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Melbourne Fringe Festival

" The thing that we are feeling really strongly this year," says Emily Sexton, Creative Producer of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, "is that notion of, this is the festival that is made for this city. It is inexplicably tied to this city, this time ."
And what better festival to pay homage to Melbourne than the Fringe, which this year will feature over 300 shows, 85% of which are from artists based in this city.
"When we were [planning] the festival this year as a team, we talked a lot about that experience of when you have been away then you come back in on a plane flying into Tullamarine, and you look down and go, 'Ahh…yes!'" explains Sexton. And for a city where people take to the streets for live music, and churn out some of the best independent artists in the country, it's not difficult to feel a sense of metropolitan patriotism.
"We challenge people to conceive what the future might be where the majority of people live, which is suburbia and non-city places. And what they have come back with is just beautiful. There's a lot of consideration on using sustainable materials, and new perspectives on what it means to be in the periphery."
The artistic vision of the festival was driven by the twin concepts, freedom and provocation. The Fringe prides itself as an open access festival; there is no particular theme to abide by and instead, artists are given the freedom to make the kind of work they want to make, and "to explore the kind of stories that they believe to be most vital."
On the other hand, provocation is the side of the coin that involves curated programmes. "They are about us as a team finding things that we think are fascinating and need to be highlighted or celebrated or pushed further, and making specific offers to do exactly that." At last year's MFF, Live Art made its debut as a distinct category, and featured Well Theatre's large-scale public artwork, Take Off Your Skin (TOYS), which saw the invasion of over a 100 Yasuko Kurono clones in the CBD.
Continuing with the Live Art exploration, MFF 2010 will bring a new major project called Visible City. "We are thinking of it as a bit of a love letter to Melbourne," explains Sexton. The core inspiration of this collaborative project focuses on the history, environment, landscape, and the now-now time period of Melbourne. There are 12 artists involved in Visible City, coming from all over Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and China, who will be making new work everyday of the festival and putting it straight out into the streets.
The project encourages the artists involved to go with their first instincts and ideas that will cover performance, video, installations, among other things. "Sometimes, you can have an idea and then retreat back from that and not be brave enough to really go with that idea. So what we are asking our artists to do is to go with their first ideas and to put those ideas in front of the general public and see what happens, and see how people respond."
Whilst Visible City is a tribute to the city itself, Fringe Furniture will tune in to the other side of the spectrum, that is, the countryside. Themed The City Has a Face, The Country Has a Soul, the event challenges designers to come up with a new vision for the future of contemporary furniture design; one that strays away from the stereotypical dowdy furnishings we imagine exists in the country.
"We challenge people to conceive what the future might be where the majority of people live, which is suburbia and non-city places. And what they have come back with is just beautiful. There's a lot of consideration on using sustainable materials, and new perspectives on what it means to be in the periphery."
The MFF has always been renowned as much for its gloriously quirky shows as its interesting venues. This year, Fringe Furniture will take place at The Substation in Newport, a stunning, rapidly evolving new space just outside the city. Perhaps the most fascinating venue is your own home, courtesy of the Lounge Room Confabulators; a duo who will pop over to your house to perform their two-hander show.
Other highlights will take place in the Fringe Club - the heart of the festival - that will provide 14 nights of free entertainment. Amongst them is Women of Letters by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire, who will be providing a special Fringe edition to their hugely successful show. From a Sydney team, Erotic Fan Fiction will feature other Fringe artists and provide much comedy.
On the music side of things, there's Little Band, put together by Beau McCafferty, MFF's Independent Program Producer. Inspired by the 'little band scene' that used to take place in Melbourne in the '70s. The project brings together different groups of musicians for one night only to form a new band, and play a 15-minute set. "It's about experimentation, and doing something you've always maybe wanted to do. So maybe you're a Blues musician who wanted to always play certain songs in a Big Band style," Sexton explains. The event will occur on two Thursdays of the festival, featuring bands such as Primitive Calculators, Dick Diver, and Jessica Venables (who used to be in New Buffalo).
Aside from the entertainment at the Fringe Club, the venue is also a great space to meet fellow artists. "What is most exciting, not just in our curated program but the entire festival, is that we are able to bring people together and to hopefully kick off new collaborations," says Sexton.
At the end of the day, the MFF is, to Sexton, a "special time and place where we might possibly engage with each other a little bit differently…and notice aspects of our environment that an artist might reveal to us - something that exposes a part of ourselves that we have forgotten about or neglected for a while. Or we might laugh at something that we hadn't expected to. That is what I think festivals should do."
The Melbourne Fringe Festival launches on Wednesday September 1 and tickets will be available to purchase from this date from melbournefringe.com.au and 9660 9666.