Dear friends! Esteemed colleagues! Precious members of the audience, children and parents alike! All the fans of puppetry creation and creativity! I am honoured to be able to greet you all at the 20th edition of the International Festival Bábkarská Bystrica Tour 2016, Double Impulse! 
After a two-year hiatus, we are very pleased to be able to draw you into the fantasy world only puppetry can create. It would be deceiving ourselves to write that our situation has improved in any way over the past two years. Recent months brought social and ideological turmoil that pushed the theatrical community further away from the serene cultural and administrative background of the early 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium when we shaped the contours of our festival. It would be naïve to ignore the fact that there are too many prophets out there who are so dangerously positive about what art should be (and especially when it is becoming decadent). It would be childish to deny that we live in the times when political and power interests have stormed into our everyday lives, in the times when we way too often use words such as radicalism, extremism, violence, fascism, enemies, polarisation… even death. These are the words that are all filled with pain and sorrow. All of a sudden, we have found ourselves in an era when – like in the communist regime – we are learning to look over our shoulders before we say or write anything... But we still hope most people have not lost the belief, courage and motivation to stand up for the values like humanity, tolerance or honest labour… 
In the light of these facts, we are particularly pleased and honoured to see that in spite of all the political turmoil the administrative and cultural will of authorities and individuals on the national and regional level to support our festival still prevails. This is exactly what has given us and our theatre another chance to spark a creative human dialogue between artists and experts on the one hand and young and grown-up audiences on the other in the spirit of puppetry inspiration. 
This year’s edition of our festival will present 21 shows, including 14 for children of all ages (ranging from toddlers to teenagers) and seven for the adult audience, all that in the course of five days on four theatre stages in Banská Bystrica and in six venues in various towns and villages of the Banská Bystrica region. The festival programme features several novelties. 
One novelty of the festival is TOUR 2016, which was deliberately designed to reach out to audiences in the remotest towns and villages of the Banská Bystrica region. The festival-goers can turn to festival-travellers and follow the puppeteers as they give their performances in six participating destinations and enjoy the unique chance to explore the region’s diverse cultural heritage, including the Museum of Puppet Culture and Toys in Modrý Kameň.  Another novelty is a week-long puppet theatre art masterclass hosted by the Modrý Kameň castle and led by Robert Jarosz, Polish dramatist, director and artistic director of the Guliwer Puppet Theatre in Warsaw and by Justyna Czarnota, Polish theatre pedagogue. The works of the masterclass participants will be presented as part of Second Impulse.  Last but not least, we are looking forward to launching Bábkarská Bystrica: A Festival for All Sizes, a publication released in cooperation with Theatre Institute in Bratislava.
This year’s festival productions will be presented by theatres from six European countries – Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Slovakia – and even one country outside Europe, namely Israel. The festival will roll out the red carpet for almost two hundred artists, welcoming for the first time puppeteers from Germany as part of First impulse for children and artists from Israel and Italy as part of Second Impulse for grown-ups. Overall, the festival’s final selection was made from over 80 productions from all around the world, some of them as far away as Brazil and Kenya. 
The festival’s programme structure and themes of accompanying events have been determined by the festival’s dramaturgy team that comprised Iveta Škripková (PTAC Director), Marián Pecko (PTAC director and Artistic Director) and Monika Tatarková (PTAC Literary Manager). The final selection has also been influenced by other factors, for instance team members personally attending puppet theatre festivals abroad and/or consulting with their directors or foreign experts in the area. The accompanying events follow in the footsteps of the festival’s long-term ambition to interconnect different forms of art and para-theatrical activities in order to achieve a true gesamtkunstwerk. 
This year’s edition marks the festival’s 20th anniversary. Since our festival is a biennale, this number actually represents almost four decades of twists and turns related to organising a unique parade of professional puppet theatre in Slovakia. Ever since it came to the limelight as a national exhibition of Slovak puppet theatres in 1977, the festival has seen all kinds of forms, ups and downs. In 1994, it moved up one notch to become an international festival of Slovak puppet theatres, with an ambition to confront domestic puppeteers with their colleagues from Central Europe and around the world. Unfortunately, the eleventh edition of the festival was cancelled as a direct result of cultural commissariats introduced by former Culture Minister Ivan Hudec. 16 years later, in 2010, the festival was thematically divided into sections for minors and grown-ups and became the international festival of contemporary puppet theatre for children and adults under the name of Bábkarská Bystrica, Double Impulse. Since 1994, the festival has been attended by more than 51,000 spectators and 238 theatre ensembles from 10 European countries, the United States and Israel that have staged a total of 313 shows. The festival has inspired three publications on puppet theatre published in cooperation with the Theatre Institute in Bratislava. 
For all these reasons, please allow us to indulge in a somewhat festive tone. Equally importantly, let us welcome you one more time and thank you for your unflinching support. Like always, we will try to turn the five festival days packed with theatrical action into an inspiring arena to explore theatre, process artistic as well as human impulses but most of all discover the good in puppetry, in art and in ourselves. Let’s break a leg! 
On behalf of the organizing team and Puppet Theatre at the Crossroads
Iveta Škripková