The Tollwood Festival from its beginnings in 1988 until today
A look back
In the spring of 1988, Uwe Kleinschmidt and Rita Rottenwallner had the idea of turning the program of the cabaret stage “Musikalisches Unterholz” (MUH) into an ecocultural festival. This festival started on 1 July 1988. It is called Tollwood.
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Four peaceful and joyful weeks – that was the Tollwood Summer Festival 2023. With a drone production on the festival motto “Water – pure life” the festival impressed its guests right from the beginning. In the Amphitheater, productions such as the tightrope act by Les Filles du renard pâle, the comic magic tricks of the magician duo Siegfried & Joy or “Le Chevâl” by Cie Paris Bénarès captivated the audience. In the Musik-Arena, every evening had a unique atmosphere about it with artists such as Tom Jones, Nico Santos, Jacob Collier, Konstantin Wecker, Spider Murphy Gang, Fanta 4, Roy Bianco & Die Abbrunzati Boys and more. The events were embedded in the “Market of Ideas” and the organic-certified gastronomy. Luke Jerram’s moon shone above it all for four weeks.
“Art washes the dust of everyday life from the soul” – with this motto, inspired by Pablo Picasso, the Tollwood Winter Festival 2023 focused on art and culture. In the KunstRaum, visitors designed their own profile or wrote down unsaid thoughts in writing workshops. In the Spiegelzelt, the Australian company Strut & Fred invited guests to immerse themselves in another world with “Limbo Unhinged”. Walk-acts moved elegantly past stalls full of arts and crafts and organic food from all over the world. Performances, live music and fire shows amazed the guests. And for those who want to go curling in Munich, Tollwood is the place to be.
The joy of life is back. The Tollwood Summer Festival 2022 stands for happy time-outs, magical moments, holiday feeling. 32 days in the best summer weather with many highlights. Luke Jerram’s moon above the amphitheatre captivates people; slackliner Friedi Kühne and his team balance 14 metres above visitors’ heads; the Orca, the twelve-metre-high “Balance” sculpture by Hungarian artist Gábor Miklós Szőke, greets visitors daily. And in the Tollwood Music Arena, stars like Patti Smith, Sting, ZAZ, Rea Garvey, Alvaro Soler, the Spider Murphy Gang and many others make the tent shake. Tollwood 2022 is “Clear for the Turnaround” and focuses on wind energy and the energy turnaround.
Under the motto “Tatort Zukunft”, the Tollwood Winter Festival 2022 calls on people to take action to lead the world into a future worth living. The environmental action site, the TAT-Site Future, invites you to the table and draws the focus to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations at a Christmas table setting. The Canadian company “Machine de Cirque” enchants the audience in its two shows with artistic acrobatics, a pinch of poetry and a good portion of humour. After a two-year break, the festival also offers fascinating fire theatre, performances, live music, a curling rink, a fantastic Christmas market with handicrafts and certified organic food from all over the world!
Under the motto “I want, because I can, what I have to. #KeinGradWeiter!” the Tollwood Summer Festival 2021 will take place in a much smaller version and with comprehensive Corona protection measures after a one-year Corona break. It is smaller, different, but special and with 53 festival days the longest festival in Tollwood history so far. The entire festival period is marked by weather extremes, ranging from wildly fluctuating temperatures to heavy rain and violent thunderstorms. And yet there are also many good things: being able to welcome back at least some of the Tollwood market participants and caterers, many happy artists who have been able to play in front of an audience again for a long time. And happy visitors who felt reminded of the beginnings of Tollwood.
Under the motto “Aufwind” (Upwind), the Tollwood Winter Festival is scheduled to start on 24 November 2021, the tents are up, the set-up is complete, the programme is booked, but then everything changes … Due to the dramatic development of the Corona pandemic in Bavaria, on 19 November 2021 the Bavarian State Government prohibits the holding of Christmas markets and thus also the Tollwood Winter 2021. After the cancellation and dismantling, Tollwood will remain present on the Theresienwiese until the beginning of January with an art installation as a sign of hope.
Due to the Corona pandemic, both the Summer Festival 2020 and the Winter Festival 2020 cannot take place.
