Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Festival of Arts
Frequency Annual
Location(s) Adelaide, South Australia
Inaugurated March 1960 (1960-03)

Coordinates: 34°54′42″S 138°38′06″E / 34.911625°S 138.635101°E / -34.911625; 138.635101

The Adelaide Festival of Arts, also known as the Adelaide Festival, is an arts festival held annually in the South Australian capital of Adelaide. It is considered to be one of the world's major celebrations of the arts, and a pre-eminent cultural event in Australia.[1]

Begun in 1960, the Adelaide Festival is held in the autumnal month of March. It is actually made up of several events, but overall features include opera, theatre, dance, classical and contemporary music, cabaret, literature, visual art and new media.

The festival is based in the city centre, principally in venues along the cultural boulevard of North Terrace, but also elsewhere in the city and its parklands. The Adelaide Festival Centre and River Torrens usually form the nucleus of the event, and in recent years Elder Park has played host to opening ceremonies. The popularity of the event is sometimes attributed to the city's unique design (known as Light's Vision) that locates many pleasant settings within short distance of each other.

Originally presented biennially, the festival has been held annually since 2012.[2]


The Adelaide Festival began with efforts by Sir Lloyd Dumas in the late 1950s to establish a major arts festival that would bring to South Australia world-class cultural exhibitions. In 1958, Sir Lloyd organised a gathering of prominent members of the Adelaide business, arts and government community. The proposal for an event similar to the Edinburgh International Festival was supported and the first Festival Board of Governors was formed.

The event began to take form when Sir Lloyd partnered with John Bishop, Professor of Music at the University of Adelaide. The two gained the support of the Lord-Mayor and Adelaide City Council and a financial backing of 15,000 pounds.[3] A number of leading businesses sponsored the first festival including The Advertiser, the Bank of Adelaide, John Martin & Co., the Adelaide Steamship Company, and Kelvinator.[3]

The inaugural Adelaide Festival of Arts ran from 12–26 March 1960 and was directed by Professor Bishop with some assistance from Ian Hunter, the Artistic Director of the Edinburgh Festival. There were 105 shows covering almost all aspects of the arts.

The Adelaide Festival continued to grow in successive years with the support of the South Australian Government. It has developed a number of incorporated events including Adelaide Writers' Week, Australia's original literary festival; WOMADelaide, an iconic world music festival; Artists' Week; the Adelaide International, a specially curated international contemporary visual arts program; and, the Adelaide Festival of Ideas, an internationally renowned talkfest. It also spawned the Adelaide Fringe Festival which has become the largest event of its kind in the world after the Edinburgh Fringe. The Adelaide Festival is seen as a template for other arts festivals, and it has been replicated to some extent by other Australian cities.

In February 2010, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, South Australian Premier Mike Rann announced that the Adelaide Festival would be held annually from 2012, with total government funding to be more than doubled.[4]

Past Festivals

Sir Robert Helpmann directed the Festival of 1970, in which he premiered his world famous ballet Don Quixote.

The Adelaide Festival has had 19 Artistic Directors in its history, two of whom resigned and four of whom have directed the festival more than once. Anthony Steel holds the record for most stints as director, being at the head of 5 festivals. There were no directors for the festivals of 1966 and 1968, with an advisory board taking on the responsibility. Peter Sellars' brief directorship in 2001 before being replaced by Sue Nattrass remains the most controversial.

