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At the 'Fringe' of the world

By Leah Maclean

Polson Higgs Showcase 2017

Newly appointed director of the Dunedin Fringe Festival (DFF) invites more dance artists to get in touch about programming work. Gareth McMillan, who took up the reins as the DFF director in August last year, is eager to programme more dance in the festival and explains that it’s a unique gateway for personal and professional development.

Initiated in 2000 the DFF, by all accounts, is the world’s southernmost Fringe event attracting established and emerging artists throughout New Zealand and around the world. This year’s programme, which runs from 8-18 March, has a whopping 93 produced events. Taking place in traditional theatres, bars, swimming pools, buses and other mysterious locations; the festival will feature artists from Canada, Slovenia, Tanzania, and of course our own backyard.  The diverse programme includes a line-up of works from integrated artists, aerial maestros, story-tellers and comedians, to New Zealand dance stalwarts like Jan Bolwell and Mona Williams.

The Fringe phenomenon has exploded worldwide due its diversity, inclusivity and experimental framework. It’s an excellent springboard for artists of all vocations and is brilliant for audiences wishing to broaden their horizons and potentially find their new favourite comedian, musician or thespian. “Participation in the arts is a basic human right…. Participation in the arts enhances wellbeing,” says McMillan and, he explains, there are very few barriers to participation in the DFF. Artists take heed! All it takes is an idea, a venue and minimal fee, and if you plan ahead you can apply to the DFF for a small grant (courtesy of CNZ).  You can visit for more information on that.

Brophy Aerial Studios 'Elemental'

So what exactly makes a great Fringe show and Fringe experience? It really depends on the strength and creativity of the practitioners, explains McMillan. “Fringe covers a wide spectrum, from things that wouldn’t be out of place in an international arts festival to avant-garde events full of WTF moments. All of these and everything in between might make for a great experience.”  He believes it pays to support your Fringe as a performer or patron, “often, it’s the unexpected that proves to be the most rewarding.” He refers to his own Fringe fairy-tale of meeting his wife, who was dancing in the Wellington botanical gardens wrapped in Glad Wrap as part of the Fringe. “It was a great Fringe show because it was a group of friends who had a cool idea and made it happen.” And that’s part of what Fringe is all about, making it happen and building memories. You might not meet your future partner in life, but you may just have an art encounter you talk about for the rest of your life.  

His new role as the new festival director is no easy-feat but McMillan is happy to take the bull by the horns and work to grow the southernmost Fringe and enrich the local community. “Being director is like celebrating King’s day in Amsterdam but it’s actually your birthday as well,” he says. He hopes to create a more sustainable organisation and see more tangible outcomes for the artists. “I want to see arts practitioners being properly remunerated and valued for their work, and businesses which look beyond simple investment vs return calculations and can see the wider benefits to the community,” he says. And, he adds, more dance events. DFF are big believers in professional development and advocacy of which they maintain a strong commitment to both. So get your Fringe on, support the arts and watch the creatives of New Zealand grow.

Dunedin Fringe Festival 8-18 March
Visit to for the full programme

At the 'Fringe' of the world

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