The Melbourne Fringe Festival is an annual independent arts festival held in Melbourne, Australia and the second largest in Australia after the Adelaide Fringe Festival. The Festival runs for three weeks from late September to early October, usually overlapping with the beginning of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. It includes a wide variety of art forms, including theatre, comedy, music, performance art, film, cabaret, digital art, and circus performance as well.
Events are held in venues throughout the city, from bars, clubs and independent theatres to high-profile locations including Federation Square and the Melbourne Museum. Like many Fringe Festivals, the Melbourne Fringe has a "Hub" where the main Box Office, Festival Club and Fringe-run venues are located. This is located at the North Melbourne Town Hall and also includes several nearby venues such as Lithuanian House. Artists produce shows independently and then register into the Melbourne Fringe Festival. The 2010 fee for ticketed events was A$330. In addition to the Independent Arts Program, the Melbourne Fringe funds and produces its own events, presented free of charge and fostering public participation.
Since 1982, Melbourne’s longest-running and most popular arts festival has supported and presented some 50, 000 artists to more than 2, 000, 000 people at hundreds of venues across Melbourne and Victoria. Today, audiences of half a million enjoy the work of 4, 000+ artists in 300+ shows at over 100 venues.
In the early 1980s, Carlton’s Pram Factory was sold, and its prolific artist collectives dispersed (with Multicultural Arts Victoria emerging soon afterwards, but only Circus Oz remaining in similar form today). A new entity was formed in 1982 to ensure there would still be a gathering point for these artists: a collaborative which would encourage, represent and unite artists of all disciplines. The Fringe Arts Network was born, aiming to raise public and government awareness of the outstanding contribution made by the alternative arts to the quality of life in Melbourne. The Network mobilised the independent arts into an effective lobby and resource group, capable of overcoming individual financial constraints through offering support in the form of venue advice, shared resources, advocacy and support.
Fringe Arts Network’s inaugural event was a mini-festival, followed in 1983 by a week-long event coinciding with Moomba and presenting 120 artists at some 25 locations across Melbourne. In 1984, the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds expanded to include Melbourne as its third city for the first of three Melbourne Spoleto Festival years, and Melbourne’s Fringe Arts Network became the Melbourne Piccolo Spoleto Fringe Festival. The Melbourne International Festival of the Arts (now the Melbourne International Arts Festival) emerged from the Spoleto Festival as a result, and in 1986, the Fringe Arts Network reclaimed its independence from Spoleto and reoriented itself as Melbourne Fringe.
In 2002, the Melbourne Fringe Fringe Hub model was born, offering a new Festival focus for artists and audiences alike. The Hub model is about programming a number of venues with multi-arts capabilities – venues that are within easy walking distance of one another – and offering artists and audiences a central place to gather and network: the Fringe Club. With its home in North Melbourne, the Melbourne Fringe Hub revitalised this often overlooked inner-city precinct, and would soon encompass not only the North Melbourne Town Hall but also the Lithuanian Club, the Czech Club, the Comic’s Lounge, Arthur’s Circus, Australia Post North Melbourne and the Town Hall Hotel. In 2006, the Melbourne Fringe Club moved upstairs into the North Melbourne Town Hall’s Main Hall, tripling its audiences to sell-out Hub performances, with audiences for the free, nightly Fringe Club program regularly queuing down Queensberry St for entry. In the same year, through local government investment, the City of Melbourne’s Arts House program was born: a year-round, curated program at the Meat Market and North Melbourne Town Hall, offering artists invaluable development and presentation opportunities outside of a festival calendar.
- Totem (2008) an installation by Sayraphim Lothian, involving 120 dolls, each created by artists from around the world, reflecting their inner identities.
- Twelve Angry Men (2013) written by Reginald Rose which was staged live in the Supreme Court of Victoria with a cast made up entirely of barristers.
- (2013) by James Cunningham, about a gay Australian Football League player.