The Adelaide Fringe today revealed its new Director and Chief Executive Officer for 2016.
The Adelaide Fringe today revealed its new Director and Chief Executive Officer for 2016. International documentary festival director and producer Heather Croall will take over from outgoing Director Greg Clarke next year for the three year position. England-born, Whyalla raised Croall will return to South Australia from her current base in the UK where she has been serving as the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Sheffield International Documentary Festival since 2006. Croall, who was named ‘Ambassador of Women’s Films’ in 2013 by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists for her work in opening opportunities for female filmmakers, is looking to increase the diversity of performers in future programming. “Something that’s been at the heart of my work in Sheffield has been about pushing diversity in the program all the time,” she tells The Adelaide Review. “It is something you have to keep your eye on all the time and you have to make positive steps towards it because if you don’t the program will fill up and it’s not diverse enough. So that’s something that will be front and foremost for me; that we have diversity targets, and that we don’t just pay lip service to it but make sure it happens. “I’m also very keen to explore how to give younger people an opportunity who might not currently be able to afford being in the Fringe, and to also make sure there is a culturally diverse program as well.” Croall is also looking to push opportunities for local artists and artists working in new, emerging and experimental art forms. “I think there’s huge opportunity already for local artists, and there always has been – I just think that in the growth, some local artists have found it difficult to navigate how they can still find a space that is affordable,” she says. “I think the Fringe being a platform for artists all over the world and all genres of entertainment is fantastic, but I want to tip our hats to the roots of the Fringe; where local artists can experiment with new shows. I think there’s room now to reclaim that. “I’m always working with interactive digital theatre work and it’s an exploding art form at the moment so I’m really keen to see how we can serve more artists who want to put on immersive cross-platform work. There’s all sorts of digital stuff we want to explore, and visual arts as well. Greg has done such a brilliant job on building many parts of the Fringe, and those things don’t need fixing, I just think we can push into new art forms a little bit more; more digital, more visual, more experimental.” While she has been based in Sheffield since 2006, Croall returns to Adelaide every summer to visit family, and says she has witnessed the growth of the Fringe in recent years. “I come back to Adelaide for December, January, February every year so I’m always here for the beginning of the Fringe Festivals,” she says. “I’ve seen the amazing growth that Greg Clarke has overseen, and all the great changes; opening up different areas and taking over more and more of Adelaide. That’s the trajectory I want to take the Fringe on – that transformative landscape idea which is so strong within the Fringe. One day there is a parkland and the next day it’s this incredible place to explore, plus all the lovely nooks and crannys – that’s the kind of thing we’ll do a heck of a lot more of.” Croall says she is looking to introduce even more temporary spaces like the Garden of Unearthly Delights and Royal Croquet Club to Adelaide’s parklands. “Everyone knows the Garden, and the Royal Croquet Club was a fantastic addition, and we have Gluttony, and I think there’s room for even more of those,” she says. “Two or three more [spaces] that offer a different flavour to the Garden or the Croquet Club – and the parklands are the clear winning area to do those things.” Croall tells us she is also looking to expand beyond the CBD, further into suburban areas and Hills towns. “I’m from Whyalla so I’m really keen to expand it a little bit more and push it further out,” she says. “It’s all about the artists, that’s the number one thing. It’s an open access festival, and the Adelaide Fringe is one of the best in the world. I want to try to make it as great as possible for those artists, and to convert that into audience numbers, and if it means pushing shows to unexpected areas and finding new audiences that way then that’s great. “I think the Adelaide Fringe is loved by the people of Adelaide and I want to make sure that they continue to feel like it is theirs, and feel included. It’s all about juggling all these things and just making Adelaide buzz.” Croall will officially take up the role at the conclusion of this year’s Fringe which runs from February 13 to March 15. Image by Jacqui Bellamy