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Has Adelaide lost its "vibrant city" winter festivals?


Renewal SA has refused to confirm whether it has abandoned its “Winter Village” activation – raising the possibility Adelaide’s CBD has lost two major festival events it was due to host next month.

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Last year, more than 100,000 patrons attended the Winter Alpine Village on the riverbank, run by Renewal SA and event organisers The Social Creative, bringing “vibrancy” to the city in the normally quiet winter months.

But as InDaily reported last week, The Social Creative – which also runs the popular Royal Croquet Club hub during Adelaide Fringe – has fallen into voluntary administration.

Early this year, the company gained approval from the Adelaide City Council to run the Winter Alpine Village event in Victoria Square in July – without input from Renewal SA – but now does not expect to be able to deliver it.

Renewal SA was due to run a competing “Winter Village” activation on the riverbank.

But with just a fortnight to go before the event is due to begin, the urban renewal authority is refusing to comment on its status.

Renewal SA is instead spruiking a “Winterfest” activation for Port Adelaide next month.

“This year, Renewal SA is holding Winterfest at Port Adelaide from July 14 to 23 working with Port Adelaide Enfield Council and local traders,” a spokesperson for the authority said.

“Winterfest is one of the State Government’s initiatives through Renewal SA aimed at revitalising and rejuvenating the Port Adelaide precinct, to encourage more people to live, work, invest in and spend time in the Port.

“The event will centre on the Hart’s Mill Precinct and Flour Shed on Mundy Street and will feature undercover ice skating on the Port waterfront, roaring fires, Northern European style food and drinks, visual art, children’s workshops.”

The spokesperson added that Winterfest built “on the success of the Wonderwalls festival” – an event based around original artworks on Port Adelaide buildings.

But the Port Adelaide festival has been described by the Government in remarkably similar terms to last year’s activation on the riverbank – as “a winter wonderland with roaring fires, lights, an outdoor skating rink, and Northern European style hearty food and mulled wine”.

“Other attractions will include visual art, music and performance, and the event will showcase the most exciting ideas from winter festivals around the world.

“… The festival will encourage people to visit Port Adelaide at a quieter time of year.”

The Adelaide City Council confirmed it had approved two winter-themed events to be held next month, but would not comment on whether their proponents – Renewal SA and The Social Creative – had withdrawn from both.

A third event, Music SA’s Umbrella: Winter City Sounds music festival, will take place at various venues across the CBD from July 14-30.

A spokesperson for the Garden of Unearthly Delights – which was rumoured to be interested in running the riverbank event this year – told InDaily in a written response: “You will need to speak directly to Renewal SA about their plans for winter events”.

“We understand that the tender for the riverbank precinct has not been announced.”

The spokesperson has yet to clarify whether the “tender for the riverbank precinct” to which she referred is for Renewal SA’s Winter Village activation.

Speaking at an Adelaide City Council meeting last month, The Social Creative co-director Stuart Duckworth said the company had applied for the tender to run the Winter Village activation but was proposing the Victoria Square event instead because it was “unaware whether the Renewal tender would be going forward”.

But asked at the meeting whether he believed two competing winter events could coexist and survive in the city, Duckworth remarked: “As we’ve seen over the years with Mad March and the Festival season … we’ve seen how multiple activations with multiple operators can activate and bring vibrancy to the city.”

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