Art & Design


People, Participation & Fun at Melbourne Fringe

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As the weather warms up so to does festival season, and perhaps none is more independent, iconic and idiosyncratic than Melbourne Fringe. Over three weeks Fringe will take over Melbourne in venues stretching from St. Kilda to West Brunswick to Footscray. Under the stewardship of new Creative Producer Neal Harvey, this year’s festival is all about people, participation and fun.

We caught up with Harvey at Fringe HQ to talk about what he wants to bring to Fringe as Creative Producer. This started with an explanation of his role. “My job is to create the infrastructure for our artists to tell audiences what to watch. It’s not up to me to curate and tell people what they should see, I reckon that’s the artist’s job.”

And quite a job it is. Fringe casts a massive cultural footprint over the city, with 4000 performers participating in over 300 shows at more than 100 venues, the festival is bigger than ever. Yet Harvey is committed to Fringe maintaining strong relationships with its artists. “Every artist has to come into the office to complete their registration, and that’s a great chance for us to meet, ask about their show and help out where we can. If we were to get bigger like Adelaide or Edinburgh I’m not sure we could be as involved as that, and I think that’s what makes us unique. We take a lot of pride in trying to assist every one of our artists as best we can.”

At the Fringe Club in North Melbourne they’ll be free entertainment every night of the festival, while performances are taking place across town in everything from cafes to art galleries to trams. Harvey believes the diversity of venues helps Fringe connect with audiences. “This year I’m excited we’ve got shows happening in the Donkey Wheel House, which is an amazing space that used to be a Nunnery. Then there’s the Footscray Town Hall, playing home Dog Theatre during Fringe. Using these types of venues lets the audience experience not just the show but the space in a new way.”

But at the the end of the day, it’s all about participation and having a good time. Harvey’s keen to see how Crowd Play evolves, a large scale art project where everyone is invited to attend to workshops and participate in what he calls “a flash mob style performance that’s basically all about giving people a chance to sing and dance and have fun.”

The party (and participation) starts next week. Melbourne, start your engines.

Melbourne Fringe Festival 2011 runs from Sept 21 to October 9
For full program and ticketing information visit

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