Why Adelaide Is Australia’s Best City In March
Four major festivals makes for a mighty good time.
We’ve teamed up with SA Tourism to explore and celebrate unique approaches to life and culture in South Australia.
There is more than one good reason to visit Adelaide this March – in fact, there are four good reasons. It’s festival season in Adelaide, and it’s the time of year when the town is overtaken simultaneously by the four big ones: the Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Fringe, WOMADelaide and Clipsal 500. It’s a bit like that scene in 2001 when the planets align and all the monkeys get weird.
During this period, Adelaide is especially dynamic and buzzing – possibly the only place on Earth where in just a few minutes you can hop from modern interpretive dance to thundering V8 action, or from Japanese “death jazz” to a whimsical live performance held inside a hedge-maze. There’s a reason locals refer to the time of year as “Mad March” – it is the perfect time to visit and cram in as much fun as you’re possibly able. And just like the best circuses, there really is something for everyone. So pick your poison – or, better yet, combine your poisons. (Not literally. That doesn’t sound safe.)
Adelaide Festival of Arts
When: February 27 – March 15
For: A carefully curated selection of the best of international arts
The Adelaide Festival is what began all this festival madness, and it returns in 2015 with a typically solid program showcasing Australian and international theatre, music, dance, visual arts and literature. Far from being a musty old arts festival, the Adelaide Festival is fiercely modern and vibrant. During this year’s Festival you’ll be able to experience Glasgow post-rockers Mogwai as they take to the stage with their cascading, crescendo-rich sound; film composer Danny Elfman leading an orchestra in playing his classic scores from Tim Burton movies; and New York’s renowned Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet performing their first ever Australian gig.
Even if you don’t enter a theatre you’ll be able to check out Blinc, a spectacular outdoor digital light and sound show that is set to transform the Riverbank precinct with a collage of mind-bending and surprising projections.
Also not to be missed if you enjoy reading (and if you’ve made it this far chances are you do) is Adelaide Writers’ Week, which is held from February 28 to March 5 in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden. Among those appearing in the jam-packed schedule of writers’ talks and panel discussions are top American chef and author Dan Barber, British writer John Lanchester, former PM Julia Gillard and (perhaps most excitingly) Ted Prior, creator of Grug.
When: February 13 – March 15
For: A huge variety of the unique, creative, weird and hilarious
If the Adelaide Festival is a carefully curated event, then the Adelaide Fringe is its bizarro world counterpart: the Fringe is an explosion of art, comedy, performance, cabaret, music, food and unexpected good times. When tackling the Fringe, the most important thing is to remain open to new experiences, because this festival rewards those who take chances – so be ready to duck into as many random shows and events as you can. Just like a ninja warrior, spontaneity is key; hesitation your arch enemy.
With a program of over a thousand events included in the program this year, it’s difficult to know where to start with the Fringe. Where once the festival occupied only a tiny corner of the city, today there’s no escape – the Fringe’s tentacles envelop not just Adelaide but its surrounding suburbs, too.
The best place to begin might be with a copy of the Fringe Guide and a sturdy highlighter (or go full-2k15 and get the app), or by wandering down to one of the Fringe hubs: the ol’ faithful Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony in the East End, and the Royal Croquet Club in Victoria Square / Tarntanyangga. Or just wander the streets until you see something weird happening, and you follow that weirdness.
When: February 26 – March 1
For: The biggest and best motorsport event in the country
At first the inclusion of the Clipsal 500 V8 Supercar race to the otherwise-artsy festival season may strike you as incongruous. What do fast cars going fast and Jimmy Barnes have to do with interpretive dance and whimsical hedge mazes? But the more you think about it, the more you realise it’s genius: why should we separate our entertainment options, like some boring binary bureaucrats? In Adelaide during festival season, you can spend your days watching the V8s and your nights taking in a one-woman adaptation of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. There’s something excellent and brilliantly enlightened about it all.
The main V8 event consists of two days of qualifying and practice, and two days of for-reals racing. Although traditionally the races took place exclusively between ferocious rivals Holden and Ford, over the past few years the field has been widened to include other makers that produce V8 engines – this year, Nissan, Volvo and Mercedes Benz. Aside from the main race is a packed schedule of other derbies to delight all who love the smell of petrol in the morning.
On top of the main races is this year’s Ferrari Experience, a demonstration of Ferrari F1 action, as well as a showcase of over 50 gleaming Ferraris. This includes an appearance from the LaFerrari – the first Ferrari hybrid supercar, which are certainly three insane words to be typing next to each other. That’s not to mention the chock-full fixture of other attractions over the four days, including exhibitions, concerts, sideshows, and bars, bars, and more bars.
When: March 6 – 9
For: A smorgasbord of sounds from around the globe
Ah, WOMADelaide: the little jewel in the middle of the March festival madcappery crown. The festival of world music is always a delight, and this year’s roster of performers is about as varied and exciting as WOMADelaide has ever had.
Among some of bigger names performing at this year’s festival are perennial Irish powerhouse Sinead O’Connor, Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit, Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainright, and – returning for the first time to WOMADelaide for the first time since 1992 (and this time, with a 20-piece Senegalese band (!)) – Youssou N’Dour.
But WOMADelaide has never been solely about catching headliners. It’s a chance to expose yourself to music that you wouldn’t normally have the chance (or, let’s face it, effort) to experience. In that vein, some of the more intriguing acts in the program include the hugely talented Margaret Leng Tan (who will be doing strange, wonderful things to toy instruments), the above-mentioned Japanese death jazzers, Soul & “Pimp” Sessions, and Malians Toumani & Sidiki Diabate, (who will be playing the West African 21-string kora – a sound that is guaranteed to enchant you).
Also of paramount interest is Exxopolis, a giant inflatable, explorable installation piece that is difficult to describe in human words but is sort of the bouncy castle version of the trippy bit at the end of 2001. I must have that movie stuck in my head.
Adelaide is bursting at the seams during March. It’s madness, but so much fun. Read more about the arts, culture and lifestyle festivals that take place year round here.