Traditionally thought of as the pinnacle event on the independent music scene, South by Southwest (SXSW) has grown over the space of thirty years to become a creative kaleidoscope fostering talent and innovation across the wider arts and tech landscape.
Hugh Forrest has spent the last 22-years at the helm of the SXSW Interactive and has seen the event grow from a grassroots industry shindig to a New Media forum that is the highlight of the international tech calendar.
To hear Forrest tell it though, it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Cast your mind back to the Badlands of the late 80s tech culture and SXSW interactive was less cowboy cavalier and more geeks and freaks.
“It was the geeks on one side of the room and the cool people on the other side and it seemed like never the twain shall meet,” Forrest says.
30 years on, under Forrest’s watchful eye, SXSW Interactive has morphed into a sprawling five-day event that sees 10s of 1000s of punters gather together to catch the world’s best digital creatives, delivering the latest insights and tips.
In 2018 SXSW Interactive is shining a spotlight on diversity, in an industry maligned for its lack of gender parity, SXSW Interactive is doing its bit to redress the scales.
“I think we have a long way to go in terms of diversity,” Forrest says. “But I think compared to a lot of tech events we do have a better track record. But this year SXSW will really push the focus on growing the number of women involved. But we have focus on diversity in general, not only women, people of colour, sexual and gender diversity and more geographical diversity.”