Mentors & Guest Speakers

Mentors and guest speakers at the Atelier are renowned festival directors, cultural activists and artists. During their participation they not only act as lecturers, but also as true mentors as they engage in one-on-one discussions with the participants. They are present for multiple days and some mentors will be for the whole period of the programme. They all allow participants an honest and open insight into their careers, including both success stories and failures.

Pool of experts

We are delighted to announce the facilitator, mentors and regional and international guest speakers who will be present throughout the 7 days of the training to exchange expertise, experiences and challenges with the participants of the Atelier for Young Festival Managers NEXT taking place in the Eurometropolis Region Belgium / France.  You can find the facilitator's and mentors' biopgraphies underneath, more information on the guest speakers (and some new names) will be published soon! 

Atelier Facilitator

  • Mike van Graan, Founding President African Cultural Policy Network - South Africa

Mentors and speakers

  • Airan Berg, Artistic Director and Theatre Maker - Festival der Regionen in Upper Austria - Austria 
  • Andrea Caruso Saturnino, Director Cena Aberta, Sao Paulo - Brazil
  • Erica McCalman, Creative Producer and Consultant, Art Oracle - Australia
  • Brett Pyper, Associate Professor and Head Wits School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, former CEO Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (Absa KKNK) - South Africa
  • Ong Keng SEN (Ph.D.), Artistic Director TheatreWorks and Artspace 72-13 Singapore, founder Arts Network Asia and the International Curators Academy - Singapore
  • Danny Yung, Experimental art pioneer, influential artist, Founding member and Co-Artistic Director of Zuni Icosahedron - Hong Kong
  • Artist related to ICORN, name to be confirmed

 Guest speakers and observers

  • Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco, International consultant for culture, arts and creative economy - Brazil
  • Carole Gürtler, Head Department Levant, Drosos Foundation (Zurich) - Switzerland
  • Karin Hansson, Coordinator ICORN - Sweden
  • Anthony Richter, Director Special Initiatives Open Society Foundations New York - USA
  • Susanna Seidl-Fox, Program director for culture and the arts Salzburg Global Seminar - Austria
  • Sepehr Sharifzadeh, Artistic Director NH Theatre agency – Iran 

Local guest speakers and partnerships International Arts Festival NEXT Partners:

  • Audrey Ardiet, Secretary general at La rose des vents - France
  • Romaric Daurier, Director Le Phénix Valenciennes - France
  • Philippe Deman, Director La Maison de la culture de Tournai - Belgium
  • Marie Didier, Director La Rose des vents, Villeneuve d'Ascq - France
  • Benoit Geers, Coordinator International Arts Festival NEXT - Belgium
  • Kristof Jonckheere, Director Arts Center BUDA, Kortrijk - Belgium
  • Nathalie Le Corre, Director Espace Pasolini Valenciennes - France
  • Alexander Ververken, Director Schouwburg Kortrijk - Belgium

Partnership with students HOWEST ( on digital/ new technologies and festivals. 


Mike van Graan

Founding President African Cultural Policy Network - South Africa

Mike van Graan is the founding president of the African Cultural Policy Network, and has served in leadership positions in a variety of anti-apartheid cultural organizations. He is also a playwright, who has written thirty plays to this date. He was appointed as Artscape’s Associate Playwright from 2011-2014 and is considered as one of South Africa’s leading contemporary playwrights.

He is the 2018 recipient of the Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture Award in recognition of his contribution to the fight against apartheid, to building a post-apartheid society and to the study of the interface between peace and culture both in his home country and across the African continent.

To find out more about him, click here


Airan Berg

Artistic Director and Theatre Maker at Festival der Regionen in Upper Austria - Austria

Airan co-founded the Theater ohne Grenzen, a visual theater company and the international puppetry festival for adults DIE MACHT DES STAUNENS in Vienna. He was the artistic director for performing arts of the European Capital of Culture Linz 2009. He developed the Urban Inquiries project of the Burgtheater – National Theater of Austria and he also served as the international artistic advisor for Valletta 2018.

To find out more about him click here. 

Andrea Caruso Saturnino

Founder Performas and Director Brazil Cena Aberta (Brazil) - Brazil.

Saturnino holds a Master in Performing Arts at Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris and a PhD in Performing Arts at University of São Paulo. The cities of Paris and São Paulo are central in Andrea’s artistic career, in fact in the former she co-founded Balalaica association, while in the latter she founded the international production house Performas. She is presently the director of Brasil Cena Aberta, a multiple platform, which encourages international coproductions and artistic exchanges.

Andrea also supports activism on both social and artistic level and currently she is engaged in the battle against censorship.

If you want to know more about her career and projects, open this link

Erica McCalman

Creative Producer and Consultant at Art Oracle - Australia

Erica McCalman is a creative producer, curator and consultant of Ballardong (Noongar), Irish convict, Scottish and Cornish heritage. With her independent project (Art Oracle), Erica seeks to find new ways of working as a producer, dissolving power imbalances between artist and institution and nurturing the next generation of First Nations producers.

