F*ck Fabulous, Melbourne Fringe Festival 2019. Photo by Duncan Jacob

Wire #13: Fringe - Interrogating the Model

Tue 30 March 2021

The Fringe festival model familiar across Australia and globally is an open-access, uncurated environment in which artists operate independently and entrepreneurially, taking on both risk and reward. Against the egalitarian ideal, what are the other dynamics at play that mean that the risk and reward are not evenly dispersed? What are the implications – intended or otherwise – of a free-market approach to an open-access arts festival? If Fringe Festival champions voices from the margin, what happens when the mainstream voices become the loudest?

Our panel is Sharon Burgess, Lisa Fa’alafi, Victoria Falconer and Andy Field, hosted by Simon Abrahams.


Simon Abrahams, Host
Simon is recognised as one of Australia’s arts and cultural leaders, and is currently Creative Director & CEO of Melbourne Fringe. Simon is a life member of Theatre Network Australia, an organisation he co-founded then chaired from 2010-2017. He is an arts advocate, programmer, creative producer, performer and cultural consultant and his work is driven by a commitment to cultural democracy. Simon currently sits on the Theatre Panel for the Helpmann Awards and is an Australian ISPA Fellow (2017-20). He is a popular facilitator, panellist and guest speaker, and a strategic peer assessor and arts consultant.

Sharon Burgess
Sharon joined ARTRAGE in September 2019 with a record of decades of management and artistic producing experience. A previous Board member of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, Sharon was most recently at the helm of two of the largest venue producers at Edinburgh Festival Fringe including Managing Director of Assembly Festival for the last six years. Her final year at Assembly saw records broken with 575,000 tickets sold to 250 shows that were presented. Alongside her direct Fringe involvement, Sharon has independently produced shows around the world, delivering sell-out seasons in Australia. Sharon’s focus for the organisation is on further growth in audience diversity and attendance for FRINGE WORLD Festival alongside increasing year-round performance opportunities in Western Australia, collaborations with other like-minded organisations and strengthening partnerships.

Lisa Fa’alafi
Samoan Australian Lisa Fa’alafi is director, performance maker, choreographer and designer. Known for pushing cultural and gender boundaries, her work is visually stunning, highly entertaining, conceptual, political and satirical at heart. Lisa is the co-director or Polytoxic, an Australian collective known for creating hyper-visual, pop-inspired performance work built upon foundations of diversity, collaboration and intersectionality.  She is also the co-creator, writer, director, designer, choreographer and performer for the international smash hit Hot Brown Honey, touring consistently for 5 years, performing across six countries and has received numerous national awards including a Helpmann, Sydney Theatre Award, Green Room Award, Adelaide and Perth Fringe Awards, international nominations and awards in the UK and Canada.  Currently Lisa is looking to expand the HBH: Hive City Legacy Project, originally performed with a team of Femmes of Colour in partnership with London’s Roundhouse and two new hives are being developed in Ireland and Brisbane with premieres hopeful for 2022.

Victoria Falconer
Victoria Falconer is a cabaret artist, multi-instrumentalist, theatre maker and musical director. She is co-creator & performer in acclaimed feminist firebrands Fringe Wives Club, whose debut show Glittery Clittery has been presented at the Southbank Centre, Soho Theatre (London), Griffin Theatre (Sydney), Darwin Festival, Bats Theatre (Wellington) and at Edinburgh Fringe, where it received the Spirit of the Fringe Award in 2018. Her most recent projects include Smashed – a femme-fronted, fiercely diverse drag cabaret show that has received 5 star reviews and won a Weekly Pick of the Fringe Award for its debut season at Adelaide Fringe 2021; and playing the Muso in The Boy Who Talked To Dogs, co-produced by Slingsby Theatre and State Theatre South Australia for Adelaide Festival 2021.

Andy Field
Andy is an artist, writer and curator based in London. He creates formally unusual projects that invite us to consider our relationships both to the spaces we inhabit and the people around us. Alongside his artistic practice Andy has written for a number of publications and is the co-director of the artist-led project Forest Fringe, in which capacity he helped run an award-winning free experimental performance venue at the Edinburgh Festival between 2008 and 2016. For Forest Fringe Andy has also curated festival, residencies and events across the world, including with Melbourne Fringe, TPAM (Yokohama), WKCD (Hong Kong), Abrons Arts Centre (New York) and the Theatre Centre (Toronto). Most recently he co-directed Forest Fringe’s first feature film, which is due for release in 2022.