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Activating spaces during COVID - Wynnum Fringe Festival

From musical cabaret at Wynnum Opera House, comedy and theatre at the old church hall (Winston ChurchHall), circus acts in Mrs Quinn's Carpark, and dance performances at Kelleher’s Dance Academy, Wynnum exploded with creative activity as the bayside community became home to a new fringe festival in 2020.



Like many others working across the arts and cultural sector in 2020, COVID-19 had a major impact on Tom Oliver’s plans and professional career. The closure of state borders cut short his work in the national tour of Rolling Thunder Vietnam and, with international travel restrictions in place, he was unable to appear overseas as planned in theatre production Velvet in Germany. 

With significantly reduced opportunities for work in the local arts sector as well as avenues to connect with and activate the community, Tom decided to create and launch the inaugural Wynnum Fringe Festival.

Across two days in November 2020, Wynnum Fringe activated laneways, carparks, loading docks, parks, a local beach and streets with arts experiences delivered directly to audiences, both in-person and through online streaming. Performances and arts experiences included spoken monologues in I Am Woman, Hear Me, acting workshops presented by Small Crown Productions, Indelibility Arts’ cabaret Chameleon, award-winning burlesque Shreklesque and much more.

Wynnum Fringe also connected with the Traditional Owners of the land, the Quandamooka Elders, to present an opening ceremony called 'yana marumba (Walk Good)' as well as First Nations artworks by local art collective 'Ma Deadly Art'. 

The event delivered an economic boost to the area, provided employment to local talent, and brought Wynnum a sense of community after months of isolation and uncertainty.  

It is anticipated the inaugural event will now become an annual affair with plans for the 2021 Wynnum Fringe already underway.



When and where

13-15 November 2020, Wynnum.


Key stats

  • 6,600 tickets sold 
  • 22 sold-out ticketed shows 
  • More than 20,000 views recorded on the live-streamed Facebook broadcast.
  • the podcast has been downloaded over 15,000 times on Spotify, Apple Music and various streaming platforms as at January 2021 
  • More than 50 performances
  • 21 local sponsors
  • 74 volunteers
  • Employment for 150 artists and 43 creative staff
  • Engaged 14 community performance groups
  • Welcomed over 10,000 people through Wynnum CBD in a COVID-safe environment. Edith Street (the main free zone) was at the COVID-safe capacity of 1,000 people at various points throughout both Friday and Saturday nights.  


Arts Queensland investment 

$80,000 supported through Open Air, 2020.

The Open Air program supports the activation of outdoor and non-traditional settings and the production and delivery of a program of works by artists and arts organisations in these spaces.

Open Air is part of the Queensland Government’s $22.5 million Arts and Cultural Recovery Package, focused on stabilising Queensland’s arts companies, securing jobs for artists and arts workers, and delivering COVID-safe cultural experiences to Queensland audiences. 




  • Established a new cultural event:  Tom Oliver and his team developed a successful cultural event in the Wynnum community, on the back of strong community and business support. 
  • Developed new partnerships: The opening ceremony ‘yana marumba (walk good)’ was created in partnership with Quandamooka Festival. The event was predicted to have 75 attendees on the Facebook Event, but on the day, approximately 400 people filled Greene Park - the starting location for the walk. This set the tone for the remainder of the weekend. 
  • Supported opportunities for Queensland artists: Wynnum Fringe engaged the professional arts sector in Brisbane, providing paid employment. The live-experiences complemented by live-streaming events attracted large audiences, raising the profile of Queensland artists and leading to future opportunities. 
  • Developed leadership skills: For Founder & Artistic Director of Wynnum Fringe, Tom Oliver, the experience of developing and delivering the festival supported the development of his leadership skills. This has led to further opportunities for Tom.
  • Contributed to the local Wynnum economy: The inaugural festival supported the local economy, attracting visitors and customers for local businesses. Several local businesses reported record sales across the festival period with some business reporting lines outside the door and closing early due to selling out supplies.

"I’m going to say that this is probably the best thing to happen to Wynnum" – Local Business owner.

