Melbourne Fringe Festival Awards

Melbourne Fringe Living Legend

Melbourne Fringe Living Legend Award is presented to someone who  has inspired high-quality work as an exemplar to the Fringe community by:

  • Supporting artists
  • Daringly shifted the focus of practice, ideas and debate
  • Has a body of work that has raised the bar
  • Provided leadership above and beyond the call of duty

Living Legend 2021

Dr Lou Bennett AM

Lou Bennett is a performer, songwriter, musical and artistic director, composer, actor, soundscape and music designer and educator from the Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung people in Echuca, Victoria.

Lou is a former member of the internationally acclaimed trio Tiddas and wrote a number of their signature songs during her ten years with the band before embarking on a successful career as a solo cabaret artist. Her thirty-year career in the arts industry has seen her in various roles, including serving on the Melbourne Fringe Board from 2006-07, and mentoring now internationally acclaimed vocalists including Deline Briscoe, Emma Donovan, Ursula Yovich, Leah Flanagan, Mindy Kwonton, Dan Sultan and Eric Avery.

In 2006, Lou was one of the cofounders of the Black Arm Band, one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies. As Artistic Director and Co-CEO, Lou was instrumental in the company’s transformative journey from a one-off project to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander governed, not-for-profit major performing arts company.

Lou has created works for organisations including Melbourne Workers Theatre, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company, Polyglot and La Mama. She was inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2017, and was accepted as the McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Lou’s academic work focuses on the obstacles and ethical issues related to retrieving and transmitting Aboriginal languages cross-culturally and across different generations.

In 2019, Lou accepted the appointment as member (AM) of the Order of Australia for her significant service to the performing arts, particularly to music, and the Indigenous community. In 2021, she was awarded the Red Ochre Award for Lifetime Achievement in Indigenous arts.


Bill Coleby
Melbourne Fringe Living Legend 2020

Bill commenced Risk Management for Amusement Parks, Shows and Venues in the 1980’s and gradually moved on to Festivals and Events. Bill was instrumental in producing the original Safety Seminars for the Australian Leisure Industry. Bill has also attended and assisted with the production of safety seminars in the USA for the American Recreation Equipment Association. In the past Bill has performed Risk Management audits and has given safety advice to most of Australia’s Amusement Parks and Leisure Venues. Bill has performed circumstance investigating for Victorian WorkCover, investigating serious accidents. He is also experienced in loss adjusting for the Leisure Industry. Bill is a member of the Risk Management Institution of Australasia Limited, National Safety Council of Australia, Australian Amusement Leisure & Recreation Association and for five years he was on the board of directors of St Martins Youth Arts Centre. More recently Bill accepted the Ministers offer to join the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee for WorkSafe Victoria.

“The Melbourne Fringe Festival has been one of our flagship events right from the outset. This is in no small part due to the incredible people we worked with both managing and producing Melbourne Fringe. I am extremely proud of the achievements of Melbourne Fringe in producing seemingly high-risk, edgy events which have resulted in arguably one of the best fringe festivals in the country. Their record resulted in no serious risk issues in the nearly 20 years that we were involved.”

“It may appear to be a high risk event, but if managed properly there should be no risk at all.

Anni Davey
Melbourne Fringe Living Legend 2019

Anni Davey is a freelance director and teacher of physical theatre and circus based in Melbourne and has had a significant history with Australian Contemporary Circus. She first joined Circus Oz in 1987 and has worked in many capacities there ever since. She has been developing her career as a Director since 2011 and has enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with Sarah Ward as Yana Alana since 2007.

She has enjoyed a long professional relationship with Circus Oz – including as a performer for many years, and most recently overseeing the New Building project.

Anni sat on the Board of Melbourne Fringe for ten years including two years as Chair (2006, 2007) and was Chair of the Australian Circus and Physical Theatre Association (ACAPTA) from 2010 until 2017. Anni started her new job as Artistic Director of The Flying Fruit Fly Circus in July 2018.

Susie Dee
Melbourne Fringe Living Legend 2018

Susie Dee has worked extensively in the theatre as a performer, devisor and director in Australia and overseas for the past thirty years. She has been the Artistic Director of three theatre companies: Melbourne Workers Theatre (MWT), Union House Theatre (UHT) and Institute Of Complex Entertainment (ICE). ICE’s projects went on to win various awards and received many accolades for their ground-breaking site-specific work. In 2011, Susie was the recipient of the Australia Council residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. Susie has directed works for MTC, Malthouse Theatre, Hothouse Theatre and many Independent Theatre Companies. Susie works with many writers in developing/directing their work: Patricia Cornelius (Savages, SHIT and Big Heart), Melissa Reeves (Happy Ending, In Cahoots), Angus Cerini (Wretch, Resplendence, Saving Henry), Brian Lipson (A Large Attendance in the Antechamber, Bergasse19:Apartments of Sigmund Freud, Edmund The Beginning) and most recently Emily Goddard (This is Eden). Last year Susie performed in and directed Caravan, a 2017 Melbourne Festival/Malthouse production. She has been nominated for and won numerous awards, including most recently a Helpmann Best Director nomination for SHIT. Animal, which she co-directed and co-devised, garnered four 2016 Green Room Awards, including for Best Director. Susie has been involved in Melbourne Fringe since its earliest days in the 1980s and she has been involved as a performer, director, outside eye, judge and mentor to countless Fringe artists over the years.

Richard Watts
Melbourne Fringe Living Legend 2017

Richard is a Melbourne-based arts writer, broadcaster and all-round Fringe legend. His work shines a light on many amazing independent artists year-round, so Fringe decided to was time to shine a light on him. Not only is he an avid supporter of Melbourne Fringe and a genuinely lovely person, he is also the Performing Arts Editor of ArtsHub, where he provides a platform for critical debate and discussion about the big issues facing artists and Australians today. His weekly program SmartArts on 3RRR has amplified the work of countless independent artists helping them reach new audiences and develop their following. Richard is also the founder of the Emerging Writers’ Festival and a Life Member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. He currently serves on the boards of La Mama Theatre and the literary journal Going Down Swinging, and is a member of the Green Room Awards’ Independent Theatre panel. He has worked for multiple arts organisations (but we assume Melbourne Fringe is his favourite).

Rinske Ginsberg
Melbourne Fringe Living Legend 2016

Rinske Ginsberg wears many glorious hats, and one of her shiniest is her Fringe Living Legend hat (it has sequins!) She has had a long association with Melbourne Fringe as a Board member and Chair between 2010- 2013, and continues her support and mentorship for Fringe artists. Rinske has over 35 years of experience in the performing arts industry, as teacher, performer, movement educator and dramaturg in theatre education institutions (VU, Deakin University and VCA&MCM). She currently sits on the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, the Melbourne University Theatre Board and Poppy Seed Artistic panel. Rinske Ginsberg has made a wonderful contribution to the Fringe community and we love her work!

Ian Pidd
Melbourne Fringe Living Legend 2015

Ian Pidd has been an integral part of Melbourne Fringe for over 25 years. The Festival could not be Fringe-y today without Ian. He has championed Fringe by supporting the independent arts, mentoring emerging artists and working as Chair of the Melbourne Fringe board for many years, where he developed and grew the Festival’s strategy. Ian is a freelance director of theatre and festivals. He does everything, from programming festivals (The Lost Lands) and directing theatre (Men Of Steel’s Hard Rubbish) to participatory events (Wheeler Centre’s 20 Questions). That’s to say…he does lots of stuff, artistic stuff. You can see his spirit of Fringe in his many works, which are accessible, playful and span many different genres.