ISPA Congress 2023: ‘The Urgency of Now’

We preview the 2023 ISPA Conference, which is built around the theme ‘the Urgency of Now’

At its January 2022 Congress, the International Society of Performing Arts (ISPA) explored the ‘opportunity of now’. The organisation’s membership came together to discuss issues ranging from equity to climate change and to envision a new future. One year later, ‘urgency’ has become the watchword, and provides the theme for 2023. As the performing arts sector reopens, has there been tangible action on the pressing needs identified at the 2022 event? How does the performing arts community meet the challenges of the present moment and uphold its commitments to change? In 2023, the ISPA membership and guests will explore what has been accomplished to date and, more urgently, what still needs to be done.

A superb list of speakers has been put together, including: ISPA CEO David Baile; Muriel Miguel, Artistic Director of the Spiderwoman Theater (US); Alicia Adams, Board Chair and Vice President, International Programming & Dance at the John F Kennedy Centre (US); Arentinian Cultural Management Consultant Pamela Lopez; Govin Ruben, Director of Malaysia-based performing arts group TerryandTheCuz; and Olesia Ostrovska-Liuta, Director General of Ukraine’s National Art and Culture Museum.

There are moderated discussion sessions on a variety of topics, including: Committing To Systemic Change (many inequalities in the performing arts have been identified, along with the urgent need for change – as the sector reopens post-Covid, how can the industry ensure equity and cultural safety?); Digital Now (countless discussions in the arts today involve the role of digital programming, its monetisation, and its future. What are the digital models? Are hybrid approaches the answer? How do we continue to ensure live (in-person) audiences?); New Ideas (four new ideas that promise to have a global impact on and for the performing arts, with a chance to interact with the presenters); Art & Borders; Deconstructing Leadership (are traditional hierarchies still fit for purpose? What are more effective and equitable structures for 2023 and beyond?); and moderated interactive presentations from three renowned ISPA Fellows: Toks Dada (Head of Classical Music at London’s Southbank Centre), Rita Ezenwa-Okoro (Executive Director, Global Play Brigade of Nigeria) and Reem Allam (Associate Director of Artistic Planning at New York University in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates).

In addition, there’s the ISPA Awards ceremony, hosted by Paul Tam, the Executive Director of Performing Arts at West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in Hong Kong; exclusive performances from all over the world; sessions on pitching new works; seminars; exclusive tours of some of New York’s best venues, including The Armory, the Perelman and the recently-refurbished David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Centre; and of course, no fewer than 16 of ISPA’s famous ‘Coffee Klatches’ which allow up to 10 delegates to get together in-person for an informal and intimate discussion (discussion topics are submitted by delegates and conversations will be delegate-led as well). This year there is even a ‘Cocktail Klatch’ on the conference closing day. And activity isn’t just confined to the conference venue. There are a number of other events throughout the city. 

As ever, ISPA has reserved special discount rates for delegates at Hotel Edison from Friday, 6 January to Sunday, 15 January. Surrounded by theatres, this elegant art deco-style hotel dating from 1931 is at the heart of Time Square and less than a 20-minute subway ride from the Kaye Playhouse on Park Avenue, which is the venue for the conference. Reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis, so make sure you book to take advantage.

“If you as an individual, or you as an organisation, are interested in global connectivity, there’s no better place that ISPA, or being in New York this coming January”, says David Baile.

Full conference and registration details can be found at: (all programmes and events may be subject to change).