‘Seismic shift’: Fringe venue considers entry fee after council’s park lands charge

The organisers of popular Fringe venue Gluttony say they’ll have to consider how they operate, charging entry or shrinking in size after an Adelaide City Council decision to re-introduce fees for hiring the park lands for events.

Jun 28, 2023, updated Jun 30, 2023
Gluttony at the Adelaide Fringe. Photo: Helen Page

Gluttony at the Adelaide Fringe. Photo: Helen Page

Adelaide City Council’s draft budget released in May proposed reinstating fees for events in the Adelaide park lands at a charge of $68.50 per 1000 square metres per day.

Council waived the fees in 2022 and 2023 due to COVID-19 and offered a discount in 2021.

The proposal to reinstate the fees prompted backlash from the Adelaide Fringe’s two major event hubs – the Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony – which both use a significant amount of space in the eastern park lands during the festival season.

Gluttony organisers estimates the $68.50 fee would cost them around $250,000 if they were to run the event in Rymill Park at the same size as 2023.

Organisers of both Gluttony and The Garden earlier this month did not rule out moving their event hubs elsewhere if the reinstated event fees were not reduced.

Adelaide Fringe CEO Heather Croall made a deputation in Town Hall last night warning councillors that cost increases could lead to Fringe ticket price increases.

“Adelaide Fringe participants must make box office in order to cover their costs,” she said.

“Some people in the Fringe break even and some people don’t – it is a very delicate ecosystem.

“Increases in anything are going to be very disruptive to this very delicately balanced ecosystem, and the tickets are what is covering everything.

“What we don’t want to see is ticket prices going up in a cost-of-living crisis.”

In response to the feedback from event organisers, councillors on Tuesday night voted to reduce the square-metre charge from $68.50 to $60 in its final budget.

The change, to be introduced from October 1, will cost the council’s bottom line around $87,000 next financial year, council administration said.

The $60 fee is in line with council’s charge in 2020.

But Gluttony director Daniel Michael told InDaily his costs would still go up because Gluttony is now twice the size than it was in 2020. Gluttony paid around $100,000 in park lands event fees in 2020.

“There’s an element of frustration from our perspective because we want to maintain free entry into the park and we want to maintain that beautiful surrounds around the park,” he said.

“But to do that we need a lot of space.

“We will most likely have to change how we operate or we will have to shrink.

“I need to sit down, go through numbers, look at where we can trim this and move that around before I make a decision about a seismic shift about being free entry to not being free entry.”

Gluttony overlooking the lake in Rymill Park. Photo: Johnny von Einem

Michael said the reinstated event fees came on top of a $206,000 grass remediation fee.

He said he was not calling for the event charge to be abolished but argued the fee structure was not “fit for purpose”.

“It’s designed to penalise event organisers for alienating the park lands, that is their language,” he said.

“What that means is that if you fence off a park, you have to pay for it.

“If you were to go on Rymill Park on any day that there’s not an event in it, there would be less people than our most quiet day.

“So my argument is we are not alienating the park lands at all.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Phillip Martin said on Tuesday that re-introducing a $60 fee was reasonable.

He argued council had been “exceedingly cautious” in how it dealt with event organisers in the park lands and the city.

“Each of those organisations will be subleasing the park lands to their particular contractors, including suppliers, food and drink, and it is my understanding that those fees charged to those suppliers will be 2024 fees, not 2020 as this council is seeking to impose,” Martin said.

“I think this goes all the way to assisting those events in the way that they asked council to assist them.

“We’re giving them a four-year-old fee while they’re charging their sub-lessees 2024 fees.

“We’ve waived hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past three years, and we’re still standing there saying, ‘how can we help you further’.”

Michael responded that Gluttony does not charge a “2024 fee” because they charge vendors a percentage of their sales.

South Ward Councillor Henry Davis, who voted against reinstating the council fees, argued they should be reintroduced over four years.

He labelled the reduction from $68.50 to $60 as a “mere placation so that we can say we’ve given some ground”.

“I don’t think this council should be running around saying that we’ve completely recovered from COVID and that our businesses and events have completely recovered from COVID,” he said.

“These types of things encroach in the spending that the event organisers can invest in their events in terms of advertising and the amount of attractions that they can bring in.

“I don’t think whacking a big fee on these event organisers is going to do anything for our city.”

In a statement to InDaily this afternoon, Fringe CEO Croall said: “Fringe is waiting to see the detail of what the fees will be – whether the amounts will be a fixed sum of what was charged in 2020 or if they will be based on a per sqm charge.

“It would be good to see council set different tiers of fees that align with the cost of entry to each event.”

InDaily contacted the Garden of Unearthly Delights for comment.

Adelaide Fringe’s 2024 season is scheduled to run from February 16 to March 17

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