Hugh Forrest, Co-President & Chief Programming Officer, on 35 years of running South by Southwest, one of the most important events in the USA!

Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. The event, an essential destination for 300,000+ global professionals, features sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, and a variety of networking opportunities.
Hugh who joined SXSW in 1989, was named “Austinite of the Year” in 2012 by the Austin Chamber of Commerce and in2014, he and other SXSW Directors were named Austin Entrepreneurs of the Year by Ernst & Young. He is an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Kenyon College, his alma matter.
Beyond SXSW, he has served on the National Advisory Board for the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is part of the Board of Directors for Austin Habitat for Humanity and also serves on the Board of Directors for the Austin-based accessibility company Knowbility.
Before joining the SXSW team, he founded The Austin Challenger and wrote for several other newspapers and publications.
The conversation includes;
  • What initially drew Hugh to join SXSW, and how have those reasons evolved over the past 35 years?
  • Some of the most significant milestones that SXSW has experienced since it was established in 1987
  • Hugh’s view on the ways that SXSW has reshaped the landscape of events, conferences, and festivals
  • The power of the community: How the team curate the event, decide on the content and themes and process speaker applications
  • How SXSW has adapted its approach over the years to stay relevant
  • The impact of the pandemic on international audiences attending SXSW and the reasons behind the decision to launch an edition of the event outside of the US and into Sydney Australia
  • The vision for SXSW's future
  • What continues to keep Hugh motivated and passionate after a 35 year association with SXSW

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