opportunities. Participants will be able to work intensively in focus groups to deliberate on specific themes they identify through open space methodology, ensuring that the program reflects the full diversity of perspectives, voices and issues raised by this theme.

Taking advantage of local resources and our setting, the program will also feature special panels on future trajectories for festivals in Austria and on the Salzburg Festival, founded at Schloss Leopoldskron 100 years ago.

Participant Profile

The program will convene an international interdisciplinary and inter-generational group of 45 practitioners, innovators, and thought leaders to forge a crucible for strategic dialogue. Practitioners will include festival directors, trustees, and staff, artists, and representatives of festival and community associations. They will be joined by a cross-cutting mix of festival scholars and researchers, urban planners and strategists, policymakers, technology innovators and social entrepreneurs, anthropologists, cultural philanthropists, and media.