The Adelaide Festival of Arts, also known as the Adelaide Festival, is an annual arts festival held in the South Australian capital of Adelaide in March. Started in 1960, it is considered to be one of the world's major celebrations of the arts, and a pre-eminent cultural event in Australia.
The festival is based chiefly in the city centre and its parklands, with some venues in the inner suburbs (such as the Odeon Theatre, Norwood) or occasionally further afield. The Adelaide Festival Centre and River Torrens usually form the nucleus of the event, and in recent years Elder Park has played host to opening ceremonies.
It comprises many events, usually including opera, theatre, dance, classical and contemporary music, cabaret, literature, visual art and new media. The four-day world music event, WOMADelaide, and literary festival Adelaide Writers' Week are also part of the Festival. Originally presented biennially, along with the (initially unofficial) Adelaide Fringe, the Fringe has been held annually since 2007, with the Festival of Arts going annual a few years later, in 2012. With all of these events, plus the extra visitors, activities and music concerts brought by the street circuit motor racing event known as the Adelaide 500, the time of year is often referred to as "Mad March" by locals.
The Festival attracts interstate and overseas visitors, and generated an estimated gross expenditure of A$76.1 million for South Australia in 2018.
The Adelaide Festival began with efforts by Sir Lloyd Dumas in the late 1950s to establish a major arts festival that would bring to South Australia world-class cultural exhibitions. In 1958, Sir Lloyd organised a gathering of prominent members of the Adelaide business, arts and government community. The proposal for an event similar to the Edinburgh International Festival was supported and the first Festival Board of Governors was formed.
The event began to take form when Sir Lloyd partnered with John Bishop, Professor of Music at the University of Adelaide. The two gained the support of the Lord-Mayor and Adelaide City Council and a financial backing of 15,000 pounds. A number of leading businesses sponsored the first festival, including The Advertiser, the Bank of Adelaide, John Martin & Co., the Adelaide Steamship Company, and Kelvinator.
The inaugural Adelaide Festival of Arts ran from 12–26 March 1960 and was directed by Bishop with some assistance from Ian Hunter, the Artistic Director of the Edinburgh Festival. There were 105 shows covering almost all aspects of the arts. In its first year, it also spawned the Adelaide Fringe, which has grown into the largest event of its kind in the world after the Edinburgh Fringe.
The Adelaide Festival continued to grow in successive years with the support of the South Australian Government. It developed a number of incorporated events including Adelaide Writers' Week, Australia's original literary festival; WOMADelaide, the world music festival; and, the Adelaide Festival of Ideas. The Adelaide International was a curated international contemporary visual arts program held in partnership with the Samstag Museum from 2010 to 2014.
The Adelaide Festival moved from a biennial to annual event from 2012.
2013 marked both the first year Adelaide Festival to occur annually, and the beginning of the world-renowned and respected ’s three-year tenure as Artistic Director, then extended for another year. The 2013 program also included for the first time, a three-night ‘festival within a festival’: Unsound Adelaide presented international artists playing multi-dimensional electronic music. "Unsound review". The Advertiser. 15 March 2013.
The debut Adelaide Festival from Artistic Directors Neil Armfield AO and Rachel Healy marked a return to artistic works on a grand scale, including the landmark opera production of Barrie Kosky's Saul. "Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy co-artistic directors of Adelaide Festival of Arts 2017". . 7 May 2015. All four of their festivals from 2017 – 2020 have been a resounding success breaking box office records year after year.
Hours after the 2020 Adelaide Festival finished, the Australian Government passed legislation to ban gatherings of more than 500 people due to the COVID-19 outbreak – shuttering festivals and events across the country.
Governance and funding
In 1998 the Adelaide Festival Corporation was established as a statutory corporation by the Adelaide Festival Corporation Act 1998 (AFC Act), reporting to the Minister for the Arts. From about 1996 Arts SA (later Arts South Australia) had responsibility for this and several other statutory bodies such as the South Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of South Australia, until late 2018, when the functions were transferred to direct oversight by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Arts and Culture section.
In June 2019, it was announced that the Festival would receive A$1.25 million in annual funding over the following three years, to help “continue to attract major performances and events”.
