Huge growth in festivals injects $75 million into economy

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By David Russell

Shattered records and growth across all ten of Adelaide’s major festivals has delivered a significant boost to the South Australian economy.

Attendance at the Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Fringe, WOMADelaide, Adelaide Film Festival, Adelaide International Guitar Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, ComeOut Festival, Feast, Oz Asia Festival and SALA grew by 16 per cent in the last financial year, generating gross expenditure of $210 million. $75 million of that was new money, meaning it came from visitors to the state who wouldn’t have otherwise been here.

Festivals Adelaide CEO Christie Anthoney told Inside South Australia she didn’t expect the growth in festival attendance to slow down any time soon.

“I would say the trajectory of growth has a decade in it at least, if not decades,” Christie said.

“Now that we have been running festivals for so long, the model is well established, but they renew and refresh their content and their direction and their quirkiness every year.

“The word is out, people love them. They started in Adelaide, Adelaideans embraced them with vigour and they haven’t given up on them in any way, and now they’re telling everyone else.”

Christie believes the economic impact of Adelaide festivals represents a strong return on investment for the government.

“The ratio of a one-to-five investment is considerable considering our raison d’être is actually about culture. It’s a bonus that we are having such strong economic success.

“They (also) help with the positive image of the state… they are very much loved and attended by South Australians, which I think shows we are open minded and curious and creative, and all of that fits well into the brand of who we are.”

The economic impact figures come after South Australia won Best Festival State at the Australian Event Awards in Sydney in November. Christie sights three reasons that make Adelaide such a perfect city for staging festivals.

“It’s a city that can transform, you can feel it when the festivals are on. It’s small enough to get around from venue to venue and to be transformed in its vibe and psyche. For the summer festivals we have a unique weather pattern, with beautiful balmy nights.

“(And) most importantly we have a really interested and inquisitive audience that support them. Things really only work when they are grass roots-grown. These festivals are owned by South Australians, they are organic to South Australia. They haven’t been imposed or bought; they’ve come from us and have grown with us.”

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