Saturday, February 25, 2017

Festive Times in The Festival State

Adelaide Fringe Parade
As ‘Mad March’ fast approaches, Adelaide, the capital of South Australia is well into its festive season. Already this summer the city has hosted the Tour Down Under (January 17—22), that annual international bike race that was first staged in 1999, with the local rider Stuart O’Grady taking the win. Since then the Tour has grown to become the biggest cycle race in the southern hemisphere with international cycle stars like Cadel Evans, Marcel Kittel, Andy Schleck and Andre Greipel just a few of the many great cyclists who have participated. 

But the Tour Down Under is only the starter event for South Australia’s festival season. Underway as I write this is the Adelaide Fringe (February 17—March 19). The Fringe has been taking place for more than 55 years, and this year features a veritable smorgasbord of more than 500 acts covering everything from comedy to cabaret, music to magic, visual arts, theatre, film, and so much more.

For many local and visitors, the Adelaide Fringe holds more interest and excitement than the premier arts event in South Australia, the annual Adelaide Festival (March 3–19). This major international festival has been taking place since 1960, and features a program of theatre, opera, music and dance, more visual arts and film, talks, and installations, some commissioned specifically for the event.

Writer's Week
A major component of the Adelaide Festival is the free Writer’s Week (March 4–9), which takes place in the open air at the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden. This year, as always, Writer’s Week celebrates a diverse range of writers and writing, and includes writers from Chile and Cuba, Ireland, Iceland and Indonesia, the United States and Canada, and of course a host of writers from Australia. For a book lover like myself, the opportunity to listen to some of the best writers on the planet talk about books and read from their latest works is not to be missed.

But wait, there’s more!

Rev heads, have not been left out. Somewhere, in the middle of this high art and low culture, the annual Supercar motor race, the Clipsal 500 (March 2–5), hits the streets. During this event visitors get to indulge their love of fast cars, burnt rubber, skimpily clad women, and high-octane fuel. At the end of the day's activities on Friday and Saturday night, participants can rock into the night to the music of the Hilltop Hoods, The Funkoars, Baby Animals and one of the great Aussie rock bands, Hunters & Collectors.


But Mad March (as the locals refer to this period every summer), is the gift that keeps on giving. If you have not yet been exhausted or financial broken by fast cars, highbrow theatre and arts, books and their writers, and the almost unlimited shenanigans of the Adelaide Fringe you can always put on your tie-dye T’s, braid your hair into dreadlocks, douse yourself in patchouli oil, and spend a weekend at WOMADelaide (March 10–13).

This four-day world music festival is located in the city’s Botanic Gardens, and this year includes more than 60 acts and speakers from more than 20 countries. Among the performers this year are the Hot 8 Brass Band from New Orleans; the Specials, a band that brought an updated version of British Ska music to the world; and The Philip Glass Ensemble which will be performing music from Koyaanisqatsi. Apart from the music, WOMADelaide features workshops, Planet Talks, an ElectroLounge, a KidZone, a host of international food stalls, and a Healing Village for those needing some time out from the feasting and dancing.

Whew! I'm exhausted simply from the anticipation and the promise this list of amazing events suggests. Sadly, time, money and age will all combine to ensure that at most, I will only be able to dip into the many sweets on offer. But then, that is probably exactly how it should be.


Dear reader, you may not be able to attend any of the above events at this time, but I seriously encourage you to think about planning a visit to Adelaide during the summer festival season. If there is one thing I can guarantee you, it is that you won't be bored.

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