Adelaide Festival of Arts has replaced its usual club space with recommendations for local restaurants and bars. That’s a shame. The festival has a decent track record creating innovative late-night hangouts.
In 1996, then-artistic director Barrie Kosky launched Red Square, a club built from 120 shipping containers stacked seven storeys high.
From 2012 to 2013, shantytown Barrio rose above Hajek Plaza. It offered a maze of food stalls, themed nights, intimate Naughty Corner dinners and main stage acts, including Soul II Soul.
In 2014, the festival unleashed Lola’s Pergola, a more subdued Torrens Riverbank club with an emphasis on degustation dinners led by guest chefs.
This year’s Adelaide Festival, led by artistic director David Sefton, skips the club concept. Chief executive Karen Bryant explains why.
“Art festivals aren’t in the business of running bars,” she says. “Red Square, Barrio and Lola’s were very much part of the program so they were first and foremost an entertainment venue.”
The progressive nature of international arts festivals is also a factor. “We pretty much pioneered that large entertainment pop-up, bar concept,” she says. “Everybody is doing it now. It’s not our job to duplicate what’s already there.”
For festival club to make a return, Bryant says it’d need a unique concept.
Instead, the festival is promoting Fast Fine Dines, a partnership offering pre- and post-show deals at establishments across the city. “We’ve always partnered with one restaurant from a sponsor point of view, but we have a range of shows and events in venues all over the city,” Bryant says. “One partner wasn’t really the best way of providing people with the best experience.”
Participating bars and restaurants are Kaffana, La Buvette Drinkery, Maybe Mae, Mississippi Moon, Proof, Bibliotheca, Udaberri, Jamie’s Italian, Jolleys Boathouse Restaurant, Mayflower Restaurant and Bar, Press* Food & Wine, Rigoni’s Bistro and Hill of Grace Restaurant.
Next year’s festival will probably keep this format – Arts South Australia just cut Adelaide Festival’s funding by $1 million.
Adelaide Festival runs from February 26 to March 14.