Melbourne Fringe is a celebration of cultural democracy and art for everyone. By embracing diversity and a spirit of independence, the Festival creates a unique space for artistic self-expression linked to the life of Melbourne. Every year the Festival features thousands of artists from every discipline you can name (and a few others besides) performing 400+ events in over 160 venues to an audience in excess of 350,000 people.
Melbourne Fringe is the place to go for pure, unadulterated, uncurated and unexpected artistic discovery. The organisation helps artists develop and provide a platform for a vast, diverse range of voices, in celebration of the idea that when we come together, it creates a safe space for risk taking. The Festival loves the weird and strange, the different and queer, the misfits and the freaks.
The Melbourne Fringe Festival is an uncurated, open access event.
Since 1982, Melbourne’s longest-running and most popular arts festival has supported and presented some 50,000 artists to more than 2,000,000 people at hundreds of venues across Melbourne and Victoria. Today, audiences of half a million enjoy the work of 4,000+ artists in 300+ shows at over 100 venues.
In the early 1980s, Carlton’s Pram Factory was sold, and its prolific artist collectives dispersed (with Multicultural Arts Victoria emerging soon afterwards, but only Circus Oz remaining in similar form today). A new entity was formed in 1982 to ensure there would still be a gathering point for these artists: a collaborative which would encourage, represent and unite artists of all disciplines. The Fringe Arts Network was born, aiming to raise public and government awareness of the outstanding contribution made by the alternative arts to the quality of life in Melbourne. The Network mobilised the independent arts into an effective lobby and resource group, capable of overcoming individual financial constraints through offering support in the form of venue advice, shared resources, advocacy and support.
Fringe Arts Network’s inaugural event was a mini-festival, followed in 1983 by a week-long event coinciding with Moomba and presenting 120 artists at some 25 locations across Melbourne. In 1984, the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds expanded to include Melbourne as its third city for the first of three Melbourne Spoleto Festival years, and Melbourne’s Fringe Arts Network became the Melbourne Piccolo Spoleto Fringe Festival. The Melbourne International Festival of the Arts (now the Melbourne International Arts Festival) emerged from the Spoleto Festival as a result, and in 1986, the Fringe Arts Network reclaimed its independence from Spoleto and reoriented itself as Melbourne Fringe.
In 2002, the Melbourne Fringe Fringe Hub model started, offering a new Festival focus for artists and audiences alike. The Hub model is about programming a number of venues with multi-arts capabilities – venues that are within easy walking distance of one another – and offering artists and audiences a central place to gather and network: the Fringe Club. With its home in North Melbourne, the Melbourne Fringe Hub revitalised this often overlooked inner-city precinct, and would soon encompass not only the North Melbourne Town Hall but also the Lithuanian Club, the Czech Club, the Comic’s Lounge, Arthur’s Circus, The Court House Hotel, Australia Post North Melbourne and the Town Hall Hotel. In 2006, the Melbourne Fringe Club moved upstairs into the North Melbourne Town Hall’s Main Hall, tripling its audiences to sell-out Hub performances, with audiences for the free, nightly Fringe Club program regularly queuing down Queensberry St for entry. In the same year, through local government investment, the City of Melbourne’s Arts House program was born: a year-round, curated program at the Meat Market and North Melbourne Town Hall, offering artists development and presentation opportunities outside of a festival calendar.
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