Under the motto ” Reicht leicht!” (“Easily Enough!”) Tollwood is committed to alternatives to careless consumption and shows individual possibilities for action in everyday life: DIY, repair, exchange and sharing. The artwork at the entrance, “The Loop”, is designed by the artist Adam Stubley from over 200 shopping carts. On four festival weekends there will be open-air theatre with free admission. The Theater Titanick is coming with its production “Alice on the Run”. Three further guest performances by the Compagnie des Quidams, Cie l’Homme debout and the dancers of Cie Dyptik will follow. The musical spectrum of the music arena ranges from young artists like RIN and Yung Hurn to music legends like Tears for Fears, Midnight Oil or Nena.
“Values People!“ – a polite and urgent call to show some attitude. For values hold society together at its core. The Weltsalon as a “recycling centre”, addresses the question of values and the responsibility of all of us for (survival) on this planet. With the German premiere of “Paris de Nuit” the Hungarian company Recirquel takes visitors on a journey through vibrant Paris nightlife of the 1930s. Fulminant dance interludes, moving singing and specially composed live music – a show of dazzling characters in the unique ambience of the Spiegelzelt. The large flower, designed by Adam Stubley, welcomes visitors to the festival!
Under the motto “30 years of Tollwood – coexistence” Tollwood celebrates its anniversary. For 30 years of loyalty, Tollwood thanks its visitors with a special gift: “Carmina Burana” in a production of La Fura dels Baus on the stage in the Olympic Lake with free admission. One of the visitors’ favourites returns after five years: the Marrakech tent. The “Pavilion of Biodiversity” is a place of action and homage to the diverse network of life on earth, which is essential for survival. The music arena offers an extraordinary line-up with artists like the Hollywood Vampires, Alanis Morissette, dicht & ergreifend, Michael Patrick Kelly, Billy Idol and Jack Johnson.
Under the motto “Gut, geht besser” (“Good does better!”) Tollwood puts the focus on the positive side of things, on people and projects that tell these success stories and prove that it is possible to create a different world. The Weltsalon as “Heroes’ Forge” chooses the heroes of everyday life and encourages people to become active. The legendary Circus Oz from Australia also puts the motto into practice with its spectacular show “Model Citizens”. With breathtaking artistry and its unique humour, Circus Oz invites you on a journey into the world of the “model citizen”! As every year, numerous art installations decorated the festival area.
Under the motto “Bitte umsteigen” (“Please change”) Tollwood dedicates itself to the topic of mobility. There are three new places this summer: the Indian village restaurant “Raj Dhani”, the Caribbean “Half Moon Bar” and the “Hippie-Drom”. The Cirque Aïtal tells an acrobatic love story around an old Simca. The Cirque Inextremiste uses a construction site and a mini excavator for a grandiose acrobatic balancing act. And in the Musik-Arena great artists like Zucchero, Steve Winwood, Freundeskreis, Fanta 4, Xavier Rudd and Parov Stelar are on stage.
In winter the motto is “Wir, alle” (“We all”). With this motto, Tollwood called for a commitment to a democratic and colourful society. Numerous art projects put the motto into practice. Particularly popular: the ice sculpture with the oversized lettering “Democracy”, the “We, all” tree made of over 150 wooden human figures by Adam Stubley and the planetary system by Andrey von Schlippe. With 14 installation rooms, the Weltsalon presents itself as a “scene of democracy”. And at the Grand Chapiteau, the Canadian Cirque Eloize performes for the third time, this time with “iD”.
The action alliance “Artgerechtes München” moves city politics in the first quarter of the year. Burning sun and torrential rain alternate at the summer festival, which is prematurely terminated due to the terrible rampage in the OEZ. Under the motto “Dein blaues Wunder!” (“Your blue wonder!”) Tollwood fights together with Greenpeace for the protection of the oceans. Theatre productions and great music legends like Deep Purple inspire the visitors.
Under the motto “bewegt” (“moving”) Tollwood dedicates itself to the topic of mobility in winter. For the 10th time, the Weltsalon with current ecological and social topics takes place – this time under the motto “Heimat” (“Home”). The Canadian Cirque Éloize returns to the winter festival with the European premiere “Saloon”.
