During the past two years, Australia’s arts community has been haunted by the spectre of COVID-19. Amid constant closures, cancellations and restrictions, many artists have seen their stages go dark. But against all the odds, Adelaide Fringe has kept its spotlight going.
The festival returns in 2022, buoyed by support from partners including Robert Walters. We spoke with Fringe CEO and Festival Director Heather Croall to find out how the festival provides a beacon of light for the economy and society – and how corporate sponsors play their part.
"There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was also the age of Shakespeare."
- John F Kennedy
Robert Walters: Firstly, for those of our readers who have never been to the Adelaide Fringe, can you just paint them a quick picture of what the festival looks like?
Heather Croall: The scale of Adelaide Fringe is something that is hard to really grasp until you experience it firsthand. It truly transforms the entire city and suburbs beyond. We are transporting people into another world. Across the festival, four or five hundred venues pop up. And they’re all different types of venues – from big spiegeltents to alleyway theatres and parkland performance spaces.
RW: That sounds amazing! And how would you describe the economic impact of the Adelaide Fringe?
HC: In a good year, we sell 800,000 tickets in the month of the Adelaide Fringe. To put that massive number in perspective, most successful arts festivals in Australia and the world are selling roughly 40,000 tickets. On a Friday or Saturday during the Fringe, we might sell 30,000 tickets per day.
So the economic impact for artists and the creative sector is massive. That’s $20 million injected into the independent arts sector direct from audiences buying tickets. It’s more than most government grants.
Our economic impact goes beyond tickets sales and an injection into artists’ pockets too. It’s also providing support for restaurants, pubs, hotels; basically every small business that’s geared for tourists will benefit from the Fringe. Additionally, the job creation from the Fringe is incredible too. All up, the Fringe generates about $90 million of gross economic expenditure.
RW: That economic impact is tremendous, and then there’s the social impact too, isn’t there. What does that look like?
HC: Well, objective surveys of our patrons show that South Australians consider Fringe to be the best time of year to be living here. It's the happiest time of year for them. It's their favourite time of year in South Australia because it has a positive impact on their health and wellbeing. They’re getting out and they're seeing art, as well as engaging in storytelling and experiences they normally wouldn’t have. For many patrons, it’s the only arts they actively seek out and engage in. So we pride ourselves on being that accessible and inclusive place for people to learn, feel something, and be challenged – sometimes all at once.
And then of course the social benefit for the artists themselves is massive. They’re being given a golden opportunity to connect with audiences on a mass scale and sometimes even be scouted for future work. The Adelaide Fringe has quite the reputation for being a career launchpad.
RW: For all the reasons you’ve outlined – and more – Robert Walters is a proud partner of the Fringe again in 2022. Why should there be consistent corporate support for the arts?
HC: At the Fringe, there’s a lot of give and take between us and our corporate partners. Many of our partners benefit by sharing unique experiences at Fringe events with their stakeholders, clients, and staff. The social connections that stem from such occasions can have a lasting impact.
As for how the Fringe benefits, the financial boost we receive from partnerships is obviously essential; we couldn’t do what we do without that. And partners provide in-kind support, too. Robert Walters, for example, assists us with sourcing and recruiting talented people. They also support some of our seasonal workforce with finding roles after the festival is over.
Image: East End. Photo: Samuel Graves, Adelaide Fringe 2022
Robert Walters SA Director, Michelle Christie, reflects further on the mutual benefits when the businesses partner with arts organisations.
Robert Walters is proud partners of the Adelaide Fringe, which runs from 18 February to 20 March 2022. Robert Walters has also sponsored the Brisbane Festival and presents the annual Robert Walters Group UK Young Artist of the Year Award.