Mad March in a Mad World

June 14, 2021


In Adelaide, Mad March is a well-known Australian phenomenon. The Adelaide Fringe Season springs forth when the ordinarily sleepy city of Adelaide wakes up to a plethora of entertainment choices. There are places to be, things to do, music to hear, tastes to experience and sights to see.The world-class festivals in Adelaide include Womadelaide, Adelaide Fringe Festival, The Garden of Unearthly Delights, Gluttony and Clipsal 500. They attract millions of interstate and international guests, and each one has demonstrated the adaptability of The Arts during unprecedented times.


It’s true that Covid19 has put a damper on just about all entertainment venues; however, 2021’s stellar performance left us with significant hope for the future of Mad March and its many benefits to Australia.The pandemic lasted far longer than anyone expected. It altered life as we know it and left all of The Arts community distressed about the uncertain future of Australia’s festivals.With social distancing and other Covid19 protocols in place, Mad March 2021 was at risk of becoming even madder. There would surely be procedures, edicts and marshalling that would threaten its livelihood. With total border closures and states in lockdown, these beloved festivals were teetering on a knife’s edge.Would the pandemic prolong the festival void in our sleepy town? Were we under mass surveillance? Were we doomed to perform as controlled characters in a modern-day version of George Orwell’s 1984? Would the joy and freedom we’d once known be lost?

And with a great sigh of relief, The Arts community came together with open minds and creative spirits—as they always do. Cooperation among festival organisers, the State and health officials meant there would be a plan to save Mad March. It might not look like it had in the past, but there would be a safe version for us to enjoy.

This was all made possible with the introduction of the MySA GOV Covid Check-In App, health protocols and Covid marshalling. We all had to adapt, for instance The Ukiyo had to operate at 50% capacity at Gluttony to adhere to the introduced health protocols. But, it meant that heavy hitters like Womadelaide, Adelaide Fringe Festival, The Garden of Unearthly Delights, Summer Sounds—as well as smaller pop-up festivals—would press ahead to navigate unchartered festival waters.


The agreed-upon protocols for 2021’s Adelaide Fringe Season were entered into with some trepidation. Would they work? Would people go along with requirements? Would everyone stay safe and still have a great time? Would Mad March be able to sustain its growing reputation and popularity into post-pandemic times?Here are some of the protocols put in place for each of these major Australian festivals:

Womadelaide’s protocols included a reduced festival programme, with only four sunset concerts. Zones were introduced and allocated. There was socially distanced seating and tickets were only sold to groups. Other Covid protocols can be found on the Womadelaide FAQs page.

The Summer Sounds Festival is held in January and was a fine example of how the Party Pod model can work for concerts and other entertainment. Pre-registered groups purchased tickets, arrived together and spent the day in their allocated festival pods.

In 2020, the Adelaide Fringe ran a pilot programme, FringeVIEW. It was developed in order to provide a virtual stage for artists still wanting to perform while venues were closed. Now that restrictions have been eased and South Australian venues are open again, live performances are back—with a few changes that made Fringe into Safe Fringe.

At The Garden of Unearthly Delights, careful planning allowed for more social distancing. There were dedicated cleaning teams, required check-in via the app and capacity limits per SA Health guidelines.

Gluttony enacted Covid Safe app check-ins, more space in its design, hand sanitising stations, ventilated performance spaces and frequent cleaning so its performers and attendees could stay covid safe.


As if there wasn’t enough proof already, now there’s no question: Festival organisers, artists and employees of The Arts industry are adaptive, resilient and innovative! Kudos to those of us who continue to fight for The Arts. Together we have brought our community a much-needed respite. In this mad world, we have made Mad March happen, and nothing could feel better right now.

Louise Clarke

74 Upper Sturt Road, Upper Sturt, SA 5156 Australia

P: +61 (0) 404 834 589

We acknowledge the Kaurna People as the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work. We recognise that this land always was and always will be Aboriginal land and we pay our respects to Elders, past, present and emerging.