Melbourne Fringe Festival (12 – 29 November) is going up against all odds to present a boundary pushing program of experimental and digital art, and is set to include the first in-person events taking place in Melbourne post-COVID lockdown. In response to the ongoing public health crisis, Melbourne Fringe is supporting marginalised creatives and artists who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 to create and produce work at the 2020 Melbourne Fringe Festival.
During a year that has seen the arts sector severely impacted, Melbourne Fringe has so far supported 132 artists and created opportunities by awarding a record-breaking $305,915 in grants – more than double the dollar value awarded last year. As the repercussions of the pandemic began to hit, Melbourne Fringe identified the need to act quickly by providing cash and support to artists most heavily affected. The coming months have seen a 50% increase in grant programs, covering everything from microgrants for registration fees to commissions of $15,000+. Further grants are still in the pipeline to be offered and distributed in 2020. “The financial impact on Melbourne’s artists has been enormous, and we’ve worked around the clock to raise the funds to support artists to do what they do best – make work”, says Melbourne Fringe Creative Director Simon Abrahams. “Equity in the arts is at the very core of Melbourne Fringe, and we remain committed to ensuring a level playing field and equal opportunities for all who want to participate.”
To raise the additional funds, Melbourne Fringe appealed to their amazing community of donors and partners who gave generously to ensure that disadvantaged artists with big ideas could present work at the 2020 Festival. Grants include:
- Jewel Box grants supporting artists of colour by providing registration fees and marketing support
- Cash for Creatives grants providing artists with registration fees and artist fees to renumerate them for their work, including those funded by the Broadtree Foundation to support LGBTQIA+ artists at the Festival
- The largest-ever pool of Ralph Mclean microgrants, awarded to artists facing structural disadvantage.
The 2020 Melbourne Fringe grant program has led to a significant increase in participation from artists in marginalised groups including First Nations, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse, Deaf or Disabled and LGBTQIA+.
The 132 current grant recipients include; choreographer and director Stephanie Lake and composer Robin Fox, LGBTQIA+ artist, writer and director Jean Tong, Drag Queen Karen from Finance (Richard Chadwick), actor and theatre-maker Kasey Gambling, writer James Jackson, and First Nations visual artists Rosie Kilvert and Madison Connors, who will present digital works as part of the Deadly Fringe program.
To remain flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of the sector, grant opportunities were not limited to artists presenting in the 2020 festival dates. Keeping art alive during lockdown, comedian Zoë Coombs Marr was commissioned to present a new work Born Slippy as part of Melbourne Fringe’s VCR Fest in July. Award-winning artist Selina Jenkins also received a grant to present Rona Revelations with Beau – a ten-part video series featuring isolation musings and music posted weekly to the Melbourne Fringe Facebook page. Selina has previously presented other powerful work at Melbourne Fringe Festivals, including Thy Neighbour and 2019’s BOOBS, which enjoyed a multitude of awards and return seasons.
In addition to grant opportunities, artists within the Melbourne Fringe Festival can secure further funds direct from audiences through the festival’s ticketing system. This year the Festival will operate on a combined model of traditional pre-paid fixed price, and pre- or post- pay ‘Choose Your Price’ – where artists can nominate their preferred price point, and audiences pay what they feel. This model was tested in July for Melbourne Fringe’s VCR Fest, which saw 70% of paying audience members choosing a price point equal to or more than the suggested amount. The Melbourne Fringe Festival program will officially launch with an online celebration on Thursday 22 October.