How to Inspire Dialogue and Understanding: The Role of Public Debate and Socially Engaged Art. Dessy Gavrilova in conversation with Lilia Topouzova

When and Where

Monday, October 31, 2022 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Room 208N, North House
Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy
1 Devonshire Place


Dessy Gavrilova


In this seminar, Dessy Gavrilova will discuss her distinguished trajectory as one of Europe’s leading cultural entrepreneurs. We’ll consider some of Gravrilova’s most successful public-facing projects, such as the Vienna Humanities Festival, “Time to Talk” (the European Network of Houses for Debate), and Sofia’s Red House Centre for Culture and Debate. The seminar will offer insights on how to stage open dialogues and how to meaningfully engage public debates. We will also discuss the role of socially engaged art in promoting a culture of civic argumentation. The seminar will appeal to students and scholars who are interested in civic engagement and the public role of the humanities.

Dessy Gavrilova is a Vienna-based Bulgarian cultural entrepreneur, curator, cultural consultant and playwright. In Sofia, Gavrilova co-founded and directed The Red House Center for Culture and Debate. For decades, it was Bulgaria’s principal socio-cultural centre. Its innovative programming spanning socially engaged art, debates, public talks and lectures transformed Bulgaria’s public space.

In Vienna, she founded the European Network of Houses for Debate “Time to Talk”, a network of cultural centers and initiatives that promote public debate and develop a culture of civic argumentation, aiming to inspire dialogue and understanding. In 2016, Gavrilova initiated and co-founded the Vienna Humanities Festival, an annual event that has already become emblematic for Austria's capital. During the last week of September, the festival features more than 40 debates with leading international thinkers, as well as selected artistic work that raises socially relevant issues.

Most recently Gavrilova has founded a Bulgarian literacy start-up that supports kids’ reading with comprehension and develops their functional literacy, media literacy, and civil and global competences.

In her capacity as a consultant, Gavrilova has advised numerous international and national institutions,

like the European Commission, The Council of Europe, The Open Society Foundations.

Her play "Innocent Murders" was nominated Best Play of the Year (2015) by both Askeer and Ikar theatre prizes. In 2011, she was listed as one of the 100 most influential women in Bulgaria.

Contact Information

Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (CERES)


Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (CERES)


1 Devonshire Place