In the past years she has distinguished herself for her work on both national and international level, by collaborating with artists from South Korea, Timor Leste and Aotearoa as well as for the British Council. She took part in the Atelier for Young Festival Managers in Malta (2019) and in 2016 she was the recipient of the George Fairfax Memorial Award for Excellence.

To know more about her click here

Brett Pyper

Associate Professor and Head Wits School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, former CEO Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (Absa KKNK) - South Africa

Between 2005 and 2007,  Brett Pyper headed the Division of Heritage Studies and Cultural Management in the University of the Witwatersrand School of Arts in Johannesburg, incorporating the Centre for Cultural Policy and Management.

One of his main fields of interest is music, therefore you should not be surprised to read that he is currently writing a doctoral dissertation on contemporary jazz culture in South Africa and that he was founding Chair of the South African Society for Research in Music.

Find out more about him at this link

Ong Keng Sen (Ph.D.)

Artistic Director TheatreWorks and Artspace 72-13 Singapore, Founder Arts Network Asia and the International Curators Academy - Singapore

Ong Keng Sen is very active in the Asian Arts scene, as the artistic director of TheatreWorks and as the founder of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA). He is the winner of the prestigious Fukuoka Asian Arts and Culture Prize in 2010.

On the international level, his works have been presented and much acclaim all over the world including New York City, Paris, Edinburgh, London, Berlin, Vienna, Roma, Denmark, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro and Adelaide. He also holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies (Intercultural Performance) from Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.

To know more about this personality, click on the link

Danny Yung

Experimental art pioneer, influential artist, Founding member and Co-Artistic Director Zuni Icosahedron - Hong Kong

Danny Yung is an experimental art pioneer and one of the most influential artists in Hong Kong. He co-founded Zuni Icosahedron, a highly esteemed experimental theatre in Hong Kong and he has been its artistic director since 1985.

Yung is a polyhedric artist as in the last 40 years he has been involved in diverse artistic fields, including theatre, cartoon, film, video, and visual and installation art. Under the influence of the Western performing arts tradition he created the commissioned theatre work by Hong Kong Arts Festival, Tears of the Barren Hill which reflects on the innovation of traditional Chinese theater and the institution of cultural exchange. Thanks to this work, he won the the Music Theatre NOW Award given by the International Theatre Institute of UNESCO.

He also keeps a close watch on the arts and cultural policy and education development in Hong Kong as well as in the Asia Pacific regions.

Curious to know more about this great personality? Open this link

Guest speakers and observers

Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco

International consultant for culture, arts and creative economy - Brazil

Pedro is a Brazilian musician and consultant with nearly 10 years of experience across the cultural, creative and development sectors. Holding an MA in International Relations and Cultural Diplomacy from Furtwangen University, Germany, Pedro areas of expertise include culture, arts, creative economy and sustainable development.

Since 2017 Pedro is an associate consultant to Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy and he is also the Deputy Director of the Global South Arts and Culture Initiative- Glosaci and Director of O Galo da Madrugada, biggest carnival group on earth.

To know more about him, click this link

Carole Gürtler

Head Department Levant, Drosos Foundation - Switzerland

Carole joined Drosos Foundation in 2009 and since 2013 she has been the Head of the Department Levant. She is currently in charge of Jordan and Lebanon and closely follows the transformation of the civil societies through an important network of around 35 partners in both countries. She studied history of arts and cultural management, and has extensive experience in the support of arts/cultural and media initiative in Europe and the Arab World.

If you want to know more about her, click this link.

Karin Hansson

Coordinator ICORN - Sweden

Karin Hansson is National Coordinator for the Swedish members of International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) since 2015.

Karin has always been very active and motivated in carrying out initiatives to help the most vulnerable parts of the society, namely children, women and migrants.  In this regard, she contributed to the development of Berättarministeriet, an organization that through creative writing workshops in Stockholm's socio-economically vulnerable areas, aims to strengthen the literacy of children and young people. Whereas she is currently involved in Tjejzonen, an organization aimed to support and reduce mental illness among young girls, and Hejfestivalen - a cultural festival for integration in Stockholm.

You can find more information about her at this link

Anthony Richter

Director Special Initiatives at Open Society Foundations - United States of America

Richter has a long and distinguished career as a member of the Open Society Foundations and contributed to the expansion of the Open Society Foundations network throughout Eurasia, the Middle East, and South Asia.

He previously was regional director of the Middle East North Africa and Southwest Asia and headed Open Society’s work in the former Soviet Union. Richter was founding chairman of the Revenue Watch Institute, and served on the boards of the Natural Resource Governance Institute. He is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a United States non-profit think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs.

If you want to know more about him, click this link.

Susanna Seidl-Fox

Program Director for culture and the arts at Salzburg Global Seminar - Austria

Susanna is involved in the management of different activities and projects at Salzburg Global Seminar.  What she passionately investigates is the transformative power of the arts, by developing programs focusing on conflict transformation through culture, on the arts as a catalyst for sustainable development, and on the expansion of international cultural engagement.

