It’s finally happening – thanks to the efforts over the last two years by the team behind Anywhere Festival, Brisbane will finally join the global fringe festival circuit, welcoming its own series of events this October-November.
Even boasting its own official mascot, the Bin Chicken, who has “always lived on the fringes”, the Fringe Brisbane 2022 programme is packed with events and performances across every medium of the creative arts imaginable.
Fringe Brisbane Festival Director, Zed Hopkins, is excited for what the introduction of Fringe means for the city. “With the state of where Brisbane’s at, where it’s constantly evolving and moving towards the Olympics in ten years’ time, I think now’s the moment to bring a festival to Brisbane that uniquely reflects Brisbane in all its various aspects, but also gives a platform to emerging artists.
“[A platform] that works to empower artists that maybe don’t fit into that established career area but a space for them to try things out, develop new works and hopefully reach a global stage as they continue to move forward in their careers.”
We were on location at the Fringe Brisbane launch. Check it out here.
Fringes have, as Zed says, served as a catapult for many artists into careers since noted for their calibre and longevity. For Fringe Brisbane, for it to be an annual event marked out by its own distinct calibre, its organisers have drawn on past and existing stencils for local and global fringe festivals, drawn from the concept of Anywhere Festival (from which much of the Fringe Brisbane team has its origins), and attempted to establish the Fringe Brisbane concept with its own identity. “In a lot of ways, we’ve done all three of those things,” Zed says. “The Fringe model itself is an incredibly exciting one for both artist and audiences; it’s an opportunity for artists to bring their work to a new stage, to develop their work in the hope of gaining new audiences, [and] developing deeper relationships with their communities.
The Bin Chicken
“I think the best Fringes globally create a space for artists to experiment and take bold new risks – if anything we’re taking from that model for artists, it’s that element.
“We want to create a sustainable platform for artists to take bold new risks and share their work with their community.”
The great thing, then, that Fringe Brisbane provides for audiences, is the experience of the total unknown. “Fringe festivals being about so many different possible experiences,” Zed says, “something you might expect, but also it opens the doors to spontaneity and serendipitous experiences.”
“I think that’s what makes the fringe brand and the fringe idea so appealing to audiences; they can pick a night, and they can venture out into the city and explore maybe a company or producer they know, but quickly be swept off into another experience with an unknown comedian, or musician, or experimental theatre creator, and experience something totally new and totally unexpected, all within the same framework.”
'B Queen Breaks Down Bollywood'
Fringe Brisbane looks to be more accessible than other arts and culture festivals around Brisbane, Zed says. Its ticket prices, for example, are predominantly around the $20 or $25 mark. So, if you’re budgeting a night out, punters will actually be able to afford to catch a variety of different experiences. And if you’re heading to one of Fringe Brisbane’s hub venues, you’ll be able to catch a number of different shows all in the same space. “You can really make a night of it, rather than seeing just one show,” Zed says. “You can extend your experience and delve into a lot of different things.”
That diversity of experience is of course set up by the diversity of the performers on the programme. Fringe, of course, has its origins in Edinburgh, Scotland (established all the way back in 1947). Edinburgh Fringe has played home to the origins of success for some now-huge names in the world of entertainment, among them Stephen Fry, Billy Connolly, Tim Minchin, and many others. “The legacy of what fringes bring is they create the platforms,” Zed says.
“The exciting thing is knowing this festival will keep growing and will keep developing as a platform for these artists.” - Zed Hopkins
Among this year’s Fringe Brisbane programme, there are several acts who have the potential, in Zed’s opinion, to achieve not only the success of some of Fringe’s long-established acts, but to capture audiences in the same way, too. “The acts I’m most excited to see flourish are our residency acts. It’s a good starting point, in that we are a first-year festival with a limited budget, we’re trying to be independent – what’s important to us is providing a space to emerging and underrepresented artists, giving them a platform and providing support and a rehearsal space to stage a new work.
From resident artist Juno Toraiwa
“Among our residency programme I think we’re going to see some incredible new and emerging artists with developing work. We’re giving them a platform to try out something they’ve never done before.
“With that, we’ve got some exciting acts that are coming out – 'FLEUR', a combination of belly dance and percussion, an energetic experience. We’ve got another show called 'A Love Letter From Frozen Peas', which is a dance installation from one of our resident artists [Juno Toraiwa].
“Other acts outside of our residency that I’m really excited for is probably acts at our comedy hub venue, Big Fork Theatre. They’ve got a pretty eclectic programme of comedy acts from across Brisbane and interstate. [The venue has] really built a culture of supporting and uplifting emerging comedians, sketch comedians [and] improv artists.”
'Call Girls' at Big Fork Theatre
With more than 100 different events happening across 15 days of Fringe Brisbane, there really is a wide variety of different things to catch. “I can almost guarantee, out of everything that you see, this is just the beginning for a majority of these shows,” Zed says. “In most cases, this is the creative development of a project done before, or a new project they’re looking to test and evolve.
“The exciting thing is knowing this festival will keep growing and will keep developing as a platform for these artists.
“You’ll see some of these names starting here, coming back next year, and the year after, then potentially touring more broadly as well, using the platform and helping build this platform into something that serves everyone.”
Fringe Brisbane takes place from 14 October-6 November.