Living for the City

As a Festival Director in Europe and Australia, Jonathan Holloway has repeatedly reinvented the ways in which festivals explore, reclaim and celebrate their city for all those who use it, from the traditional custodians of the land to the latest arrivals, and all the people in between.  Festivals are the ultimate “pop-up” dwelling, prompting new types of instant communities and acting as a depth-charge of creativity to rediscover who we are. Jonathan will talk about some of the immersive experiences and large-scale spectaculars he has devised in London and Norwich (UK), Perth and Melbourne (Australia), and the lessons and tricks we can all take away from these transformative events.

Ideas talks are going on all Festival long! Read our advice on how to get the most from these explorative conversations >

Jonathan Holloway

Jonathan Holloway deals in experiences. Joyous, extraordinary, explosive, transformational and unforgettable experiences. Using exhilarating creativity and irresistible spectacle, he has dedicated his professional life to transforming great organisations and cities, from London's South Bank to major international arts festivals in Europe and Australia.​

Born and bred in Sheffield, he cut his teeth as a stand-up comedian and theatre director, since when he has travelled the world as a festival director, chief executive, educator and cultural leader.​

In the UK he spent seven years heading up public events at London’s National Theatre, then seven years leading the team at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, growing it massively to be the third largest annual arts festival in the UK and delivering Creative Partnerships for the region, the government's flagship creativity in schools programme.​

In Australia, his first Perth International Arts Festival in 2012 opened with 30,000 people dancing in the streets, as angels and two tonnes of feathers fell from the sky. In 2015 he masterminded the largest single arts event Australia has ever seen, when 1.4 million people spent three days walking with giants through the main streets of Perth. In 2017 he brought Taylor Mac’s epic 24 hour production A 24-Decade History Of Popular Music to Melbourne, the only time it will be seen complete outside the US.  All three won the rare and prestigious Helpmann Award for Best Special Event. Currently the Artistic Director of Melbourne International Arts Festival, the flagship arts event of Australia’s cultural capital, the Sydney Morning Herald hailed 2017 as “the strongest Melbourne Festival in years... only the brilliance and daring of festival director Jonathan Holloway’s programming made it possible, and if you didn’t see it, you missed a landmark theatrical event”. His 2018 Melbourne Festival was headlined by the Fire Gardens, an immersive fiery spectacle that took over the whole of the Royal Botanic Gardens, with all 30,000 tickets selling weeks in advance.

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