With key changes and a fresh program, Sydney Fringe readies for its return

The state’s largest independent arts festival will return in September but will consolidate its shows to inner-city Sydney and the CBD to limit the risk of short, shock lockdowns.

Sydney Fringe director Kerri Glasscock said she hopes to program more than 300 shows for the month-long festival, as many as in previous years, to celebrate the tenacity of the performing arts sector after a year of hibernation.

Acts will perform in intimate venues hit hard by lockdowns including in Marrickville, Sydenham, Erskineville and Newtown but the festival is not planning live events in Liverpool, Parramatta and Hurstville.

From left: Krista Herrington, Papi Chulo, Demon Derriere. and Dyon Tai, the launch of Sydney Fringe.Credit:Janie Barrett

Factory Theatre in Marrickville will stage comedy and Mothership Studios at Sydenham will be a hub for experimental theatre. The historic Newtown School of Arts building will serve as Fringe HQ, premium independent work will be staged at PACT in Erskineville and musical theatre and cabaret at City Tattersalls.

A festival first will be a new series of Auslan-interpreted performances at Eternity Playhouse in partnership with Darlinghurst Theatre every Monday in September.

Also new is a refreshed children’s program that culminates in a weekend of free family-friendly and kids events including silent discos, headline music gigs and performances at Darling Quarter in Darling Harbour.

Following its shift to a digital program in 2020, Fringe received $360,000 from the federal government’s COVID-19 stimulus package, RISE, to return to live performance.

That support and corporate sponsorship have been redirected to participating artists and venues, underwriting venue hire and registration costs.

Owners of live music venues are awaiting the distribution of $24 million Live Music Venue package announced by the Bereijiklian government. For some, assistance will make or break them, Ms Glasscock said. Ticket sales continue to be sensitive to lockdowns and public health restrictions on public gatherings.

“We were fortunate to receive support and we’re trying to distribute that support as much as we can throughout the sector to reduce the risk for everybody,” Glasscock said. “We were really concerned that some venues may not be here in September, and some of them aren’t now, and that artists would not be able to participate.

“So we moved all our corporate partnerships to underwrite the hubs and venues that we activate so we didn’t have to pass on venue hire costs to artists and then used the RISE money to underwrite all other costs. We’re all in this together, we’ve all got to look after each other as best as we can, as safely as we can.”

The full program will be announced in July.

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