The Adelaide Festival has had 19 Artistic Directors in its history, two of whom resigned and four of whom have directed the festival more than once. Anthony Steel holds the record for most stints as director, being at the head of 5 festivals, however the tenure of current Artistic Directors, Neil Armfield and has been extended until 2021. There were no directors for the festivals of 1966 and 1968, with an advisory board taking on the responsibility. Peter Sellars' brief directorship of the 2002 Adelaide Festival remains the most controversial and he was eventually replaced by .
|Year||Director||Featured Artists / Performances|
|1960||John Bishop||A visit by the festival’s patron Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother; the inaugural Adelaide Writers’ Week; T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, Dave Brubeck’s jazz quartet; the Sydney and Victorian symphony orchestras; Sir Donald Wolfit; Edwin Hodgeman; Ruth Cracknell, and poet Max Harris.|
|1962||John Bishop||Yehudi and Hephzibah Menuhin; the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent; the Bhaskar Dance Company from India; Benjamin Britten’s Noye's Fludde, Zoe Caldwell in Shaw’s St Joan; the Dave Brubeck Quartet and David Attenborough.|
|1964||John Bishop||Henry V (staged in a tent in the parklands); Marie Collier and Richard Lewis in Sir William Walton’s opera Troilus and Cressida; the world premiere of Sir Robert Helpmann’s ballet The Display performed by The Australian Ballet Company and designed by Sidney Nolan, and The Black Theatre of Prague.|
|1966||Advisory Board||The Queen Mother visited during the second week attending various events including the Flower Day celebrations and a variety show at Elder Park; The Royal Hunt of the Sun; Dame Judith Anderson performing four classical drama recitals; the Berlioz Requiem; the London Symphony Orchestra; Die Kammermusiker of Switzerland, and Yevgeny Yevtushenko at Adelaide Writers’ Week.|
|1968||Advisory Board||Opera singers Tito Gobbi and Marie Collier; Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band; Mahler’s monumental Eighth Symphony, and the Salzburg Marionette Theatre; American poet James Dickey.|
|1970||Sir Robert Helpmann||Benjamin Britten conducting the South Australian Symphony Orchestra; The Australian Ballet choreographed by Sir Robert Helpmann CBE and featuring Rudolf Nureyev; Royal Shakespeare’s productions Winter’s Tale and Twelfth Night featuring Donald Sinden and Judi Dench; the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; the Bartók String Quartet (Hungary), Larry Adler and Rolf Harris. Ivor Hele's second and last solo exhibition.|
|1972||Leo McKern; Timothy West; Timothy Dalton and Frank Thring; Jesus Christ Superstar; The South Australian Theatre Company’s production of The Alchemist, and American poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg at Adelaide Writers' Week.|
|1974||Anthony Steel||Recitals by André Tchaikowsky; baritone Hans Hotter; Brazialian guitarists, the Abreu Brothers; the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra; Jacques Loussier Trio: Stratford National Theatre of Canada, and Premier Don Dunstan’s reading of Ogden Nash’s verses to Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals.|
|1976||Anthony Steel||John Cage, Leo Sayer, Herbie Mann, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Adelaide Writers' Week hosted Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, James Baldwin and Wole Soyinka.|
|1978||Anthony Steel||Sir Michael Tippett’s first opera The Midsummer Marriage; the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta; Roger Woodward’s series of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas performed in 12 days; Compagnie Philippe Genty; Kabuki Theatre, and East by Steven Berkoff. Prominent authors at Writers’ Week included Manning Clark, Barry Humphries and Frank Moorhouse, American writer Chaim Potok and Irish poet Richard Murphy.|
|1980||Christopher Hunt||Spike Milligan; Futuresight, an exhibition from the New York Museum of Holography; Peter Brook’s Centre for International Theatre Creations; The Acting Company of New York; La Claca Theatre Company of Catalonia; the Ballet of the Komische Oper (Berlin); the Prague Chamber Ballet and the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra.|
|1982||Jim Sharman||Opening night parade including more than 10,000 participants, followed by a concert in Elder Park with Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare and the Grimethorpe Colliery Band on a floating stage; Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal, and the premiere of Patrick White’s play Signal Driver.|
|1984||Elijah Moshinsky (resigned) /Anthony Steel||Vladimir Ashkenazy leading London’s Philharmonia Orchestra performing Beethoven’s nine symphonies and five piano concertos presented as a complete cycle; Theatre Tenkei Genijyo; the Pointer Sisters, and the Polish Chamber Orchestra.|