Year Director Featured Artists / Performances
1960 John Bishop A visit by the festival’s patron Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother; the inaugural Adelaide Writers’ Week; T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, Dave Brubeck’s jazz quartet; the Sydney and Victorian symphony orchestras; Sir Donald Wolfit; Edwin Hodgeman; Ruth Cracknell, and poet Max Harris.
1962 John Bishop Yehudi and Hephzibah Menuhin; the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent; the Bhaskar Dance Company from India; Benjamin Britten’s Noye's Fludde, Zoe Caldwell in Shaw’s St Joan; the Dave Brubeck Quartet and David Attenborough.
1964 John Bishop Henry V (staged in a tent in the parklands); Marie Collier and Richard Lewis in Sir William Walton’s opera Troilus and Cressida; the world premiere of Sir Robert Helpmann’s ballet The Display performed by The Australian Ballet Company and designed by Sidney Nolan, and The Black Theatre of Prague.
1966 Advisory Board The Queen Mother visited during the second week attending various events including the Flower Day celebrations and a variety show at Elder Park; The Royal Hunt of the Sun; Dame Judith Anderson performing four classical drama recitals; the Berlioz Requiem; the London Symphony Orchestra; Die Kammermusiker of Switzerland, and Yevgeny Yevtushenko at Adelaide Writers’ Week.
1968 Advisory Board Opera singers Tito Gobbi and Marie Collier; Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band; Mahler’s monumental Eighth Symphony, and the Salzburg Marionette Theatre; American poet James Dickey.
1970 Sir Robert Helpmann Benjamin Britten conducting the South Australian Symphony Orchestra; The Australian Ballet choreographed by Sir Robert Helpmann CBE and featuring Rudolf Nureyev; Royal Shakespeare’s productions Winter’s Tale and Twelfth Night featuring Donald Sinden and Judi Dench; the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; the Bartók String Quartet (Hungary), Larry Adler and Rolf Harris. Ivor Hele's second and last solo exhibition.
1972 Louis van Eyssen Leo McKern; Timothy West; Timothy Dalton and Frank Thring; Jesus Christ Superstar; The South Australian Theatre Company’s production of The Alchemist, and American poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg at Adelaide Writers' Week.
1974 Anthony Steel Recitals by André Tchaikowsky; baritone Hans Hotter; Brazialian guitarists, the Abreu Brothers; the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra; Jacques Loussier Trio: Stratford National Theatre of Canada, and Premier Don Dunstan’s reading of Ogden Nash’s verses to Saint-SaënsCarnival of the Animals.
1976 Anthony Steel John Cage, Leo Sayer, Herbie Mann, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Adelaide Writers' Week hosted Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, James Baldwin and Wole Soyinka.
1978 Anthony Steel Sir Michael Tippett’s first opera The Midsummer Marriage; the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta; Roger Woodward’s series of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas performed in 12 days; Compagnie Philippe Genty; Kabuki Theatre, and East by Steven Berkoff. Prominent authors at Writers’ Week included Manning Clark, Barry Humphries and Frank Moorhouse, American writer Chaim Potok and Irish poet Richard Murphy.
1980 Christopher Hunt Spike Milligan; Futuresight, an exhibition from the New York Museum of Holography; Peter Brook’s Centre for International Theatre Creations; The Acting Company of New York; La Claca Theatre Company of Catalonia; the Ballet of the Komische Oper (Berlin); the Prague Chamber Ballet and the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra.
1982 Jim Sharman Opening night parade including more than 10,000 participants, followed by a concert in Elder Park with Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare and the Grimethorpe Colliery Band on a floating stage; Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal, and the premiere of Patrick White’s play Signal Driver.
1984 Elijah Moshinsky (resigned) /Anthony Steel Vladimir Ashkenazy leading London’s Philharmonia Orchestra performing Beethoven’s nine symphonies and five piano concertos presented as a complete cycle; Theatre Tenkei Genijyo; the Pointer Sisters, and the Polish Chamber Orchestra.
1986 Anthony Steel A high-wire walk from the Festival Theatre roof across the River Torrens; the world premiere of Richard Meale’s opera Voss; Philip Glass; The Nederlands Dance Theater; Jan Fabre; The Wooster Group and Gidon Kremer.
1988 George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood Peter Brook’s all-night production of The Mahabharata at The Quarry; Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Twyla Tharp Dance and Sarah Vaughan.
1990 Clifford Hocking A landmark Australian production of Tristan and Isolde; the Vienna Singverein; Peter Schreier and Mercedes Sosa; Lyon Opera Ballet’s Cinderella and French Circus Archaos.
1992 Rob Brookman The inaugural WOMADelaide; Nixon in China; Peter Schreier and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion; Maguy Marin’s May B and Cheek by Jowl’s As You Like It.
1994 Christopher Hunt Mark Morris Dance Group; the Frankfurt Ballet; Penny Arcade; William Yang; The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; Hakutobo and the Wuhan Acrobats.
1996 Barrie Kosky Late-night club Red Square, built from 120 shipping containers; the Batsheva Dance Company of Israel; Maly Theatre of St Petersburg; theatre performance La Fura dels Baus (Barcelona); Hotel Pro Forma (Denmark), DV8 Physical Theatre; Latin jazz musician Tito Puente and Annie Sprinkle.
