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Fringe venue homeless after Feast Festival "takeover"

Local

Adelaide arts institution Tuxedo Cat says it has been blindsided by the Feast Festival, leaving it scrambling to find a venue for its tenth anniversary Fringe Festival events.

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The creative director of Tuxedo Cat, Cassandra Tombs, says the Feast Festival appears to have reneged on an informal agreement to collaborate at Raj House on Hyde Street, where Tuxedo Cat had operated since 2013, running dozens of arts events including Fringe Festival performances.

Tombs told InDaily she wrote to the landlord earlier this year, giving notice that Tuxedo Cat would be giving up the lease and suggesting that Feast Festival be the new tenant.

She said she did this with the understanding that the two arts organisations would collaborate in the building: Tuxedo Cat would run events there during Fringe Festival, Feast Festival would run its own events late in the year, and both organisations would collaborate on arts events to be held there throughout the year.

But in August this year the LGBTIQ arts festival announced it had established a permanent queer arts hub in Raj House – which would host Fringe Festival events – supported by a $150,000 grant from the State Government, and an increase in Feast funding from Adelaide City Council for the next three years, without any involvement from Tuxedo Cat.

Feast Festival’s Facebook page was yesterday inundated with comments from members of the Adelaide arts community, expressing their dismay, after it posted several photos of the venue to the page.

Tombs said there were now only weeks until Tuxedo Cat Fringe performances had to be locked in, that several local and international artists had already signed up to perform, and that it was desperately searching for a new venue to host them.

“I would never have given up the lease had I realised this was going to be the outcome,” said Tombs.

“This outcome isn’t something I could have imagined in my wildest dreams.

“How did we end up on the street?”

Feast Festival General Manager Cassandra Liebeknecht conceded that “many discussions were had with Ms Tombs regarding the property”.

However, she said, “no in-principle agreement was formalised”.

“Unfortunately we were unable to formalise an agreement with Tuxedo Cat,” she told InDaily.

“This has, however, not been ruled out for the future.

“We always have been and are still open to options for collaboration with Tuxedo Cat.”

Tombs said she had been emotionally devastated by the turn of events.

“Someone comes along and within two months manages to take over the building, and get funding to pretty much roll out our concept,” she said.

“We had all these meetings and discussions about a collaboration.

“What happened to the collaboration?”

Tombs said she was “in utter disbelief”, but determined to find a new space to host this year’s Tuxedo Cat Fringe performances.

She said she was confident a new venue could be found in time.

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