The Melbourne Fringe Festival

The Melbourne Fringe Festival is an unconventional quirky Melbourne arts festival, a city-wide celebration of independent creativity and the thriving, vibrant and diverse Melbourne arts scene.

There are hundreds of shows with thousands of artists, presenting the most vibrant theatre and music, eccentric cabaret and comedy, avant-garde dance, visual and digital arts and circus performances.

It is an annual three-week Melbourne event starting in the middle of September, just before the main International Arts Festival Melbourne.

There are both free and ticketed events. The festival is an opportunity for both emerging and established artists to present new and contemporary work.

You will have a chance to see some amazing established performers with relatively low-priced tickets, as well as interesting, experimental and innovative new art. All very unique, intriguing and exciting! Bound to inspire creativity.

Its Hub and a Festival Club are located in the North Melbourne Town Hall. Many other Fringe venues are strewn throughout the city: in bars, clubs, independent theatres as well as in the public spaces like Federation Square and the Melbourne Museum.

What's On at the Melbourne Fringe

  • The Independent Program, the well-known, uncurated, open access line-up of thousands of artists from both within and beyond the Melbourne independent arts scene in venues all over Melbourne;
  • The Fringe Hub at North Melbourne , featuring a curated inspiring new work selection from around Australia.
  • The Fringe Club and intimate bar, the Warren: spaces for relaxed socialising and networking and FREE nightly entertainment;
  • The Made By Melbourne Fringe program, FREE talks, live art and special events in public spaces, exploring some extraordinary new ideas;
  • An Artists Development Program supporting and nurturing the independent arts in Melbourne.

Check here for Melbourne Fringe updates.

Melbourne Fringe Festival Story

Fringe means independent, non-mainstream performances and events. The Melbourne Fringe Festival started in 1982, following the Adelaide Fringe. It is the oldest Melbourne arts festival and by now one of the largest fringe festivals in the world.

It emerged with a mini-festival coinciding with Moomba from the Fringe Arts Network of independent artists. It also introduced the Brunswick Street Parade, which was a significant Melbourne cultural event for 18 years.

The Melbourne Fringe Festival is the festival of the artists and people. There is always room for the unconventional, the new, irreverence and experimentation. We are, after all, the city where people take ownership of the arts and that churns out some of the best independent Australian artists. With so much artistic talent brewing, the Melbourne Fringe Festival is always a vibrant event.

For a few years in the 1980s, it joined the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds and became the Melbourne Piccolo Spoleto Fringe Festival. When the Spoleto became the Melbourne International Arts Festival in 1986, the Fringe Festival Melbourne reclaimed its independence.

In 2002, the Brunswick Street Parade was replaced by the Melbourne Fringe Hub as a more effective way of showcasing and connecting the independent Melbourne arts scene. It offers artists and audiences a central place to gather and network. It encompasses the North Melbourne Town Hall, the nearby Lithuanian and Czech Clubs, the Comics Lounge, Arthurs Circus, Australia Post North Melbourne and the North Melbourne Town Hall Hotel.

What drives the festival is firstly artistic freedom, of artists making the kind of work they want to make. Secondly, it sets out to provoke. By highlighting, and communicating things that need to be celebrated or pushed further, it challenges how we look at our future and what part we may want to play in it.

The aspiration of the Fringe is to be a special time and place where we might engage with each other a little bit differently and that perhaps exposes a part of ourselves that we have forgotten about for a while, or trigger something unexpected that makes us jolt or laugh. The real purpose of art!

The Melbourne Fringe is also a vital resource to independent artists, by providing support , year-round forums, workshops, mentor programs, internships and awards programs in order to foster the development of the independent arts in Melbourne.

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