Art from the edge
The Sydney Fringe Festival celebrates the breadth and depth of the independent arts
When the Edinburgh Fringe Festival launched in 1947, it was sparked by eight theatre companies that turned up in the city without invitations to the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival. Rather than go home without a moment in the spotlight they decided to stage their own festival on the fringe of the official one, resulting in what is now the oldest and best-known fringe festival in the world.
While the Sydney Fringe Festival began almost 50 years later in 1994, it shares a similar spirit of can-do creativity to the original Edinburgh event. Spread across five precincts around the city, the Sydney Fringe presents over 300 productions in more than 50 venues every September, celebrating local and international artists and encouraging new audiences to experience and enjoy the diversity of arts in Sydney.
- Sydney Fringe Festival director Kerri Glasscock.
One of the joys of Sydney Fringe is its democracy – anyone who applies to Fringe can put on a show at their own cost. Glasscock and her team then assign artists and acts to venues that are designed to be hubs for certain genres or specialities of work.
“We like to make a bit of noise and promote particular genres because in Sydney there is a big focus on the big end of town and around the harbour, so it is often very difficult for the independents to break through.”
The majority of Sydney Fringe venues are existing arts spaces, which allows those venues and their audiences to receive an injection of fresh work. The event is all about reawakening old haunts, reviving long forgotten venues and activating new precincts across the city throughout the month of September when it takes place.
“We are about shining a light on the best of Sydney, telling Sydney stories and uniting the independent arts sector.”
- Sydney Fringe Festival director Kerri Glasscock.”
“About 95 per cent of our venues are small to medium size spaces of all kinds, and we are about reinvigorating them and highlighting the great work that goes on in them all year round.”
The latest venue to be refreshed and reimagined by Sydney Fringe is the 7,000 square metre former Fedex warehouse at Sydney Park, which the festival is moving into as its new temporary headquarters and to use as a popup performance venue thanks to an offer from HPG Australia.
“I can’t describe how amazing this opportunity is to the independent arts community, because the greatest challenge we face in Sydney is available space.”
The cavernous Fedex space will welcome artists of all kinds and function as everything from rehearsal space, office space and studio space as well as hosting events, performances and community activities. The offer to use the space from custodians HPG Australia is in the spirit of its charter of social responsibility to foster creativity, community and positive lifestyle in Sydney.
“It’s a daily struggle for us to find affordable space so an opportunity like this opens up a world of possibilities.” - Glasscock. “We are hoping the space will become a vibrant creative hub for all members of the community to use.”
Finding affordable creative space is somewhat of an obsession for Glasscock. The Fedex popup follows a 10-month pilot project the festival ran in 2015 to address the current shortage of affordable performance spaces in Sydney. From the pilot three new permanent performance spaces were created in Sydney, and in 2016 Sydney Fringe continued this work with an expanded popup Fringe program of activated venues and spaces, which is now culminating in the Fedex space as part of Glasscock’s vision to grow the independent arts in Sydney.
“I’m driven by being able to make extraordinary things happen,” - Glasscock. “One of the most satisfying things about my job is to collaborate with artists and provide them with opportunities to do something slightly outside the box or that they’ve always dreamed about doing.”