  • Engaged Queensland businesses: The Festival engaged over 21 sponsors, Brisbane suppliers and community members who either donated money (over $130,000 in cash sponsorship) or gave resources in-kind (more than $80,000 worth of in-kind support).  
  • Developed cultural identity: By engaging thousands of local patrons in real life and even more around the world online, Wynnum Fringe has given locals a reason to be proud of where they come from. This has created a strong platform to grow the local and international brand awareness of Wynnum and Brisbane arts in 2021 and beyond. 


Learnings and reflections

Throughout the planning and delivery of Wynnum Fringe, Tom Oliver and the team recognised the festival’s positive impact on the local community, businesses and arts sector.

"It gave me the opportunity to employ local artists and arts workers. Local shops and streets were full of people for the first time in years. This is the first cultural event of this scale to happen in Wynnum.”


Tom found the process of producing the event allowed him to cultivate his leadership, planning and event management skills, gathering greater experience and confidence as he moves forward in the industry.

“This funding has helped me launch my creative business - Tom Oliver Productions. It's exposed me to a market and proven that creative opportunities can bring economic value to a suburban town.”


Stakeholders and existing networks were vital in developing the festival in a short period of time.

“This Festival went from concept to opening night in just over 2 months. It grew very quickly. The local and wider Brisbane community rallied together to help, with office space and free venues for shows, resources like paper and printing, lanyards, child safety plans, discounted or free stages, or lights, and much more. 

Friends provided thousands of dollars-worth of in-kind support through design work, marketing, and in many other departments. These relationships have been nurtured through various gigs across Australia over the years. It’s a good reminder to try and support as many people as possible throughout your career, you never know when you might need their help in the future. These networks are a big part of why Wynnum Fringe was such a success in 2020.”




Feedback and comments

"You were all amazing, both front and back of house. Really looking forward to next year's event".  – Facebook comment

 "It was amazing to see Wynnum shaking up like this and all the happiness of people! Looking forward to the next one already!" – Facebook comment

"I was so impressed with your creative use of space. I have been to Pandanus Beach a thousand times and never once did it occur to me to put a glamour of drag queens on it and it has never looked so good!! Who would have thought that the driveways I cross often would be turned into funky laneways hosting musicians and circus acts? And the light projections onto the buildings?!? Amazing. You should be SO incredibly proud of what you achieved". – Facebook comment 


Tips for others

“Toilet placement is key! I found that all of the local business[es]’ were so excited to have an event outside of their shop, but no-one on the main street was game enough to house the portable toilets in their carpark. Thankfully REMAX down the road was happy to put them in their carpark for the weekend. This unfortunately was too far away for most guests. Toilets at an event are very important and you need to have them as close to the action as possible.”


What next?

Since the success of Wynnum Fringe, Tom Oliver was invited to join the board of Wynnum Commerce Incorporated and the Community Grants Committee for Bonner. He was also invited to be an industry guest at Perth Fringe World in January 2021 and meet with Justin Marshman (Senior Producer) and the festival Leadership team to discuss possible partnerships between the two festivals.

There is significant interest from performers and sponsors in being involved in Wynnum Fringe 2021. 

Tom is also in discussion with Wynnum Commerce Inc. about various local events to complement Wynnum Fringe 2021.


The Wynnum Fringe Festival returns in 2021 (16 - 21 November) with a festival that has nearly doubled in size from the inaugural 2020 event. Wynnum Fringe 2021 will engage over 300 professional artists, 40 crew, 14 Community Groups and 8 student Ambassadors across 14 locations.

Arts Queensland is supporting the 2021 festival with funding of $59,561 through the Queensland Arts Showcase Program, with additional investment from Tourism and Events Queensland.

Founder/Director/CEO Tom Oliver leveraged the festival’s success in 2020 to secure additional funding and sponsors for the 2021 festival and by participating in the Creative Business Champions program, hosted through the Regional Arts Services Network, and funded through the Queensland Government.

Tom received free and personalised consultation from a Creative Business Champion which helped him to secure amazing artists and supportive sponsors for Wynnum Fringe 2021, further entrenching his involvement with Wynnum commerce, community and small business.



Find out more

Wynnum Fringe

Wynnum Fringe facebook