In May, Tollwood founds the action alliance “Artgerechtes München” with the aim that the city of Munich will only allow products from species-appropriate animal husbandry. Maximum temperatures above 30 degrees are not uncommon this summer. Nevertheless, stars such as Joan Baez and Patti Smith inspire with their grandiose performances. Three small productions in the theatre tent are thrilling.
Under the motto “Na sauber!” (Clean!), the winter is all about waste and recycling. Matching this theme, action artist HA Schult is putting up 500 of his “Trash People”. On two benefit evenings, Munich artists committ themselves to animal welfare and in the “Grand Chapiteau” the Canadian Cirque Éloize fascinates with “Cirkopolis”.
The campaign “Artgerecht” (“species-appropriate”) enters its second round this summer – with a picture gallery of the action artist HA Schult and 110,000 signatures! In the music tent stars like Bob Dylan pay their respects; in the theatre tent the company Akoreacro presents a poetic mix of music and artistry.
Under the motto “Lebewesen” (“Living creatures”), winter continues its commitment to species-appropriate animal husbandry – artistically implemented in the installation “Armes Schwein” (“Poor Pig”) by Hungarian artist Gabor Miklos Szoke. The “Weltsalon” presents itself in a new guise – and the Australian variety show LIMBO inspires in the mirror tent.
At the end of the first project phase of “Bio für Kinder”, the Munich City Council decides on the mandatory use of 50 percent organic and 30 percent fresh food in municipal childcare facilities.
The Tollwood Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer: The MUH tent commemorates the times of the beginning and with the artist Johann Guillerm, one of the most exciting artists of the past years once again inspires the audience.
In winter, Tollwood dedicates itself for the first time to the theme of “species-appropriate” and draws attention to the abuses in factory farming with the spectacular installation “Café Bad Connection” by performance artist FLATZ. The South African Isango Ensemble brings an exciting version of the Magic Flute to Munich.
The summer festival shows just how ambivalent “Beautiful prospects” can be: in the large music tent, stars such as Lou Reed, Melody Gardot and Jan Delay thrill the audience. The artistic vertical theatre “As The World Tipped” takes a more thoughtful approach to the consequences of climate change. And the installation “Vorratskammer” (pantry) stimulates reflection on the future of world nutrition.
At the Winter Festival, the installation “E-Werk” is dedicated to the energy supply of today and tomorrow; in the “Weltsalon” tent, guests such as Auma Obama and Daniel Cohn-Bendit explain their visions for the future. And at the theatre tent “Grand Chapiteau”, four circuses from four cultures will be making guest appearances.
Together with the anti-nuclear organization “.ausgestrahlt” in May, Tollwood hands over about 25,000 signed small nuclear waste barrels and another 28,867 signatures to the political leaders in Berlin.
Many stars come to the summer festival: Bryan Adams, Manu Chao and ZAZ sing in the big music tent.
In winter, the Australian production “Cantina” takes visitors on an acrobatic roller coaster ride in the nostalgic variety tent. The press cheers.
Rita Rottenwallner receives the Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
In summer, the motto “Blue, so blue” is reflected in the art on the square and also in the concerts. In the Blue Note Lounge there is top-class music at the late hour to round off the large music programme performing Norah Jones, the Pet Shop Boys and Roger Hodgson.
In winter, Tollwood and its visitors are involved in the campaign “Kein Ausstieg vom Ausstieg” (“No Exit from Exit”) to encourage people to opt out of nuclear energy. In the theatre tent, the Circus Cirkör, the Seven Fingers Company, the Race Horse Company & Circo Aero and the Tom Tom Crew ignite an artistic firework display by the Noveau Cirque.
With the tanzbar tent, the “Garden of the Peaceful Dragon” and the bazaar tent Marrakech there are many new places to discover this summer. Despite the numerous rainy days a crowd puller: the Musik-Arena. Never before have so many visitors come to the Tollwood concerts.
Under the motto “Heaven & Hell”, the Tiger Lillies and the Canadian company The Seven Fingers will provide visitors with heavenly moments in winter.
