Lilli Geissendorfer - "It's Always Eye-Opening"

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Oct 18, 2013
by Oscar Tollast
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Lilli Geissendorfer - "It's Always Eye-Opening"

Theater producer returns to Salzburg Global for strategy session Lilli Geissendorfer speaking during the strategy session

A Salzburg Fellow of the 2012 Young Cultural Leaders Forum says she hopes to have a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the Seminar.

Lilli Geissendorfer, general manager at the Almeida Theatre in London, returned to the Seminar to take part in the recent strategy session entitled, 'Promoting the Next Generation of Cultural Entrepreneurs: Planning for Success'.

She was one of 11 Fellows of the 2012 Young Cultural Leaders Forum to be invited back to help design a new program to evolve from the Forum.

Speaking to Salzburg Global, Ms Geissendorfer said: "I hope that I'll be able to continue to contribute in the real world and online to the ideas that are generated here and in some way continue to spread the message of Salzburg."

Alongside 27 other leading thinkers, Ms Geissendorfer contributed to brainstorming sessions to assess the components of a new program and to build upon the work of the 2012 Young Cultural Leaders Forum.

Discussing the productivity of the sessions, she said: "They've been really interesting as ever - just so many brilliant brains.

"I have to kind of remind myself that we are actually doing work for Salzburg Global this time, and they've asked us to come back and help them. But it doesn't feel like work. It's always eye-opening."

Whilst Ms Geissendorfer admitted she found the term, "cultural entrepreneur", problematic to adopt, she recognized similar skills she used in her day-to-day work.

Ms Geissendorfer has experience of running cultural events and activities. She produced the first HighTide Festival in 2007 and ran the film and theater production company Strawberry Vale Productions.

Whilst acting as a relationship manager for theater at the Arts Council England, she managed a £2.3 million portfolio and developed environmental sustainability policies.

More recently, she co-founded Londoners on Bikes, a pop-up cycle safety campaign for the London 2012 Mayoral election.

Ms Geissendorfer said: "In the theater world, I'm a producer and that has similar tones of someone who starts something up, kicks it off, goes from having no resources to creating something from scratch.

"We were debating how appropriate it is as a term, how much understanding there might be both within the sector and from the outside of what a cultural entrepreneur is and whether that's useful, helpful, or whether another term might be better."

The 2012 Young Cultural Leaders Forum brought together 47 young cultural leaders from 37 countries around the world for an intensive leadership development program.

Ms Geissendorfer described receiving her invitation last year as "magical", having arrived completely out of the blue.

She received training in communications, change management and innovation. These were skills she was able to apply to her work.

"I had just started this job when I came last year. I'd been in it for two weeks. I'd just gotten to know my new team. I was managing five people and it enabled me to go back with some clear strategies for how I wanted my first 100 days to go. It was really, really useful.

"I've stayed in touch probably mostly with those who work in the performance arts across the world, only because we keep looking for opportunities to take work across continents and produce projects together."

The success of last year's Forum held significant sway over her decision to return to Salzburg Global.

Ms Geissendorfer said: "I just made the most amazing connections with people last year.

"When I saw who had been invited back I was immediately inspired to make the trip and convince my boss that it was time well-spent and that I would bring back a lot of new skills to share and ideas to implement."