Before venturing in the field of arts and culture, she worked as a simultaneous interpreter for the United States Department of State. 

Curious to know more about her? Here her full biography.

Sepehr Sharifzadeh

Artistic Director NH Theatre agency – Iran

Sepehr is Artistic Director of NH theatre agency, the first Iranian international theater agency, initiated as a subset of the Nowrouzehonar Institute of art & Culture. The main goal of this agency is to facilitate the cultural exchange between Iran and the world through performances and its originality consists in the focus on bringing alternative theater, puppet and object theater and experimental theater to International festivals.

Sepehr is also very active in the field of independent festivals in Iran, in fact he is currently working as an artistic advisor, curator and board member with several of those festivals such as the international Contemporary music festival of Tehran and Micro-leev theater festival. 

If you want to know more about him, click this link

International Arts Festival NEXT Partners

Audrey Ardiet

Secretary General La rose des vents, Scène nationale Lille Métropole - France

Audrey Ardiet started her career at Manège, the cross border cultural center of Maubeuge (France) / Mons (Belgium) and later on she joined the artistic agency Ligne Directe à Paris as broadcast administrator.

From 2014 to 2016 she worked at Théâtre du Nord, Centre dramatique national Lille/Tourcoing, as responsible for production and broadcast. Currently she is Secretary General at La rose des vents, Scène nationale of the European Metropolis of Lille in Villeneuve d’Ascq.

Curious to know more about her? Here the full bio!

Romaric Daurier

Director Le Phénix Valenciennes - France

Romaric Daurier pursued his educational training in Annecy, the city of his childhood, between associative engagement, rock groups, writing and more writing. His first significant career step is the direction of the space Gantner à Belfort, a contemporary art center, from 1999 to 2001.

He will then joined la Maison de la culture of Grenoble, an experience which will lead him to Annecy, at theatre Bonlieu, and after at the direction of theatre Le Phénix in Valenciennes in 2009.

Open this link to find out more about him.

Philippe Deman

Director La Maison de la culture de Tournai - Belgium

Philippe Deman started his career as editor at the French Ministry of Finance (Ministère des Finances) in 1977. In 1980, he entered as organizer the House of Culture of Tournai, which he directs since 1992.

He also teaches courses of socio-cultural animation and he supervises the traineeships of the students attending the Haute école Louvain in Hainaut.

To know more about him and La Maison de la culture de Tournai, click here.

Marie Didier

Director La rose des vents, Scène nationale Lille Métropole - France

Graduated from a Business School, Marie Didier started her career in the audit field and continued in the marketing one, before collaborating with stage director François Cervantès in order to carry out his company projects, mostly abroad. Afterwards she joined the theatre at a national level.

In October 2018 she was appointed Director at La rose des vents, Scène nationale Lille Métropole.

If you want to know more about her, click this link.

Benoit Geers

Coordinator at International arts festival NEXT – Belgium

Since 2009, Benoit Geers is the coordinator of the yearly International arts festival NEXT. NEXT is a durable, cross border cooperation platform involving 6 co-organising art houses and some 15 associated cultural partners from 10 Flemish, Walloon and French cities.

Geers has been working as a communication and project manager in multiple (inter) regional performing arts houses and festivals since 2001. Cross-border cooperation in the Belgian-French territory, nowadays known as the Eurometropolis Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai (2008), has been a common thread throughout the past 15 years.

To know more about him, click here.

Kristof Jonckheere

Director Arts Center BUDA Kortrijk - Belgium

At the end of 2004, Kristof Jonckheere moved from the company DAStheater (Gent) to the small arts centre Limelight (Kortrijk) to co-write the artistic and strategic plan for arts centre BUDA, which started in 2006. As artistic coordinator, he helped BUDA develop into one of the largest performing arts workspaces in Flanders.

Jonckheere has led BUDA since mid-2017 and made a strong commitment to social sustainability. BUDA recently received the Europa Cinemas Innovation Prize 2019 for this at the Cannes Film Festival.

Click here to find out more about him.

Nathalie Le Corre

Director Espace Pasolini Valenciennes - France

Nathalie is director of Espace Pasolini in Valenciennes and she is also working as a performer there. One of her most well-known performances is L’INSTABLE, created together with Philippe Asselin.

The Espace Pier Paolo Pasolini is an alternative cultural space located in Valenciennes,  which boasts a rich collaboration with different contemporary dance artists, who gather each year in the context of Next International Arts festival.

To know more about Nathalie and Espace Pasolini, open this link.

Alexander Ververken

Director Schouwburg Kortrijk - Belgium  

After studying a master in commercial engineering at the Leuven university, Alexander started his professional career in 2006 at Engie, a global player in the energy sector.

His conviction that arts play a very important role in the social sustainable development of our society, combined with a passion for the performing arts, has lead Alexander to make a career change in 2017 becoming the managing director of the Municipal Theatre and Music Centre of Kortrijk.

Curious to know more about him? Here his full bio.