1976 was the first independently organised Focus/Fringe Festival held from March 6 - 28.
In 1975 FOCUS Inc was legally incorporated and Focus became the new name for the Fringe Festival of Arts. The name Fringe was changed to Focus as a way to focus on development of the fesitval's own culture.
Focus was governed by a Steering Committee comprising Frank Ford as Chairman and members Tony Short, Ken Jamieson, Peter Hicks, Ann Browning, Chris Winzar and Doug Loan.
Focus was committed to staging Australian and local talent and ensuring it received the encouragement it deserved. The administrative headquarters of Focus 76 were located at the Australian Dance Theatre premises, 120 Gouger Street, Adelaide.
Peter Burch coordinated Focus 76 until 30 January and then Rob Bath took over (see his Fringe Memory).
Theatre was in the forefront of the development of Focus 76 as a Festival but there was also a wide range of visual arts exhibitions and many other activities including a Focus Day held in Elder Park.
Background on the developments at this time:
From the 1960 to the 1974 Festival of Arts, the Festival Board recognised the value of Australian and local artists to a Festival Program, however they had failed to provide greater support of local artists.
In turn, this contributed to the alienation of sections of the local arts community which came to a head between 1974 - 1976. At the time, there was the development of the Association of Community Theatre (ACT), and FOCUS Inc. as the mechanism for advocating the development of an independent popular arts festival.
This movement was initiated by members of the local arts community, sections of academia; the local media and supported at some distance by the Labor Government of the day.
On March 17, 1975 local Adelaide arts people representing 16 theatre groups, other local performing arts groups and interested individuals met at the Little Theatre at the University of Adelaide to discuss the formation of this Association.
Fringe Life Member and Inaugural Fringe Chairperson, Frank Ford, was the main instigator of this meeting as he was keen to set up ACT as an Association that would advocate for all forms of local theatre and performance based art forms – whether professional, semi-professional, amateur and alternative emerging specific interest community groups.
On May 25, 1975 the Association's first Constitution was ratified. Three people played central roles in developing ACT: Frank Ford – Chairman, Wayne Anthoney Director ACT Forums and Barrie Young – Head of Drama, Department of Further Education.
ACT advocated for local performing arts groups and individuals and Focus Inc advocated for all local art forms. Frank Ford was Chairman of both organisations enabling the smooth advocacy and showcasing of local art groups across the arts. As a result, Focus Inc was legally incorporated on 10 December, 1975.
The Focus Philosophy stated 'Focus Inc. is Adelaide's Festival Fringe':
- It supports Australian talent; provides opportunities for young artists to present the new and the daring
- It believes the Festival is FOR the people and should be brought to the community at little cost.
- It encourages, celebrations, street theatre and impromptu performances
- Focus is not an entrepreneur, it offers services instead
- It provides practical help, facilities, promotion and moral support
- Focus makes no arbitory judgments about art – its approach is elastic, positive and unblinkered
- Above all it believes that its Festival should be FUN and available to everyone.
- Read more in the Fringe to Focus Committee Meeting Minutes, July 1975.
Even though it caused much controversy at the time it was decided to change the name from Fringe to Focus – the reason was to impress on the public and Festival authorities that Focus was not a cultural cringe. Through Focus the first independently organised Focus Festival came into being. Even though small by todays standards it was seen as a huge success. This was the beginnings of what is now the Adelaide Fringe.
Highlights of the 1976 Focus Festival:
- The State Government gave Focus $10,000 towards running costs and the Adelaide Festival of Arts gave $3,750.
- The Revenue statement for Focus for this Festival showed a total income of $16,341, total expenses of $15,984 and a net profit of $375.
- In January 1976 Focus had over 74 Members.
- There were 66 art and craft exhibitions in the Focus Program.
- Focus published a Daily Diary in The Advertiser 6 – 27 March, 1976 free of charge.
- Focus had an Information Booth on North Terrace and provided a telephone booking service.
- "The Open Platform" – From Fringe to Focus in Pursuit of the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Martin Christmas, Adelaide, 1999.
- Fringe into Focus Committee Meeting Minutes, July 1976.
- Focus Newsletter No. 1, 1976
- "Fringe Festival is Now Focus," October 9, 1975
- Media Highlights 1976