Uncertainty for Adelaide Fringe festival due to ‘financial risk’ for performers amid COVID-19

Uncertainty remains over the immediate future of the Adelaide Fringe festival, with organisers admitting performers will have to take a significant “financial risk” to return in 2021 amid COVID-19.

Despite another successful festival season earlier this year, the coronavirus pandemic has brought work opportunities to a halt for performers around Australia.

Adelaide Fringe festival director Heather Croall said the 2021 festival would face a lot of challenges, admitting costs would pose a large “financial risk” to performers and venues.

“The Adelaide Fringe happens because of the creative entrepreneurial spirit of the artists and the venues,” she said.

“The artists and the venues are telling us loud and clear that they need us to lower the financial risk in order for them to come back in 2021.”

Two performers on a round stage with others in the audience to their right.
Blanc de Blanc performers have appeared at the festival many times.(Supplied: Nathaniel Mason)

Ms Croall said the risk was compounded by the fact that a lot of them had been out of work for months and were not receiving JobKeeper or JobSeeker payments.

She said the festival would have to adapt to make sure performers could return, but it would need Government support.

Organisers have estimated they would need a subsidy of just under $1 million to make sure local and international performers “have the confidence to come back”.

“It’s critical that artists and venues feel confident returning and we are discussing these challenges with the South Australian Government.”

JobMaker plan ‘designed to support’ Fringe

Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the arts industry would receive a $250 million rescue package from the Federal Government.

The funding is part of its JobMaker plan to boost employment in Australia on the way out of the economic crisis the COVID-19 pandemic has caused.

The Garden of Unearthly Delights
Large crowds gather every night of the festival at the Garden of Unearthly Delights.(Supplied: Andre Castellucci via The Garden)

Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher today told the ABC that the Adelaide festival was the perfect example of an event that would be supported by this plan.

“Thousands of jobs across Australia’s arts industry will be backed with a new $250 million targeted package to help restart the creative economy and get the entertainment, arts and screen sectors back to work, as they rebuild from the impacts of COVID-19.

He said grant and loan programs would roll out in the next 12 months for the arts sector, with guidelines to be released in coming weeks.

Another ‘record-breaking year’ for festival

The Adelaide Fringe festival was held from February 14 to March 15 this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the final few days of the festival.

An performer holds another aloft on a stage in front of crowd of children and adults.
Performers entertain a crowd filled with children at the Stirling Fringe.(Supplied: Stirling Fringe)

Despite this, organisers said it delivered a record $96.7 million in gross economic expenditure to the South Australian economy and $41.6 million in tourism-spending.

Box office revenue also hit a new record with 853,419 tickets sold to the value of $21 million.

Ms Croall said organisers were now preparing for a month-long festival in 2021 and would operate within Government guidelines that may be in place.

She said if the festival could not go ahead as planned, an online option would be made available for performers.

In May this year, FringeVIEW was trialled by organisers, where performers could continue to work and the public could view shows online.

“If that is all we can have next year then we’ve already run the experiment and the pilot and we know a lot about how we might roll that out next time,” she said.

“We are all looking forward to Fringe returning, and we can’t wait to stage the brilliant, magical and world-class event that people know and love.”

The 2021 Festival is planned to run from February 19 to March 21.