Melbourne Fringe democratises the arts. Our vision is cultural democracy – empowering anyone to realise their right to creative expression. We support the development and presentation of artworks by, with and for Melbourne’s citizens, running the annual Melbourne Fringe Festival, the year-round venue Fringe Common Rooms at Trades Hall, and a range of arts sector leadership programs.
We have evolved across our 37 years, beginning in 1982 as the Fringe Art Network. While we stay committed to our roots – a collaborative encouraging, representing and uniting artists of all disciplines – we have matured to become one of our state’s most significant arts organisations that supports the generation of new work, discovering artists and new ideas. We work year-round as educators, promoters, and creators. We are supporters, we are challengers, we rock the boat and we question the status quo.
How do we do that? Read on.
Our open access Festival champions cultural democracy – art for anyone. We celebrate freedom of artistic expression, taking voices from the margins and amplifying them across the city. Fringe embraces risk through our uncurated festival which supports anyone to participate.
Our participants and our audiences are at the heart of what we do. They are the risk-takers and the art-makers. They are creative, they are bold, they are diverse. They are the artists at the start of their careers, they are the artists launching into the next echelon, they are the big names trying out brand new ideas, and sometimes, they are just everyday people who have something big to say.
Our Festival is unlike any other. It takes place in theatres and galleries, but also in living rooms, in alleyways, in bookshops and libraries, in restaurants and cafes, in the backseat of cars – anywhere you can imagine. By pushing boundaries and illuminating new thoughts and ideas, our Festival transforms not only our city’s places but its people too. Not many come out the same way they go in.
Every year in Spring, the weather warms up and the Melbourne Fringe Festival unfurls across the city for 2.5 weeks of art across every kind of platform imaginable. We support over 3,000 artists to present 450+ works in 170+ venues to more than 360,000 people annually.
What will this look like 2020 – a year where the world reels in the wake of Covid-19? Melbourne Fringe has been is built on a foundation of boundary pushing, and we know are artists are resilient, innovative and adaptable. So, Melbourne Fringe Festival will proceed with revised dates of 12-29 November 2020.
We’re planning for every contingency to ensure that no matter what form we need to take come November, we’ll have ways to celebrate Melbourne’s extraordinary creative expression together. In 2021 and beyond, we’ll be back in our October timeslot.
The Melbourne Fringe Festival is Open Access – meaning all applications are accepted and anyone with something to say can put on a show. Every year our uncurated Open Access program features around 450 events by Melbourne’s most interesting (and independent) artists and community members across every possible artform imaginable. Through broadcasts and live streams, interactive virtual experiences and digital art, physically distant or in-theatre experiences… big names stand-by-side with emerging artists and everyday citizens with creative bones and a bright idea.
The Fringe Hub is the epicentre of the Festival and features a bold program of events at Trades Hall. Our legendary Club Fringe is our meeting place, our town hall, our city square (AKA the social heart of the Festival), a place for our community to gather for some eye-opening free performances.
Each year, we collaborate with Australia’s leading artists to commission and present a free program of new and bold public artworks for all of Melbourne to experience. These works put the process of art-making directly into the hands of the citizens of Melbourne, calling on them to contribute their thoughts, voices and bodies to the creation of the work. Hundreds of thousands of people engage with these works over the Festival, with many gaining a long touring life across Victoria, Australia and the world.
Our open access design exhibition – featuring furniture, homewares and sculptures – in which anyone can submit a piece, places the emphasis on impossibility over practicality – and has done for over 30 years.
36 Category, Professional Development, Touring and Special awards are presented each year, chosen by a panel of over 120 industry judges.
Find out more – read our Festival Reports online here:
Want a snapshot of past Festivals? Take a look at our archive of Melbourne Fringe programs.
Located in Melbourne’s iconic Trades Hall, Fringe Common Rooms is our year-round home for independent artists, for workers and for people who like to party. It’s a meeting place housing a licensed performance space and a salon, for one-off and regular events, including live music, performance, comedy, cabaret, dance parties, spoken word, workshops and rehearsals.
We’re a cultural enterprise, which means that we use bar sales from commercial events to support local artists with opportunities to test their ideas and reach new audiences. We offer a vibrant year-round program of accessible performances and events at Trades Hall, ensuring everyone can discover the best emerging and independent artistic talent.
Fringe Common Rooms is a culturally and physically safe space for our community, including LGBTIQ+, First Nations, people who are Deaf or with disability. We welcome all artists and creative people, as well as the residents of Trades Hall, workers and members of the union movement.
Fringe Common Rooms is where culture and community collide.
If you have an idea for an event, then we want to hear from you. Our venue has a capacity of around 200 people, a commercial bar, is wheelchair accessible (including lift access to the stage) and has a hearing loop. We love art in all of its forms, so if you are interested in holding a one-off gig, cabaret, comedy or music performance, workshop, rehearsal, book launch, talk, film screening, masterclass, yoga class or cooking class (minus the cooking bit), fill out the expression of interest form to get in touch.
Sadly, Fringe Common Rooms remains closed until further notice but we will re-open for programming – in whatever capacity or space we can – as soon as possible.
Artist opportunities, professional development and more
We love our performers, our producers, our workers and our wider arts sector. Makes us feel warm and fuzzy just thinking about them. We provide artist, artform and industry development programs all year round, designed to inspire, activate and share knowledge to strengthen the broader arts community. We are dedicated to supporting emerging artists, increasing diversity in the arts and helping build sustainable careers.
We lead a program of skills development workshops and forums to guide our participants through the process of making work – we’re there to help every step of the way.
Inclusive mentorships for emerging producers and artists who are Deaf or experience disability, resulting in increased skills, confidence and career pathways in the arts. Our 2020 partnership with Darebin Arts, Your Space, is a key initiative of our Access and Inclusion Program.
A commissioning and mentorship program for First Nations producers and artists to amplify Indigenous voices in the arts. You can read more about our Deadly Fringe program here.
In collaboration with Maribyrnong City Council, XS is a program of contemporary, experimental and live art for children. Kids under 12 have the least pre-conceived ideas of what art should be, and XS provides opportunities for art-makers to embrace this concept and think outside the box. The program includes XS OPEN – a new open access public art commission opportunity available to an independent artist, company or collective to create and premiere a free work in public space.
In collaboration with Circus Oz, the Springboard program supports innovation in contemporary circus and the development and commissioning of new works from emerging circus artists and companies. The purpose of the program is to support our most promising small circus companies to aim for more ambitious, better conceived, and better realised new works, with solid market development and touring strategies in place.
We bring leading international and local artists together and create space for the exchange of ideas, artform development, art-making and new collaborations to form.
Our Money for Art program helps Fringe artists produce their work, providing them access to a variety of Microgrants including ShowSupport – a match making service between donors wanting to commission a Fringe work and independent artists.
In 2012, Melbourne Fringe celebrated 30 years. Read more about the History of Melbourne Fringe.