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 anyone with creative vision could be a part of it. So it remains to this day.
On the “fringe’ of the Adelaide Festival, they created a thriving platform for artists to try out new work, experiment, and engage.
By 1964 the Adelaide Fringe had grown to host 52 art exhibitions, collections and performances.
The first souvenir program was produced in 1974, helping to legitimise the 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 - which produced the most successful Fringe Festival so 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.
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 every second year.
The 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 worth more than $8 million.
Adelaide Fringe 2012 delivered an estimated economic boost of $48.2 million to South Australia, almost 20% up on 18% on 2011.
In 2012 the State Government provided additional funding to extend the 2013 Fringe from three weeks to four, starting 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.
Today, Adelaide Fringe literally takes over the entire city with more than 1200 events staged in established venues such as theatres, hotels, art galleries, cafes and town halls as well as in pop up venues in parks, warehouses, lane-ways and empty buildings.
Always the champion of independent artists in all genres and venues, Adelaide Fringe invites audiences to let their hair down, take a chance and discover something new.