A Fringe for everyone - and those in-between

Friday, 12 March 2004

The Adelaide Fringe Festival's success is due in large part to it allowing people to break free from their normal structure in society and experience everyone as equals, says a renowned anthropologist at the University of Adelaide.

Professor John Gray, Head of the University of Adelaide's School of Social Sciences, says from an anthropological perspective, the Fringe allows people from all backgrounds to escape the structure of their normal lives and join in an event common to all.

"Most of our lives are arranged in states of highly complex and evolved structures, like family, work, religion and government," Professor Gray says. "The Fringe represents a chance to get outside of these structures, even if it's only momentarily.

"Attending the Fringe also promotes a strong sense of egalitarianism, that it treats people as equals. You might be sitting next to the Premier, or the CEO of a big business, and in the sense of the Fringe you shed your everyday statuses and are simply two people enjoying a show."

Professor Gray says the way people experience the Fringe can be explained in an anthropological sense.

"Many countries and groups of people have highly ritualised societies where a great deal of importance is placed on moving from one status in life to the next: for example, being born, becoming an adult, graduating, getting married or dying," he says.

"But to get to the new state from the old state, there is also a state of 'in-between'. In industrialised countries, like Australia, we also have events that have this 'in-between' character-the Fringe is one of them.

"The Fringe is in-between in at least a couple of ways: it's in-between the seasons of Summer and Autumn, and it's held primarily in the grounds of the University of Adelaide and the Eastern Parklands, both of which are not quite in the CBD or the suburbs either.

"Such an in-between state comes with it own meanings: it's a state of high potential, of newness, of exploration and of creativity - or in other words, exactly how many people experience the Fringe."


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