In Arts + Entertainment

Adelaide Fringe Festival Highlights With Director Heather Croall

In its 59th year, the Adelaide Fringe Festival celebrates being the biggest arts festival in the southern hemisphere, and the second largest fringe in the world.

In a matter of weeks, a bevy of local and international artists will descend on Adelaide to ignite our senses at the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2019. This year’s program promises to be one of the best yet spanning a repertoire of cabaret, circus, comedy, dance, film, magic, music, theatre, interactive media, visual arts, talks, workshops and more.

In its 59th year, the Adelaide Fringe Festival celebrates being the biggest arts festival in the southern hemisphere, and the second largest fringe in the world. This is no small feat in a notoriously under-funded artistic landscape, but for Director and CEO Heather Croall, the festival’s success comes down to being brave and taking risks.

“As an open access festival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival is all about providing a platform for artists to express themselves and for audiences to experience shows unlike anything they’ve ever seen before,” she says. “Fringe is an inclusive festival and everyone is welcome. The Fringe is born out of bravery – it is the brave artists who make Fringe what it is.

“I try to encourage the audience to also be as brave… take a risk. Explore the unknown. We have wonderful stories all the time about how Fringe has changed lives – it’s a truly transformational month. People often tell us that Fringe is their favourite time of the year to be in Adelaide – it’s the festival by the people for the people and it lives in everyone’s hearts.”

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Heather Croall has led the charge since 2015. Image: supplied

And in a top-heavy industry where talent is often cherry-picked by small curatorial teams, Adelaide Fringe Festival takes a democratic approach to programming. Artists and performers from all walks can register and take the stage.

“Fringe festivals are critical in the Australian artistic landscape. They’re a great platform for artists to try out new work and are a chance for audiences to experience ground-breaking new work before it tours anywhere else in the world,” says Croall. “Fringe festivals provide a wonderful launch pad for artists and are a great way for audiences to connect directly with artists … Adelaide Fringe Festival is the only fringe that is truly open access in Australia.”

At the core of the Adelaide Fringe Festival is a mission to help artists connect with one another and the industry on a deeper level and gain exposure to international opportunities. “We’re the only fringe that really takes over our city in the way that we do and we are also unique because of our Honey Pot; a major marketplace behind the scenes for the artists to meet the industry. Over 200 national and international delegates descend on Adelaide Fringe to participate in Honey Pot and they’re here to discover artists and to book them for future tours around Australia and the world,” says Croall.

Planning a trip to Adelaide to experience the festival but feeling overwhelmed by the 1300-show program? Here are Croall’s top picks:

Yabarra – Gathering Of Light

This is an Aboriginal Projections work along the River Torrens designed as an immersive cultural experience that tells the stories of the Kaurna people’s relationship with the river, the flora and fauna through light installations and interactive soundscapes.

“This exciting new initiative highlights Adelaide Fringe’s longstanding commitment to acknowledging and respecting the traditional custodians of our country, the Kaurna, whose ancestral lands the festival takes place on,” says Croall. “We respect the Kaurna people’s ongoing spiritual and cultural connection to our country, and we want to celebrate this through ‘Yabarra – Gathering Of Light’.

“Kangaroos, platypuses and bilbies will share the banks of the Karrawirra Parri, native birds will appear in the trees, fish will leap from the river, and stories of time will be shared. It’s going to be a cultural and visual spectacular – I can’t wait to see it all come to life.”

Learn more about Yabarra – Gathering Of Light here.

Tindo Utpurndee (Sunset Ceremony)

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A traditional sunset ceremony will feature during Opening Night festivities. Image: supplied

This year’s Fringe will feature a traditional sunset ceremony during Opening Night festivities. This event recognises the living culture of the First Nations, pay respect to the spirit of the land and give thanks to elders past and present.

Learn more about the Tindo Utpurndee here.

Street Art Explosion

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The country’s best emerging street artists were enlisted to help create large-scale murals across the city and surrounding suburbs. Image: supplied

Each year, Adelaide Fringe Festival enlists the help of the country’s best emerging street artists to create large-scale murals across the city and surrounding suburbs. The 2019 line-up features names Matthew Clark (the artist behind this year’s poster artwork), Kaspar Schmidt Mumm, Aida Azin and Gabriel Cole. Street Art Explosion’s celebrating its 4th birthday this year, so make sure you download the map and navigate your way around works commissioned for previous festivals.

Learn more about Street Art Explosion here.

Fringe on Tour

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Fringe on Tour will head to the regional towns of Murray Bridge, Port Augusta, Whyalla and Mount Gambia. Image: supplied

Each year, Fringe also tours surrounding areas. This year, Fringe on Tour will land in the regional towns of Murray Bridge, Port Augusta, Whyalla and Mount Gambia with a line-up one-off performances, music events and more. In a festival first, Fringe will also assemble a number of acts at IKEA® Adelaide.

And if all else fails, Croall suggests adopting the ‘lucky dip approach’: “I also encourage people to take a risk, discover the unknown, and go see a Fringe show they know nothing about. The lucky dip approach is always fun.”

As for the future of the Adelaide Fringe Festival? Croall is a visionary who won’t let up.

“In the coming years, I’d love to see the number of tourists dramatically increase at Adelaide Fringe so that more and more people can experience all the wonder and excitement our festival has to offer.

“Everyone who lives in Adelaide and South Australia knows about how mind-blowing and amazing the Adelaide Fringe is and we want more people from around the world to come and share it with us.

Adelaide Fringe Festival 2019 runs from February 15 through March 17. More information is available here.

(Lead image: Gluttony / Helen Page)

Published 06 February, 2019