In the lead up to the first Adelaide Festival of Arts held 12 – 26 March 1960, many of the well established Adelaide visual/crafts arts, performing arts and amateur theatre groups responded to the official Festival Program by organising productions, exhibitions and events that were held at the same time as the official Festival.
At this early stage, there was a drive by the Adelaide arts community to promote local talent. It all began in a small way with a few quality theatrical productions, exhibitions of paintings, tapestries, architectural displays, folkloric events, athletic activities and some religious drama.
These events that have been called 'unofficial fringe activities' formed the beginnings of the 'Fringe'. These were seen as separate to any 'unofficial activity supported by the festival' which were listed in the 1960 Festival of Arts Festival Souvenir Programme under Festival Attractions, other Events and other Exhibitions.
These 1960 events were the beginning of the community ground swell that grew with force until there was an official 'Fringe', which became incorporated as Focus in 1975.
It must be remembered that at this early stages these Adelaide groups did not see themselves as a fringe movement.
It also should be noted that there has been a few claims as to who started the 'Fringe' and when it officially started.
There had been much disquiet amongst Adelaide Theatre groups as to the Festival's rejection of Australian Plays as part of the Festival. Firstly, there had been an embargo by the Festival on the Adelaide Theatre Groups production The One Day of the Year being performed as part of the 1960 Festival.
In 1960 Patrick White's play, The Ham Funeral was also not taken into consideration as a Festival Production for the 1962 Festival. In defiance, this play was staged in 1961, by the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild in association with the Elizabethan Theatre Trust ahead of the 1962 Festival.
It has been reported that "Our Fringe Began with a Funeral" (See article by Tim Lloyd- Media Highlights) but it can be said that the 'Fringe' began as a movement of artists who performed and operated outside the main festival program during the Festival's time frame.
The concept of 'fringe activities' and 'unofficial' Festival Activities had been discussed by the Festival Board of Governors in 1959 and from as early as 1960, the Adelaide Festival included 'fringe activities' in the first Festival Program.
Board minutes of the time note that it had always been proposed to include references to "Fringe Activities" of acknowledged societies in the Festival Souvenir Programme. These were referred to as Festival Attractions, Other Events and Other Exhibitions.
The 1960 Festival Souvenir Programme included a one page listing of Festival Attractions which could be considered (according to the research by Martin Christmas) as being the first approved 'Fringe' events. Listed were three short operas by Intimate Opera (which later became the State Opera), an intimate revue "Festival Faces" by Independent Repertory Inc, several art exhibitions and collections, and other non-arts events.
"The Open Platform" – From Fringe to Focus in Pursuit of the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Martin Christmas, Adelaide, 1999.
Adelaide Festival of Arts, March 12 - 26, 1960 Souvenir Programme
The Advertiser, March 1960.
'Festival! The Story of the Adelaide Festival of Arts', Derek Whitelock, 1980.
Dr. E. H. Medlin