It is disappointing that Justin O’Connor – Metrics rule in the cultural Hunger Games – has chosen to belittle the Adelaide Fringe’s ongoing efforts to secure government funding for South Australia’s most important major event.

While his UniSA bio espouses his advocacy of the arts, particularly in the UK, his arguments ignore the stark commercial realities that artists and arts organisations like the Adelaide Fringe face every day.

He has criticised the Adelaide Fringe for commissioning PwC to help us frame our arguments for an increase in State Government funding. However, perhaps unlike some, we live and operate in an environment that requires us to report on the economic outputs of our events, and PwC’s findings were compelling. They showed that the Fringe is the State’s most productive major event by far, delivering economic impact of over $30 for every $1 invested by the taxpayer.

That’s an extraordinary return. This work is not a “prop”. It’s a carefully considered insight made by one of the world’s leading professional finance and accounting firms.

You can rest assured that we made these findings known to the major political parties months ago when the report was released – along with PwC’s projections that show the repercussions of funding stagnation (which would result in a very significant diminution of the Fringe) against the benefits of modest ongoing annual investment ($2 million extra a year would raise that ROI to a ratio of 40-1 for South Australia).

Mr O’Connor’s comments about artists not being the main beneficiaries of the Adelaide Fringe are inaccurate. In the past two years, the Adelaide Fringe has raised $2 million each year in emergency COVID government funding and has immediately passed that $2 million on to artists in order to help them stage their Fringe season. Each year the box office paid out to artists is in excess of $15 million.

Everything we do is about fighting for the artists who make the Adelaide Fringe the second largest arts festival in the world. That commitment was supported in our funding submission as well as in an open letter that was written and signed by more than 100 artists. If the Fringe doesn’t secure the annual $2 million increase, we will be presenting the 2023 Fringe with a $2 million less than we had this year which will be devastating for many of the Fringe artists who we will not be able to assist with any funds.

It is also disappointing that Mr O’Connor seems to think that we don’t make a case for the cultural value of events like the Fringe. In my role as CEO, I am a passionate and vocal advocate for the arts ecosystem as a whole. I have lived and breathed it throughout my entire career, and anyone who truly knows me understands that this commitment transcends politics.

The Adelaide Fringe is a $25 million event that currently receives $2.5 million – or just 10% – from the State Government. We are asking that the state commitment be lifted to 20% of the overall cost of Fringe.

We are proud of the return we deliver for artists, venues and the people of South Australia, and I have made it clear that I will stand alongside any and every politician who shares our vision for the future.

There is one thing upon which Mr O’Connor and I agree. He notes in his column that South Australia should “start investing in substantive research” into the value of the arts sector.

That sounds like just the task for an academic.

Heather Croall is CEO and director of the Adelaide Fringe.

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