From Humble Beginnings
In 1960, fed up with the limited opportunity for local talent in the exclusive Adelaide Festival of Arts, a small group of independent artists created the Adelaide Fringe.
They deliberately fashioned an open-access festival—there would be no Curators—so that anyone and everyone with a creative vision could be a part of it. To this day, this is the crux of our festival.
On the 'fringe’ of the Adelaide Festival, this small group created a thriving, bi-annual platform for artists to try out new work, experiment, and engage with new ideas.
By 1964, Adelaide Fringe had grown to host 52 art exhibitions, collections and performances.
The first souvenir program was produced in 1974, helping to legitimise Fringe in the public consciousness—just 14 years and eight festivals after those inspiring independent artists decided to do something new.
In 1975, the Fringe changed to Focus. The idea was to bring focus onto the development of our own culture in South Australia.
By 1982, the event was expanding, with 86 groups performing in more than 50 venues and a further 56 visual arts exhibitions. In addition, 16 performing groups were active in schools and public spaces across the metropolitan area.
When 1988 rolled around, organisers (in discussion with Actors Equity) decided to allow international artists to join our burgeoning festival, given overseas experience had shown it provided enormous benefits for local performers and audience alike.
With a greater international flavour, 1992 to 1993 were years of tremendous change. Going back to our roots, we once again became the Adelaide Fringe with a new rationale: to broaden our footprint. This proved to be the most successful Fringe thus far.
It was clear by 1996 that Adelaide Fringe was fast gaining the status of a significant Australian and international cultural event with greater attendance and awareness than ever before.
A New Century
The 2000 Fringe was dedicated to Fringe Patron Don Dunstan, the former SA Premier. His alternative vision of social justice and cultural diversity still lives on in this festival.
In 2007, the Adelaide Fringe became an annual event, ending four decades of running side-by-side with the Adelaide Festival's biannual format.
Adelaide Fringe is now the largest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere, boasting an enormous program and reaching a broad demographic. Its impact on the social and economic fabric of South Australia is absolutely and undeniably immense, and it continues to grow, year after year.
2011 saw a staggering 1.45 million people join in the Adelaide Fringe with ticket sales increasing by 11% to 334,000 tickets!
Adelaide Fringe 2012 delivered an economic boost of $48.2 million to South Australia, almost 20% up on 2011.
In 2012, the State Government provided additional funding to extend the 2013 Fringe from three weeks to four, allowing the festival to begin a week earlier than previous years.
A longer Fringe worked for everyone, with the 2013 event delivering a $64.6 million boost, an amazing 34% increase on the previous year.
In 2015, Adelaide Fringe delivered a staggering $68.8 million of associated expenditure to the South Australian economy, and by 2017 had grown into the largest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere, and the second largest Fringe in the world.
2019 saw an increase in tourist attendance by a whopping 72% on the previous year. We sold 828,563 ticks and generated $95 million in expenditure for the South Australian economy. Fringe continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Last year we had more than 7000 artists, 1326 events and 517 venues. Fringe 2019 had almost 3.3 million attendances!
Adelaide Fringe has become a part of the cultural, artistic and societal fabric of South Australia. Ask anyone who's attended Fringe and they'll tell you: it's a pretty magical phenomenon to experience. Every year, our festival transforms the city. It takes over the theatres, cafes, hostels, galleries, food courts, laneways, shipping containers, street corners, bathrooms and gardens of this city and turns them Fringe.
We're growing beyond the confines of the CBD, too. Every year, there are more and more venues popping up in greater metropolitan Adelaide and beyond. From Whyalla to Mt Gambier, our team is working hard to bring you Fringe!
Next year, we'll be celebrating our diamond anniversary. That's right—Adelaide Fringe is turning 60! Our original ethos remains true to this day: we're here for the artists, we're here for diversity and innovation, and we're here for the audiences who crave something different, exciting and oozing with WOW.