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March 14, 2023

It’s not who you know, it’s who you could meet

The benefit of Adelaide’s festival season is the maelstrom of local and visiting artists and arts workers who make the city a hotbed of international collaboration, says UNESCO City of Music general manager Joe Hay.

  • Words: Joe Hay
  • Picture: Andre Castellucci

Festival Season has to be the best time of the year to be in Adelaide.

My work has allowed me to travel extensively, visit cities all over the world, and the energy and pure joy of Mad March (not forgetting February) is hard matched.


Joe Hay is general manager of Adelaide UNESCO City of Music.
This picture: Jessica Clark

I revel in the opportunity to gloat about the total-city (and more often these days, total-state) nature of the madness – the people, the weather, the food, and the wine.

While at the end of the season the Fringe, Adelaide Festival and the State Government will quantify its economic impact, the way it shapes the state’s image of itself as a vibrant and exciting place to be is incalculable.

Adelaide is home to a wealth of diverse talent and has a rich history of contributions to the global music industry, which is reflected in our designation as Australia’s only UNESCO City of Music.

This title acknowledges the mechanisms and work done to support music’s continued cultural and economic contribution to the city and to the state. Our festival season plays an important role in this global recognition, and to the ongoing health and vitality of the state’s music industry.

In March every year, South Australia is flooded with new music, people and perspectives, with this festival season bustle providing a unique platform for new and established local artists to be seen and build international connections.

Music is a major part of the season, no matter the genre or activity. It’s the second largest format in the Fringe, world-renowned artists and music productions often lead Adelaide Festival, and WOMAD continues to shine as a beacon of musical and cultural diversity. Music is everywhere this time of year. It connects and transforms the city.

DEM MOB at WOMADelaide 2023. This picture: Ben Kelly


Joe Hay touring Jordana Leigh of New York City’s Lincoln Centre through WOMADelaide

The growth and evolution of local venues and creators, through the use of new and developing technologies, means the season is constantly being refreshed and renewed.

In addition to all the artists, managers, production designers and technicians who arrive to work and perform during festival season every year, Fringe’s Honey Pot initiative showcases acts to a worldwide network of festivals and events. And Adelaide Festival and WOMAD regularly play host to visitors looking to be inspired and find the next big thing.

In my travels, when I meet someone who’s heard of our fantastic festival season, I can’t help but feel moved – and even more so when I’m told they’ve visited and fallen in love with our city. The movement and connectivity that this time of year provides is on of Adelaide’s competitive advantages, and so important in a world where the global population is searching for more intelligent, energetic and liveable places to call home.

Adelaide’s size means it’s easy for Adelaide artists and professionals to be seen and their work recognised locally. The festivals exponentially expand this reach globally, and at the same time is the perfect opportunity to experiment and take risks – as artists and as businesses.

In the maelstrom that is festival season, it’s hard not to bump into people who can open new doors, or provide insight and advice. Anyone who has danced the night away at the Fringe’s Artist Bar knows what a hotbed of networking and creative potential the season holds.

This festival season will be a special year, with the city welcoming back international artists and visitors alike, all of whom, I’m sure, are raring to get back to one of the most festival cities in the world.

It’s a time to make the most of all Adelaide and beyond has to offer.  

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