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Political leaders welcome Fringe debate

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The Fringe will remain an annual fixture, but the format could be tweaked every other year, as both sides of the political divide today responded to an extraordinary groundswell of artists’ dissatisfaction with united voice: “You win some, you lose some.”

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A barrage of criticism against the festival, its culture and its audience has erupted on social media in recent days, spearheaded by an incendiary Facebook post by UK comedian Alexis Dubus, who complained of dwindling audiences for his show “Versus the World” and for several other artists, concluding that this would be his last Adelaide Fringe.

Dubus’ sentiments were echoed by several other performers, including award-winning UK-based comedian Brendon Burns, who replied to a comment on his Facebook page: “It ain’t just the festival organisers. The city as a whole has had it too good for too long and really needs an attitude adjustment.”

UK burlesque dancer Scarlett Belle wrote on her own page: “Glad I only did 5 shows here. And even though I got a deal on my venue this year I made $100 profit and that’s not including flights and thank god my accommodation was free. Last Adelaide fringe for me!”

Premier Jay Weatherill told InDaily today: “It’s not unexpected that when you have an open festival that some acts succeed and others bomb, but I think it’s important that Alexis is making this point.”

“We always want to find ways for smaller acts and smaller venues to gain promotion – and if Alexis helps to draw attention to this issue, well then that’s a good thing.”

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall met with Fringe director Heather Croall yesterday, declaring he had “every confidence” in her ability to steer the event successfully into the future.

However, he said, “we would assume that at the end of the Fringe there’d be a review of its performance, and it’s logical that action can be taken to improve any areas that need to be improved”.

Marshall said he had personally attended up to a dozen Fringe acts – before listing off several, including “Lady Liberty, who took a bit of a swipe at the Liberal Party but nevertheless had good vocal talents” – and “most performances I’ve been to, from very small venues to larger venues, have been pretty well attended”.

“It’s a marketplace,” he argued.

“Ultimately consumers will decide what performers they go to [and] not everybody will be satisfied with the situation… there are winners and losers.”

At the #adlfringe tonight to see @griffiths_micky in 'Cole'. Great show. Great #Adelaide talent.

A photo posted by Steven Marshall (@steven_marshallmp) on

Marshall said he had “enjoyed the move to an annual event for the Fringe” – which shifted from its biennual fixture in 2007 – but noted: “My feeling is the Fringe organisers may choose to do something slightly different with the program every other year.”

Nonetheless, he insisted, “overall numbers are up significantly, with this year’s ticket sales up 15 per cent on last year’s, and last year’s were up 30 per cent on the year before”.

“More consumers are attending the Fringe, and attending more events, which is great,” he said.

“We just need to remember this is really an outstanding success for SA – the city really comes alive when the Fringe is on.

“[Organisers] really do receive very limited State Government support, and they really exist on the support of the public, of interstate and overseas visitors and some very, very generous SA companies who make it the success it is.”

Former minister assisting the Premier in the Arts John Hill wrote in his recently-published memoirs of the shift from the biennial event: “Over our term WomAdelaide, the Fringe and the Festival itself all become annual events – to the consternation of critics who predicted failure at every extension. By 2012, in raw numbers, more people attended festivals in SA than any other state.”

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