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Friday, October 7, 2011


The World Fringe Alliance, comprising eight Fringe Festivals from four continents, was launched recently at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival and Grahamstown was named as the Chair and the host city of the Alliance’s first global meeting in 2012.

The Alliance, which has a collective annual audience in excess of 1 million, aims to promote ‘creative pathways’ for artists to move between member Fringe Festivals as well as to present a collective offering to global sponsors and funders.

“We’re all passionate about the concept of “Fringe”, which is characterised by open access stages, independent, fresh artistic voices pushing artistic boundaries, and a vibrancy and energy that contributes to a magical experience for audiences and artists,” Tony Lankester, CEO of the Grahamstown National Arts Festival and the inaugural Chairman of the Alliance said at the launch.

“We believe that this is the foundation of a strong relationship among our member Fringes and presents a hugely compelling and attractive market for sponsors and brands which match this spirit of innovation,” he continued.

The member Fringe Festivals are Grahamstown; Adelaide and Perth in Australia; New York and Hollywood in the USA; Amsterdam; Prague; and Brighton.

The keynote speaker at the launch was Josephine Burns, whose company BOP Consulting has recently completed a large-scale economic and social impact study of the 12 festivals in Edinburgh. She applauded the launch of the Alliance as a “long-overdue” initiative that will begin to open up arts tourism opportunities for the benefit of all member countries.

“Our study has shown that the Edinburgh Festivals have a value to the economy of £261-million a year – the equivalent of creating 5,242 full-time jobs. There is a massive global appetite for Festivals and other creative events and the Alliance is well positioned to begin harnessing some of this,” Burns said.

Benefits of the relationship between the Fringe Festivals are already being felt, with two productions from the Amsterdam Fringe being presented in Grahamstown during the 2011 National Arts Festival, and with South Africa reciprocating by sending two of its Standard Bank Ovation Award winners to the Netherlands where they attracted the attention and interest of other countries in the Alliance. The exchange will continue in 2012 with Perth, Amsterdam, Prague and Grahamstown looking for ways to create a wider global circuit for artists.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming the member Fringes to Grahamstown during the 2012 National Arts Festival,” Lankester said. “Hosting them in South Africa will give our artists the unprecedented opportunity to showcase their work to the other Fringes. We already attract a large number of international promoters and festivals to shop for work in Grahamstown, this adds another layer to those programmes.”

The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The Eastern Cape Government, The National Arts Council, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, The Sunday Independent and M Net.