Edinburgh and Adelaide join forces on their festivals

EIF director Fergus Linnehan and Rachel Healy, co-artistic director of the Adelaide Festival, agree the deal. Picture: Ian Georgeson
EIF director Fergus Linnehan and Rachel Healy, co-artistic director of the Adelaide Festival, agree the deal. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Edinburgh is to team up with one of its main overseas cultural rivals to commission major productions, help develop up-and-coming artists and even share staff in future.

The Capital will be working closely with Adelaide’s two major festivals over the next three years under a series of ground-breaking agreements.

These will see the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe collaborate with their equivalent events in Adelaide on everything from box office systems and promotional campaigns to bringing down the costs for performers.

New shows will be premiered in either Edinburgh or Adelaide and then go on tour to the other city, while other acts will get the chance to further develop their shows in Scotland or Australia.

EIF director Fergus Linehan said: “Other than Adelaide, there are very few events with the structure of a formal festival at the centre of it and the Fringe around it. There are some projects which need development over many years and are not necessarily suitable for individual seasons. It helps generally with the costs of big new productions if you have a number of dates lined up.

“A bit of this is about developing shows together, but it’s also about looking at the way things are funded in future and they are dealing with the same challenging issues over infrastructure as we are at the moment.

“There’s a lot to be learned in both directions. The two cities are very far away – the distance is so extreme. I don’t think anybody will be deciding whether to go to Edinburgh or Adelaide.”

Fringe chief executive Shona McCarthy said: “Adelaide has acknowledged that Edinburgh is the mothership of all Fringe festivals. They’ve learned an awful lot and taken a awful lot from here.

“For me, it always comes back to the performers and artists. The beauty about this relationship is that more and more programmers and curators will come here from Australia.

“We’re definitely going to see a bigger flow of people here to look at work, curate work and take it back to the southern hemisphere.

“No matter how old or established you are, you’ve always got stuff to learn from other people.”

Julia Amour, director of Festivals Edinburgh, said: “International influences are one of the ways to remain at the top of your game and keep innovating.

“We’re delighted to work with a few like-minded 
people, who are doing really interesting things, to ensure Edinburgh keeps its place in the premier division.

“As a collective, we’re constantly looking at what we can do better and do more of. This is a great way of learning about how other people are doing things.”

The Adelaide Festival, one of Australia’s flagship cultural events, dates back to 1960. As with Edinburgh in 1947, its Fringe was set up by a group of performers excluded from the official event.

Heather Croall, director of the Adelaide Fringe, which is now the second biggest in the world, said it had seen “astronomical growth” over the last decade alone.

She added: “The big similarity between Edinburgh and Adelaide is they get completely taken over by their festivals.”

Jack Snelling, the minister for the arts in south Australia, who also attended the signing ceremony, said: “This is a huge step forward in the relationship between Edinburgh and Adelaide – the world’s leading festival cities.”

brian.ferguson@jpress.co.uk