20 years of Tollwood: The summer festival celebrates with artists like Jethro Tull and Billy Idol, the Teatro de los Sentidos, the Biermösl Blosn and Konstantin Wecker. Tollwood receives the Bavarian State Medal for services to the environment and health.
In winter, Peter Pan, in a new production by Sven Grunert, takes visitors on an extraordinary journey to Neverland. Celebrity chef Stefan Marquard creates the menu.
Environment is the big issue this summer. Whether it’s the successful “Bio für Kinder” project or the presentation of an organic farm at the festival, ecological thinking is now firmly implanted in the minds of Tollwood visitors.
This can also be seen in winter:The Anti-Transrapid stand at Tollwood brings the petition for a referendum to life, and the new environmental tent, the “Weltsalon”, with four environmental focal points in four weeks becomes the absolute highlight of the festival.
In the summer of 2006 the world is watching the World Cup, hence the festival area is a place of contemplation. One has space, a lot of space, even in the Andechs tent.
In winter, “Hänsel & Gretel” are afraid in the woods or rather on the gigantic hill in the opera tent where for the first time and with great success Sarah Wiener is providing the gourmet organic menu. Helga Pogatschar’s new version of Humperdinck’s opera music is celebrated as a sensation.
In collaboration with the city of Munich Tollwood launches the project “Bio für Kinder”.
For the second time the Spanish “Teatro de los Sentidos” is a guest of the summer festival, after “Oraculos” now with “La Memoria del Vino”. And once again, the interactive dramaturgy transports visitors into a magical world.
And in winter Edgar Allan Poe goes to hell in the fantastic musical by Frank Nimsgern.
“Man is only completely human where he plays,” said Schiller. Under this motto Johann Le Guillerm is back with his new “Cirque Ici”. Austria 3 is sold out twice.
Winter is dominated by the second movement of the “Gauklersonate”. Highlights are also in the WörterSee with readings from Schätzing to Rafik Schami. Completely sold out: “Lukas Straßenkind”, the puppet theatre of the Ringsgwandl family.
A summer for all those who hate Opel cadets. Because at “Auto Auto” every evening one of them is beaten to a pulp in the cabaret show. And in the music tent? On the big stage Arlo Guthrie, Kool & The Gang, Toto, Saga, Yes and the Beach Boys are performing.
Good sound is also popular in winter: at the “GauklerSonate” Mozart meets Variety, Wolfgang Staribacher as the reincarnation of the wild Wolferl, becomes one of the greatest success in Tollwood history. For the first time, the festival’s gastronomy is fully certified in accordance with the EU organic council regulation.
The labyrinth is the symbol of this summer, which entices with an exquisite theatre programme. Just a few names: Teatro de los Sentidos, Compagnie 111, Compagnie du Hanneton, Avner Eisenberg, Les Poubelles Boys, Compagnie Jérôme Thomas.
And even in winter, when it snows the theatre is to blame: Slava’s magnificent clown show ends with a snowstorm to Carl Orff’s music.
A summer with sunshine and 21 days of blue sky. Plus concert highlights with George Benson and the incredible David Byrne with his “Look into the Eyeball”.
In winter, the bells ring which Papageno takes with him in search of Pamina – and Papagena. Mozart’s “Magic Flute” is a daring experiment, but conductor Markus Poschner turns it into a musical delicacy.
“Carmen” is coming to the Tollwood Summer Festival. In a steel arena built especially for the show. The French company Off brings Bizet’s opera to the festival grounds in a wild short version. Lou Reed, Huey Lewis & The News, Erkan & Stefan and Nina Hagen are also on stage.
In winter, there is an extremely successful first symbiosis between classical music and variety in “Fatale Deluxe”.
One could write a lot about the highlights of this year, about “Operation: Orfeo” from Denmark, about the first guest performance of the Flöz family with “Ristorante Immortale”, or about the vaudeville at the winter festival with the “Tiger Lillies” and their sadly beautiful music.
But then in the last week of the year, “Lothar” came over Tollwood, one of the strongest hurricanes of the century. Within minutes the area was a chaos of tattered tents and destroyed stalls. But the Tollwood crew was not to be beaten. Wolfgang Nöth made his “Zenith” available, two days after the hurricane the Tiger Lillies played there, and the New Year’s Eve party took place where Lothar had destroyed everything shortly before. Thanks to the crew!