1998 Robyn Archer Opening night spectacular Flamma Flamma; stage adaptation of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land; the Australian-Japanese production of Masterkey; Ex-Machina’s seven-hour performance of The Seven Streams of the River Ota by Robert Le Page; the Andalusian opera Carmen, and Sequentia’s performances of the Canticles of Ecstasy, composed by Hildegard von Bingen.
2000 Robyn Archer Peter Greenaway’s opera Writing to Vermeer; Ishina presenting Mizumachi (The Water City) in an open-air theatre; Les Ballets C de la B's tribute to Bach in his 250th year with Iets Op Bach, and 5 new Australian works commissioned for the festival.
2002 Peter Sellars (resigned)/Sue Nattrass Kaurna Palti Meyunna in Victoria Square; a film program with titles commissioned including The Tracker, Australian Rules and Walking on Water, Uppalapu Srinivas (India), Black Swan, and many community events.
2004 Stephen Page An indigenous Awakening Ceremony; David Gulpilil; Bangarra Dance Theatre; Windmill’s RiverlanD and Body Dreaming; Bryn Terfel; the Prague Chamber Orchestra; large-scale theatrical event The Overcoat, La Carnicería Teatro (Madrid) with I Bought a Spade at Ikea to Dig My Own Grave; Circus Oz, and late night club Universal Playground.
2006 Brett Sheehy Italian company Compagnia di Valerio Festi's Il Cielo che Danza (The Dancing Sky); Berlin’s Schaubühne's Nora; the world premiere of a theatrical music event inspired by the phenomenon of Imelda Marcos, Here Lies Love; the opera Flight; highlights of the Venice Biennale, and the open air festival club Persian Garden.
2008 Brett Sheehy The opera Ainadamar, Northern Lights, Akram Khan’s Sacred Monsters with Sylvie Guillem, Leonard Cohen and Philip Glass’ Buddhist-inspired Book of Longing, the Indian/Sri Lankan A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Meeting of the Spirits and John Adams’ Buddhist/Kerouac-inspired Dharma at Big Sur; an examination of the great living of composers including Pärt, Kats-Chernin, Górecki, Farr, Adams, Sculthorpe, Hosokawa, Glass, Adès, Golijov, Hindson, Westlake, MacMillan, Meale and Roumain.
2010 Paul Grabowsky[5] The opera production of Le Grand Macabre by György Ligeti, the Wayne Shorter Quartet; Good Morning Mr Gershwin (Montalvo-Hervieu); The Sound and the Fury (Elevator Repair Service); and The Walworth Farce (Druid); an expansion of Northern Lights; Groupe F’s pyrotechnic spectacle A Little More Light, and Mahler 8 featuring the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
2012 Paul Grabowsky Raoul starring James Thiérrée; Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker starring Jonathan Pryce; Leonard Bernstein’s Mass featuring Jubilant Sykes; Force Majeure and Sydney Theatre Company’s production Never Did Me Any Harm; Charles Bradley; Roky Erickson; Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti; Michael Rother and Jane Birkin.
2013 David Sefton Kronos Quartet and Laurie Anderson; Van Dyke Parks; Sylvie Guillem; National Theatre of Scotland's The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart; Ontroerend Goed's Trilogy; Neil Finn and Paul Kelly; Unsound Adelaide; Severed Heads; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and the return of the festival club, Barrio.
2014 David Sefton Toneelgroep Amsterdam's Roman Tragedies; John Zorn in an exclusive concert series comprising the Masada Marathon, Classical Marathon, Triple Bill and Zorn@60 with guest artists including Mike Patton, Joey Baron, Bill Laswell, Marc Ribot, Sofia Rei, Dave Lombardo, Greg Cohen, Jesse Harris and more; Batsheva Dance Company's Sadeh21; Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno; John Waters; Robert Lepage's Needles and Opium; An Iliad starring Denis O'Hare, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Charles Bradley; Unsound Adelaide; Ilan Volkov and the festival club, Lola's Pergola.
2015 David Sefton Spectacular digital illuminations marked the opening with Blinc. This festival also included Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton, unique festival shows like Tommy and the return of Unsound. New York’s Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet made their Australian debut performing works by Crystal Pite, Hofesh Shechter, Jiří Kylián and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
2016 David Sefton French maestros of light and fire Groupe F open the festival with À Fleur de Peau at the Adelaide Oval. The festival also included The James Plays by Rona Munro, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch's Nelken, Romeo Castellucci’s Go Down, Moses, Canadian dance company The Holy Body Tattoo’s monumental accompanied live by Godspeed You! Black Emperor (CAN), and the award-winning 1927’s multi-disciplinary dystopian fable Golem (UK).
2017–2019 Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy 2017 festival program to be announced October 2016

Associated Adelaide Festival Events


  1. Starick, Paul (18 March 2006). "Festival back as best in nation". The Advertiser. Retrieved 13 June 2006.
  2. "Adelaide Festival of Arts to go annual". The Advertiser. 26 February 2010.
  3. 1 2 "How it started". History of the Festival. Adelaide Festival of Arts. 2006. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2006.
  4. Adelaide Advertiser, 26 Feb 2010
  5. "Paul Grabowsky announced as new Artistic Director!". Adelaide Festival Corporation. 4 January 2008. Retrieved 1 March 2008.

External links

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