Festival Info

Melbourne Fringe Festival Awards

Melbourne Fringe Awards are an opportunity for Melbourne’s arts community to celebrate and acknowledge the diversity, professionalism and exceptional quality of work in each year’s Festival.

At Melbourne Fringe we present four different types of awards:

  • Best in Category Awards
  • Artist Development Awards
  • Touring Awards
  • Special Awards

Information about Awards Eligibility can be found here.


Category Awards

The Best in Category Awards are judged by the Melbourne Fringe judging panels. The judging panels are a team of over 150 industry practitioners, drawn from a diverse range of fields and backgrounds. We are committed to ensuring that the diversity of judges represents to the diversity of artists in the Festival and in the Australian population. Judges are selected through a broad consultation process that is based upon significant contribution and experience in the sector. All works will be viewed by at least 2 panel members in order to be eligible for consideration.

In 2021, there will be a Best in Category Award for the following event categories:

  • Cabaret
  • Circus
  • Comedy
  • Dance and Physical Theatre
  • Experimental
  • Kids
  • Music
  • Theatre
  • Visual Arts and Film
  • Words and Ideas


The following criteria will be rigorously applied by the judging panel members for the Best in Category Awards:

Innovation – Is it inventive, ambitious, creative and adventurous? Does it demonstrate an original approach to artmaking in form and/or content? Does it contribute something new to Melbourne’s artistic community?

Realisation – Has it been well developed and thoroughly delivered? Are the elements of the work well-realised, regardless of the resources at the artists’ disposal?

Impact – Does it make an impression on you and/or the audience and does it stand out from other work in the category? Does it inspire discussion and ongoing thought?

Each judging panel will consider all eligible works to determine a selection of nominated works and the ultimate recipient. Selection will be made by the panel at large, by majority consensus.

Artist Development Awards

Presented by a range of our partner organisations these awards recognise achievement in specific fields and provide mentoring and professional development opportunities within these fields.

Eligibility is at the discretion of Melbourne Fringe staff in consultation with the applicable award partner, and selection of each award recipient rests entirely with the relevant award partner.

In 2021, the following Artist Development Awards will be presented along with their opportunities as outlined below:

Access Award  
Supported by Arts Access Victoria

  • A professional/industry development or mentorship opportunity with an Arts Access Victoria senior staff member and umbrella advertising for their show/venue on the Arts Access website

Best Emerging Circus Performer
Supported by Theatre Network Australia’s CaPT Initiative

  • A free Small Company Theatre Network Australia Membership for 12 months.
  • A one-on-one skill session with one of Theatre Network Australia’s senior staff on a topic such as marketing, producing, budgets etc or similar.
  • 12 months of free casual use of TNA’s Salon and hot desk in TNA’s accessible Southbank office.
  • Complimentary registration to the Victorian Theatre Forum in 2022.

Best Circus Ensemble
Supported by Flying Fruit Fly Circus

  • Seed funding of $3,000 cash and in-kind support of up to $5,000
  • Up to two weeks access to the Flying Fruit Fly Circus (FFFC) rehearsal facilities and equipment.
  • Free accommodation in our Circus House, a five minute walk from FFFC, subject to negotiation of dates
  • Advice, feedback and mentorship
  • Basic technical support for a work-in-progress showing

Best Emerging Indigenous Artist
Supported by Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts & Cultural Development (VCA & MCM)

  • A $500 gift card to be used for a short course at VCA/MCM

Best Emerging Performance Ensemble
Supported by Theatre Network Australia

  • A free Small Company Theatre Network Australia Membership for 12 months.
  • A one-on-one skill session with one of Theatre Network Australia’s senior staff on a topic such as marketing, producing, budgets etc or similar.
  • 12 months of free casual use of TNA’s Salon and hot desk in TNA’s accessible Southbank office.
  • Complimentary registration to the Victorian Theatre Forum in 2022.

