City winter festivals in chaos as deadline looms

The embattled Adelaide entrepreneurs behind the Royal Croquet Club have been given until tomorrow to confirm their intentions for Victoria Square as Renewal SA scrambles to resurrect a winter-themed festival for the CBD.

Jun 22, 2017, updated Jun 22, 2017
Last year's Alpine Winter Village event. Photo: Facebook

Last year's Alpine Winter Village event. Photo: Facebook

The Social Creative (TSC), which runs Adelaide Fringe Festival hub the Royal Croquet Club among other popular events, fell into voluntary administration last week.

As InDaily revealed yesterday, two major winter-themed city festivals next month are in serious doubt.

Renewal SA CEO John Hanlon says he has given the company’s directors until tomorrow to decide if they will go ahead with an expensive, but lucrative, Alpine Winter Village event in Victoria Square this year.

Renewal SA CEO and Riverbank Authority member John Hanlon.

TSC ran the popular event – featuring an outdoor skating rink, fires, lights and hot alcoholic drinks – in collaboration with Renewal SA on the riverbank in 2016.

This year, however, TSC failed to beat a bid from the organisers of another major Fringe event, the Garden Of Unearthly Delights, to hold a more “family-friendly” version of the winter-themed event on the riverbank.

Last month, following the snub, TSC co-director Stuart Duckworth presented to the Adelaide City Council. He wanted to put on a competing Winter Alpine Village event in Victoria Square, at the same time as the Renewal/Garden event.

Both events were meant to occur next month.

The council obliged.

“We wanted a winter village concept … but they got [council] approval,” Hanlon recalls.

“It turned out to be [at the] same time – the same type of event.

“That made us, in here, just go… (sighs).

“So be it: we didn’t want to compete against another group of people like that.”

Hanlon says Renewal SA was only interested in “activating the city in winter”, not competing with other events.

No contract had yet been signed with the Garden, says Hanlon, so Renewal SA shelved plans for a winter-themed riverbank festival and set up another – Winterfest – in Port Adelaide.

But since TSC fell into voluntary administration last week, he tells InDaily, the situation has become “difficult”.

No-one wants to run an event that’s half-baked

He says TSC has come cap-in-hand to Renewal SA, daily, asking the Government authority for funding to underwrite the Victoria Square event.

“Since they have gone into voluntary administration they have met with us a number of times and asked for financial support to help them run their event in Victoria Square,” he says.

“That puts me, and Renewal SA, in a difficult situation.

“We’ve run an expressions of interest process [for the riverbank event] – they weren’t successful.

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“It’s very difficult now for me to fund [TSC].

“That wouldn’t be fair to the people that won the expressions of interest [process].”

The Renewal SA riverbank event was due to begin in only a fortnight from now.

If Renewal SA is to resurrect it – if it even can resurrect it, this late in the piece – they have to know TSC’s plans, and quickly, says Hanlon.

He says he has told company it must make a decision about the Victoria Square event by tomorrow.

“After Friday, if they say ‘we just can’t pull this off’ … we then have to assess [if] we can do anything and what we can to … and who we can do it with,” says Hanlon.

“It’s really late.

“No-one wants to run an event that’s half-baked.

“No one wants to have their brand [compared] with what we did last year.

“Do we want to run a scaled-down event, or do we do a completely different sort of event?”

Nothing is certain, says Hanlon.

He tells InDaily that he can’t guarantee Renewal SA will run a winter-themed event this year, even if TSC’s Victoria Square plans fall over.

He can’t guarantee, either, that the Garden Of Unearthly Delights would run such an event; he’s unsure they would want to.

He says he is a “big supporter” of both the Garden and TSC, but his priority now is to try and help the Victoria Square event work – without contributing taxpayer funds to it.

“Our aim at this point is to support TSC guys to get an event up … and we’re not running against them.”

If the Victoria Square event fails to launch, Hanlon says Adelaide revellers should be assured that “we’ll have some sort of event happening in the CBD” in the colder months.

What that event turns out to be is far from clear.

Not all is lost though – Music SA’s Umbrella: Winter City Sounds music festival, will take place at various venues across the CBD from July 14-30.

InDaily contacted TSC for comment.

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