Arts Flashback

To celebrate Arts Victoria's 40th anniversary we've hit the archives
and uncovered some choice moments in the development of
Victoria's arts sector.

Click on the images below to view the stories and photo galleries, share them with others, and find out how Victoria grew to be the arts and cultural powerhouse it is today.


Bell-bottoms, handlebar moustaches, platform shoes, our daring approach to fashion (and facial hair) belied an era of serious social change and political drama in 1970s Australia.

We scrapped the White Australia Policy and welcomed an era of multiculturalism. Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.

We had more leisure time that ever before. Norm coaxed us off the couch with Life. Be in it and we got fit. But when we weren't out BMXing, ten-pin bowling or roller-skating, we were listening to Skyhooks and Sherbet, tuning into the new world of FM radio, and watching Number 96 on our brand new colour TVs.

Here in Victoria, a creative community of artists, craftspeople, theatre-makers and musicians were laying the foundation of the mighty independent arts sector we enjoy today.

Premier Rupert Hamer put the arts firmly on the Government's agenda with the creation of Australia's first state Ministry for the Arts. Its first priorities? Getting the construction of Southbank's Arts Centre complex moving, creating a chain of regional performing arts centres, and bringing art out into the public.

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Grace Among The Christians. Photo: Luke Devenish. Image courtesy of Melbourne Fringe
Grace Among The Christians. Photo: Luke Devenish. Image courtesy of Melbourne Fringe


Melbourne Fringe is born

In the early 1980s, Carlton's Pram Factory – home of the Australian Performing Group and a hotbed of independent creative activity – was sold, and its prolific artist collectives dispersed. A new collaborative group was formed in 1982 to ensure there would still be a gathering point for these artists. The Fringe Arts Network was born.


The Fringe Arts Network mobilised the independent arts into an effective lobby and resource group, offering support in the form of venue advice, shared resources, advocacy and support. Its inaugural event was a mini-festival, followed in 1983 by a week-long event coinciding with Moomba and presenting 120 artists at around 25 locations across Melbourne.

In 1984, when Melbourne's first international arts festival – the Spoleto Festival – was staged, Melbourne's Fringe Arts Network became the Melbourne Piccolo Spoleto Fringe Festival. But by 1986, the Fringe Arts Network reclaimed its independence and relaunched itself as Melbourne Fringe.

Since those early days, Melbourne Fringe has supported and presented some 50,000 artists to more than two million people at hundreds of venues across Melbourne and Victoria. It has helped launch many careers, including theatre director Barrie Kosky, writer Christos Tsiolkas, and comedian Wendy Harmer. As well as incubating new talent, Fringe provides artists at all stages of their career with a forum to experiment and take risks.

Today, around half a million people a year enjoy the annual festival of independent arts that is Melbourne Fringe.

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