Best Emerging Producer
Supported by MILKE 

  • Six months of Producer Mentoring with MILKE

Best Emerging Writer
Supported by the Emerging Writers’ Festival

  • Winner will be programmed as an EWF artist in a performance event and/or panel discussion as part of the 2022 Festival

Best Participatory Work for Families Award

Supported by ArtPlay 

  • $3,000 towards creative development of work for families

Best Practice in Cultural Equity
Supported by Multicultural Arts Victoria

  • A professional development opportunity, including a series of meetings throughout 2022 with Multicultural Arts Victoria staff to facilitate the next development phase of the winning project and artist’s career

Emerging Company Incubator Award
Supported by Monash University’s Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and Performance

  • In-kind rehearsal and working space (subject to available resources)
  • Opportunity to present a new work, artistic presentation or pitch session to Monash staff & students in a Monash venue (subject to available resources)
  • Research and practical mentoring/support provided Monash (including–but not limited to–devising and improvisation, composition and music technology, popular music performance, playwriting and dramaturgy, directing and acting, performance activism)

Leadership in Circus
Supported by Circus Oz

  • Practice Development Pack from Circus Oz to the value of $3,000

Market Ready Award
Supported by Regional Arts Victoria

  • 2 x Showcase delegate passes for the winning artists/producers
  • 12 months membership of Regional Arts Victoria for an organisation or up to 2 individuals
  • Mentoring from Regional Arts Victoria Programming staff on how to engage with showcase, meet presenters, and prepare yourself for developing a tour
  • Invitations to any professional development workshops run by Regional Arts Victoria in the following 12 month period (as appropriate to awardee’s existing experience)
  • Other opportunities to be confirmed by both parties

The Art Unbound Award
Supported by Experimenta

  • Curatorial, production and/or marketing consultation/mentorship with Experimenta and invitations to 2022 programs and events

The Headroom Award
Supported by RISING

  • A personally tailored mentorship opportunity that responds to the vision and skill of the winning artist and/or company

The Phantasmagorical Award
Supported by Temperance Hall

  • $500 cash prize
  • Up to 8 hours of mentoring led by PABL Artistic Director, Phillip Adams

Young Creatives Award
Supported by SIGNAL

  • Creative and/or professional mentoring to the value of $1,000
Touring Awards

Presented by Festivals from across Australia these awards provide assistance to present your work at one of our partner festivals.These awards are chosen by representatives from the partner festival.

In 2021, there will be the following Touring Awards:

The New Zealand Tour Ready Award  
Supported by New Zealand Fringe

The NSW Tour Ready Award  
Supported by Sydney Fringe

The Queensland Tour Ready Award
Supported by Brisbane Comedy Festival

The SA Tour Ready Award
Supported by Adelaide Fringe 

Design Fringe Best in Category Awards  

Best in Experimental Design Award

Best in Furniture Award

Best in Homewares and Object Design Award

Best in Lighting Award

Design Fringe People’s Choice Award

Special Awards

Presented by Melbourne Fringe along with some of our key partners, the Special Awards recognise excellence from our participants in ways that aren’t covered by the Artist Development awards. This includes recognising technical excellence, emerging talent, great feminist work, outstanding venue management and much more. All events/participants in the Festival are eligible regardless of the number of performances, and recommendations are received from judges from all other categories, Tour Ready delegates and key arts industry representatives.

In 2021, there will be the following Special Awards:

Best Feminist Work
Supported by MC Security

Best Work by an Emerging Artist

Industry Trivia All-Star Champion Award

Melbourne Fringe Living Legend

People’s Choice Award

Sound and Technical Excellence Award
Supported by Front of House Productions

Spirit of the Fringe

Venue of the Year

Living Legends  

2020: Bill Coleby
2019: Anni Davey OAM
2018: Susie Dee
2017: Richard Watts
2016: Rinske Ginsberg
2015: Ian Pidd

In 2020, we awarded a special Melbourne Fringe Legacy Award to the late Comrade Paddy Garrity. Paddy played an important role in bringing the arts to Trades Hall; setting the foundations for what is now a hub of creativity and activism. His invaluable contribution to the arts and social justice will endure.