Ten dance companies from all over the world accept the invitation to the Tollwood Festival under the motto “Europe meets Asia”, including the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre from Taiwan.
And once again new territory in winter: Tollwood presents its first opera as an in-house production: Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio” under the direction of Markus Poschner. Director Serge Aubry is one of the first to work with video recordings. A great success.
It’s the tenth festival and it almost rains continuously, even though it lasts a week longer. It is again all about circus, for example with Victoria Chaplin and her “Cirque Invisible”. Though, the path continues to lead to “physical theatre”, for example with the Australian company “Legs On The Wall”. The Persephone version by Robert Wilson remains unforgotten on the stage in the Olympiasee.
The real sensation takes place in winter: “Chaos Royal”, the first great en-suite variety show in Tollwood history, which the SZ wrote about: “… so simple and so beautiful”.
And again there is a festival within a festival, this time with ten groups of the Nouveau Cirque from eight different countries. The juggling master Jérôme Thomas is present and Johann Le Guillerm with his one-man circus “Ici”. And the music? Is superbly represented by Juliette Gréco, Jan Garbarek, Jackson Browne, John Lurie, Toto and Manfred Mann.
And in winter comes “Que-Cir-Que”, three people, a circus, a dream, one of the most beautiful circus events ever.
In summer the Olympiasee is conquered. The Spanish action theatre group “Xarxa” illuminates the water from a floating stage with “Sails in the Wind”. Action theatre also determines the programme this time, whose musical highlight is Branford Marsalis.
In winter Circus Oz presents its second programme. It is sold out from day one.
It will be one of the most beautiful summers in the history of Tollwood, because of the weather and because of a successful experiment: the festival within the festival is dedicated to international action theatre. With “Semola” from Spain, “Nucleo” from Italy and above all “Generik Vapeur” from France, who will move from the Marienplatz to the Odeonsplatz in a grandiose street spectacle.
The winter belongs to the legendary Australian Circus Oz, which receives the AZ Star of the Year for its brilliant show.
One focus and a new genre characterize the summer: jazz is the order of the day in the music tent, with the United Jazz + Rock Ensemble and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. From 10 p.m., world music will be played in the Kulturpfade Tent; and “Gosh” is the first group from the Nouveau Cirque to come to Tollwood, a genre that is finding a new home here.
For the first time mayor Christian Ude writes the greeting as patron. Hans Söllner now wears dreadlocks, Joan Armatrading adorns the cover of the program booklet and after Haindling Blood, Sweat & Tears play in the music tent.
And Tollwood discovers winter: At Roncalliplatz, where today the Pinakothek der Moderne is located, the first winter festival takes place. AZ praises the Christmas market as “Munich’s most beautiful”.
In summer Hubert von Goisern appears as support act for “Broadlahn”. Miriam Makeba, the EAV and Nina Simone are making guest appearances in the Musikzelt. For the first time there is a “Festival of the Regions” with artists from the Ruhr, Cologne, Hamburg and Lower Saxony.
The music program becomes international. Wolfgang Ambros sings “Zentralfriedhof” and Abdullah Ibrahim comes to the music tent with his band Ekaya. Cabaret artist Hanns Dieter Hüsch speaks evil. And it rains (almost) every day. Munich’s press invents the “Tollwood weather”.
Siegfried Hummel, the cultural advisor at the time, wrote in his greeting: “With Tollwood ’89 an extremely successful experiment finds its impressive continuation. The Tollwood Young Talent Promotion Prize is awarded for the first time. There are five tents with a cultural programme over 16 days. An environmental market is launched under the motto “Ökologie zum Anfassen” (“Hands-on ecology”).
The first Tollwood Festival takes place for eleven days in the Olympic Park.
Excerpt from an interview with Tollwood co-founder Uwe Kleinschmidt in the very first program booklet: Is the Tollwood Festival also intended as a kind of political rally? – “No. This festival is simply a cultural necessity. It is an example of how alternatives are possible.”