Adelaide Fringe venue operators making their mark

Last updated 10 Mar, 2023

Adelaide Fringe hubs play an important role in stimulating the city's economy, drawing in tens of thousands of people who go out to enjoy both show and dining experiences. Hear about the triumphs and challenges of running a venue, straight from the operators.

A foolish move not to open a little slice of paradise

Setting up new venue Fool's Paradise in Victoria Square was a "lucky coincidence" for director Thomas Gorham, but one that has given circus performers even more chances to showcase their work.

The Fool's Paradise director, who is also Co-founder of Head First Acrobats, was looking for a site for his show, GODZ when he learnt Victoria Square / Tarntanyangga was free.

He decided to start up a festival precinct away from the hustle and bustle of the East End in a bid draw more people to the area that incorporate two venues, The Vault and The Pyramid.

It also includes an outdoor trapeze area, food precinct, bar and mini golf course. 

Mr Gorham said the journey started with Head First Acrobats owning their own circus tent that it supplied to the Garden of Unearthly Delights last year before taking on the responsibility of creating his own venue.

"We have been touring with our venue and providing it to gardens and other hubs, but this year we contacted the Adelaide Fringe for a bit of help to find our own site," Mr Gorham said.

"It just so happened that Victoria Square was free... it was just a lucky coincidence we landed there."

The aim of Fool's Paradise was to "elevate" the art of circus performance and give troupes the opportunity to perform in a quality, safe space.

However, there are other show genres on offer at Fool's Paradise.

Mr Gorham said "it was always going to be hard" to create the perfect venue but had support from both AEDA and The Pyramid operator, Max Mason.

"AEDA has been brilliant and not just for financial help, but it has also been great connecting us with council services" he said.

"Through AEDA we have been able to book umbrellas and really useful infrastructure on site.

"I definitely recommend anyone who is every doing an activation in the city to contact AEDA to see how it can help — it has been brilliant."

Mr Gorham has secured the Victoria Square site for the next two years, and has big plans for future instalments of the hub.

He said he is looking at bringing in some smaller venues next year.

"More 'Fringe-ey' sort of shows so there is a bigger variety of what people can see," he said.

"But even now, people are really enjoying Fool's Paradise because it is just a fun night out."


A phenomenal growth since its mere beginnings

From its humble beginnings as a weekend food and wine festival, to the largest Adelaide Fringe hub that runs the entirety of the festival — Gluttony has become a go-to venue for both performers and patrons.

Gluttony co-directors Elena Kirschbaum and Daniel Michael developed their business model over the past 13 years to be a mostly South Australian-focused venue with large number of both performance venues and food offerings.

The journey has been long — and COVID-19 created hiccups — but fulfilling as attendance numbers return to pre-pandemic levels, according to Ms Kirschbaum.

“We think it is going to be a really fantastic year for most of our artists and all of our vendors on site after a few years of struggling,” Ms Kirschbaum said.

“People are just coming out in droves and making the most out of this amazing festival — it is just an amazing time of year.”

The Facade of Gluttony fronting East Terrace
photo-icon Helen Page

Gluttony expanded its footprint to increase capacity numbers during COVID-19 restrictions, and it has retained the extra spacing.

There are about 160 Adelaide acts, a variety of dining precincts, bars and a pop-up restaurant experience from the team behind Comida in the Adelaide Hills.

“The festival has a food manager who curates individual food stalls to make sure they are offering premium products, and also the drink offerings so they are high quality,” she said.

“Our focus is really on making sure that we always have a lot of local offerings, both artists and food offerings.”

Ms Kirschbaum says both her co-director Mr Michael are forever learning about venue management to make offerings even better year on year.

“So we're kind of constantly working throughout the festival, I guess, to start to sort of designing, building and brainstorming for next year's festival as well,” she says.

"It's kind of a constant and evolving concept.”

A new wonder of the world

Entrepreneur Max Mason knew the Adelaide Fringe always brought people to the East End, but thought it was time for them to venture further west.

After learning Fool’s Paradise was in the pipeline for the southern half of Victoria Square/ Tarntanyangga, he jumped at the opportunity to run a venue called The Pyramid within the brand-new venue.

The Pyramid promises top-notch physical theatre shows and hosted Adelaide Fringe Ambassador Penny Arcade’s show The Art of Becoming Episode 3: Superstar Interrupted.

“We are bringing life back to the middle of the city that supports South Australian artists,” Mr Mason says.

“Traders (near Victoria Square) suffered at a time when they should be at their busiest, so that’s a huge reason why we did it.”

photo-icon Dylan Sanders

However, it was a “huge mountain to climb”, preparing the program in just three days to meet the Adelaide Fringe cut off.

Victoria Square had not been used as a Fringe venue since 2018, following the relocation of the Royal Croquet Club.

He aimed to have at least 80 per cent of acts South Australian, scheduling popular Adelaide Fringe shows, including, Wonderfull! A Celebration of Stevie Wonder, 80s Ladies, and Remember the Time: a Michael Jackson Tribute.

“I was contacted with my now business partner on October the 17th last year to ask whether I wanted to construct a fringe venue with him and another business partner,” Mr Mason said.

“I thought that was a good idea so I got in touch with the Fringe and … learnt the program would go to bed on October 21st it had to be done by then.

“Amusingly, we were the first venue of the entire festival to submit our program — I like a deadline.”

Mr Mason said while the organisation process has been difficult, he believes he and the operators of Fool’s Paradise achieved a venue that showcases the best of South Australia.

“We created a new hub (Fool’s Paradise) that is a new chapter for both the city in general and the Adelaide Fringe.”

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