|1986||Anthony Steel||A high-wire walk from the Festival Theatre roof across the River Torrens; the world premiere of Richard Meale’s opera Voss; Philip Glass; The Nederlands Dance Theater; Jan Fabre; The Wooster Group and Gidon Kremer.|
|1988||George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood||Peter Brook’s all-night production of The Mahabharata at The Quarry; Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Twyla Tharp Dance and Sarah Vaughan.|
|1990||Clifford Hocking||A landmark Australian production of Tristan and Isolde; the Vienna Singverein; Peter Schreier and Mercedes Sosa; Lyon Opera Ballet’s Cinderella and French Circus Archaos.|
|1992||The inaugural WOMADelaide; Nixon in China; Peter Schreier and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion; Maguy Marin’s May B and Cheek by Jowl’s As You Like It.|
|1994||Christopher Hunt||Mark Morris Dance Group; the Frankfurt Ballet; Penny Arcade; William Yang; The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; Hakutobo and the Wuhan Acrobats.|
|1996||Barrie Kosky||Late-night club Red Square, built from 120 shipping containers; the Batsheva Dance Company of Israel; Maly Theatre of St Petersburg; theatre performance La Fura dels Baus (Barcelona); Hotel Pro Forma (Denmark), DV8 Physical Theatre; Latin jazz musician Tito Puente and Annie Sprinkle.|
|1998||Robyn Archer||Opening night spectacular Flamma Flamma; stage adaptation of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land; the Australian-Japanese production of Masterkey; Ex-Machina’s seven-hour performance of The Seven Streams of the River Ota by Robert Le Page; the Andalusian opera Carmen, and Sequentia’s performances of the Canticles of Ecstasy, composed by Hildegard von Bingen.|
|2000||Robyn Archer||Peter Greenaway’s opera Writing to Vermeer; Ishina presenting Mizumachi (The Water City) in an open-air theatre; Les Ballets C de la B's tribute to Bach in his 250th year with Iets Op Bach, and 5 new Australian works commissioned for the festival.|
|2002||Peter Sellars (resigned)/||Kaurna Palti Meyunna in Victoria Square; a film program with titles commissioned including The Tracker, Australian Rules and Walking on Water, Uppalapu Srinivas (India), Black Swan, and many community events.|
|2004||Stephen Page||An indigenous Awakening Ceremony; David Gulpilil; Bangarra Dance Theatre; Windmill’s RiverlanD and Body Dreaming; Bryn Terfel; the Prague Chamber Orchestra; large-scale theatrical event The Overcoat, La Carnicería Teatro (Madrid) with I Bought a Spade at Ikea to Dig My Own Grave; Circus Oz, and late night club Universal Playground.|
|2006||Brett Sheehy||Italian company Compagnia di Valerio Festi's Il Cielo che Danza (The Dancing Sky); Berlin’s Schaubühne's Nora; the world premiere of a theatrical music event inspired by the phenomenon of Imelda Marcos, Here Lies Love; the opera Flight; highlights of the Venice Biennale, and the open air festival club Persian Garden.|
|2008||Brett Sheehy||The opera Ainadamar, Northern Lights, Akram Khan’s Sacred Monsters with Sylvie Guillem, Leonard Cohen and Philip Glass’ Buddhist-inspired Book of Longing, the Indian/Sri Lankan A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Meeting of the Spirits and John Adams’ Buddhist/Kerouac-inspired Dharma at Big Sur; an examination of the great living of composers including Pärt, Kats-Chernin, Górecki, Farr, Adams, Sculthorpe, Hosokawa, Glass, Adès, Golijov, Hindson, Westlake, MacMillan, Meale and Roumain.|
|2010||Paul Grabowsky||The opera production of Le Grand Macabre by György Ligeti, the Wayne Shorter Quartet; Good Morning Mr Gershwin (Montalvo-Hervieu); The Sound and the Fury (Elevator Repair Service); and The Walworth Farce (Druid); an expansion of Northern Lights; Groupe F’s pyrotechnic spectacle A Little More Light, and Mahler 8 featuring the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.|
|2012||Paul Grabowsky||Raoul starring James Thiérrée; Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker starring Jonathan Pryce; Leonard Bernstein’s Mass featuring Jubilant Sykes; Force Majeure and Sydney Theatre Company’s production Never Did Me Any Harm; Charles Bradley; Roky Erickson; Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti; Michael Rother and Jane Birkin.|
|2013||Kronos Quartet and Laurie Anderson; Van Dyke Parks; Sylvie Guillem; National Theatre of Scotland's The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart; Ontroerend Goed's Trilogy; Neil Finn and Paul Kelly; Unsound Adelaide; Severed Heads; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and the return of the festival club, Barrio.|
