In Arts + Entertainment

This Is Why Adelaide Is Known As The Festival City

We break it down month-by-month.

Adelaide has worn a lot of titles: the church city, the conservative city, the park city, the arts city. You just need to wander the colourful laneways and parklands peppered with food trucks to feel the energy of this quiet achiever.

Gone are the days where South Australia’s capital city was the laughing stock of the east – ridiculed for having all its big-name festivals in one month, March.

While March Madness continues to satisfy festivalgoers, ‘Radelaide’ puts on a year-round show full of festivals, arts and food. From the travelling Sunday session boutique music festival, Porch Sessions, to the street-food extravaganza of October’s AsiaFest, there’s plenty to keep you occupied, no matter what month it is.

2016 celebrated record attendance for three of the city’s most acclaimed festivals, the Adelaide Fringe, WOMADelaide and the Adelaide Festival. The Fringe sold more than 600,000 tickets, a 12% increase, and there was more WOMADelaide punters than ever before.

The city’s festival calendar starts to rev up after Christmas. Come February, Adelaide is spoiled for choice.


Tour Down Under Photo: Facebook

Adelaide’s famous cycling race Tour Down Under is the first major event to kick off the festival year. For an action-packed nine days, this world-class event brings gala dinners, street parties and a unique atmosphere across the state.


Punters at Adelaide Fringe Festival Photo: Facebook

Starting mid-February, the month-long Adelaide Fringe injects life across the city – from the Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony in the east to pop-up events in the west. It’s Australia’s largest open-access arts festival, with artists coming from all over the world to entertain in hundreds of pop up venues in parks, bars, laneways, warehouses, cafes and theatres.

The Fringe runs in sync with the two-week Adelaide Festival and Writers’ Week. Hundreds of theatre productions and visual art displays are held during this time. WOMADelaide, in mid-March needs no introduction. This world music festival is for the music/world-loving, hippie at heart. The Clare Valley hosts Blenheim, a small roots boutique festival with a lot of heart. It’s a non-for-profit music and camping festival.

Car racing and contemporary music fanatics get their adrenalin fix at Clipsal 500, the state’s annual Supercar racing event.


Tasting plates at Tasting Australia Photo: Tasting Australia

Food becomes the inspiration for festivals in autumn. Tasting Australia, for example, is one of the country’s most anticipated culinary festivals. Eat and drink your way around South Australia’s regions, tasting the best produce the state has to offer.

June, July & August

Adelaide Cabaret Festival’s Artistic Director Ali McGregor Photo: Facebook

As winter approaches, the festival scene is brimming with music with the Cabaret Festival, Adelaide Guitar Festival, and SALA Festival. For two weeks in June, Adelaide celebrates the 16-year-long Cabaret Festival – days and nights of food, wine and accessible entertainment that includes a mixture of music, satire, comedy, musical theatre, and storytelling.

Then, it’s onto the four-day Guitar Festival which includes masterclasses, workshops, talks and exhibits with over 300 musicians playing across the city. For visual artists, August is the month. SALA Festival celebrates every visual art medium – from sculpture, painting and photography through to mixed media, moving image and installations.

Wine festivals tantalise the state during winter, with McLaren Vale’s Sea and Wines and Winter Reds in the Adelaide Hills.

September, October & November

A past OzAsia Festival Photo: Trentino Priori/Facebook

People flock to the city’s west with events such as the OzAsia Festival, Adelaide Film Festival and Feast Festival. With close ties to Asia, Adelaide sets aside nearly three weeks for this sister continent, showcasing arts, food, drinks and cultural traditions.

Film buffs get their fix in the 11-day festival celebrating Australian and international screen culture. Then, it’s onto celebrating the diverse sexualities and genders with the Feast Festival. Famous for its parties, the programme is rich in cabaret, comedy, theatre, music, film, literature, and visual arts.


The Ebenezer Night Markets Photo: Facebook

As the heat starts to increase, Adelaide entices people out and about, on the streets and in the parks to enjoy the Moonlight Cinemas in the Adelaide Botanical Gardens and the Ebenezer Night Markets in the city’s east.

The city’s getting behind niche events, evident with the emergence of initiatives such as the Gilles Street Markets, Holland Markets and Plant 4 Bowden. Adelaide lends itself to a positive festival culture, thanks to its geography, culture and weather.

The city has always been synonymous to big-ticket festivals but the evolution of 20-somethings staying in SA to bring their own festive initiatives to life is tangible. Arts and culture is encouraged from a young age, instilling a healthy appetite for it and a desire to feed it. This is changing the entire landscape, making the city a place where something is always going on.

Adelaide, the festival city. This is one stereotype that the nation’s east got right.

Published 12 January, 2018