|2014||Toneelgroep Amsterdam's Roman Tragedies; John Zorn in an exclusive concert series comprising the Masada Marathon, Classical Marathon, Triple Bill and Zorn@60 with guest artists including Mike Patton, Joey Baron, Bill Laswell, Marc Ribot, Sofia Rei, Dave Lombardo, Greg Cohen, Jesse Harris and more; Batsheva Dance Company's Sadeh21; Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno; John Waters; Robert Lepage's Needles and Opium; An Iliad starring Denis O'Hare, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Charles Bradley; Unsound Adelaide; Ilan Volkov and the festival club, Lola's Pergola.|
|2015||Spectacular digital illuminations marked the opening with Blinc. This festival also included Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton, unique festival shows like Tommy and the return of Unsound. New York’s Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet made their Australian debut performing works by Crystal Pite, Hofesh Shechter, Jiří Kylián and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.|
|2016||French maestros of light and fire Groupe F open the festival with À Fleur de Peau at the Adelaide Oval. The festival also included The James Plays by Rona Munro, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch's Nelken, Romeo Castellucci’s Go Down, Moses, Canadian dance company The Holy Body Tattoo’s monumental accompanied live by Godspeed You! Black Emperor (CAN), and the award-winning 1927’s multi-disciplinary dystopian fable Golem (UK).|
|2017||Neil Armfield and||Barrie Kosky's Helpmann award winning opera Saul (UK), State Theatre Company of South Australia's The Secret River (AUS), Adelaide-based circus company premiere of Backbone (AUS), 's Richard III (GER), Canadian dance company Electric Company Theatre's Betroffenheit (CAN) and Rufus Wainwright performs both Prima Donna and Rufus Does Judy (CAN).|
|2018||Neil Armfield and||Brett Dean's opera Hamlet (UK), Grace Jones (USA), Robert Lepage's The Far Side of the Moon (CAN), (UK), jazz phenomenon Cécile McLorin Salvant (USA), dancer and choreographer Akram Khan (dancer) in his last solo as dancer in XENOS (UK), Rundfunkchor Berlin's spellbinding choral experience human requiem (GER). and Toneelgroep Amsterdam's modern take on Shakespeare's Kings of War (NL).|
|2019||Neil Armfield and||Komische Oper Berlin’s production of The Magic Flute directed by Barrie Kosky, Russia’s revered Sretensky Monastery Choir, Semperoper Ballett Berlin’s Carmen, choreographed by Johan Inger, ballerina Natalia Osipova starring in Meryl Tankard's Two Feet, award-winning play Counting and Cracking from Belvoir and Co-Curious (AUS).|
|2020||Neil Armfield and||The event's 60th anniversary edition included the staging of Mozart's Requiem by Italian director Romeo Castellucci, co-produced with the Festival d-Aix-en-Provence, the controversial play The Doctor starring British stage and screen legend Juliet Stevenson, local company Patch Theatre's The Lighthouse and Tatzu Nishi's installation A Doll's House dominated social media, the Fire Gardens created a mesmerising firelight in one of Adelaide's favourite spots, the Adelaide Botanic Garden.|
|2021-23||Neil Armfield and||Full program details announced in late 2020.|
- "How it started". History of the Festival. Adelaide Festival of Arts. 2006. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2006.
- Sutton, Malcolm (24 February 2017). "Adelaide Fringe: World's second largest arts festival 'still a fringe', as attention turns to interstate". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
- "Writers' Week". Adelaide Festival. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
- Starick, Paul (18 March 2006). "Festival back as best in nation". The Advertiser. Archived from the original on 23 May 2006. Retrieved 13 June 2006.
- "Adelaide Festival of Arts to go annual". The Advertiser. 26 February 2010.
- Auditor-General (2015). "Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 2015: Part B - Agency audit reports" (PDF). Government of South Australia. Retrieved 28 July 2019. Cite journal requires
- "About arts and culture". South Australia. Dept of the Premier and Cabinet. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
- Marsh, Walter (19 June 2019). "State Budget adds millions in Adelaide Festival and film industry funding as other arts organisations face cuts". Adelaide Review. Retrieved 11 August 2019. Cite journal requires
- "Paul Grabowsky announced as new Artistic Director!". Adelaide Festival Corporation. 4 January 2008. Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2008.
- 50th anniversary (2010) - history (Archived page)
- History of the Adelaide Festival of the Arts (Downloadable PDF from archived page)
- Past Adelaide Festival programs
- Official website
- "Adelaide Festival: 1–17 March 2019" (PDF). Adelaide Festival. Cite journal requires
- Adelaide Festival Theatre