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Report shows COVID-defying economic success of 2021 Adelaide Festival

A 2021 Economic Assessment report by Barry Burgan on behalf of Economic Research Consultants, commissioned by the Adelaide Festival has revealed that the 2021 Adelaide Festival generated an estimated gross expenditure of $42.5 million for South Australia.

The 2021 Adelaide Festival ran for 17 days from Friday 26th February to Sunday 14th March. Adelaide Writers’ Week ran for six days and nights from Saturday 27th February to Thursday 4th March. WOMAD ran for four days and nights from Friday 5th March to Monday 8th March.

The report indicated that total new expenditure in South Australia due to the Festival amounted to $18.6 million (a decrease from $24.8 million in 2020), while net impact or newly created incomes on the Gross State Product, is estimated at $23.5 million (down from $30 million in 2020) including the creation of the equivalent of 218 full time jobs (decrease from 286 in 2020). The report also showed that 4690 visitors came from interstate for the Festival (decrease from 17,105 in 2020) with visitor bed nights 35,301 (decrease from 132,058 in 2020).

At the conclusion of the Adelaide Festival in March, it was announced that it achieved a total box office income $3.93 million, despite the challenges of border closures, COVIDSafe plans, reduced theatre capacities and last-minute changes. While free attendances were down significantly on 2020 – largely a result of programming in response to pandemic constraints around crowd sizes and space limitations, ticketed attendances were only 16% lower relative to 2020.

Chair of Adelaide Festival Board Judy Potter notes “back in March, there was nowhere else in the world where a festival of this scale could go ahead. I am in awe of not only the economic impact this remarkable event had on South Australia, but the way in which the Adelaide Festival team adapted, allowed for every contingency and still managed to bring the Adelaide Festival 2021 program to life in the most glorious way. We are extremely grateful to our sponsors, donors, our loyal Adelaide Festival Friends, ticket buyers and the South Australian Government who embraced this festival with unwavering support.”

Executive Director Elaine Chia added “It is wonderful to learn about the economic impact the 2021 Adelaide Festival had on South Australia. It was a festival like no other and reflecting on it three months later, we are still incredibly thankful, in awe and relieved at what transpired. Not only did Adelaide Festival again prove its importance to the South Australian economy through local employment, ticket sales and attendances, but also through the ever important contribution that a festival brings to the cultural life of a community.”

The stand-out events were Robin Frohardt’s The Plastic Bag Store all the way from New York City which drew a crowd of over 12,000 across the festival; Sally Walker’s intimate 1:1 CONCERTS Series which sold out immediately and Gravity & Other Myths’ acrobatic and choral masterpiece The Pulse was a crowd favourite selling out all seven shows. The innovative Live from Europe series which was beamed from European stages to audiences in Her Majesty’s Theatre inflected the program with great international theatre, dance and classical music, while Jessica Mauboy’s free outdoor opening concert had people dancing in their seats COVID-style, at Adelaide Oval.

The 2021 Adelaide Festival by numbers:

  • $42.5 million gross expenditure generated for South Australia
  • $18.6 million new expenditure in South Australia
  • $23.5 million net impact on the Gross State Product
  • 4690 visitors to the state
  • 35,301 visitor bed nights
  • 218 jobs (full time equivalent)
  • 70 events, 896 performances (includes 95 Writers’ Week sessions + Kids’ day +YA day and 140 WOMADelaide performances)
  • 10 world premieres and 16 Australian premieres
  • 18 events exclusive to Adelaide
  • 847 artists from 22 countries  

In 2021 the Adelaide Festival celebrated 61 years, 2021 was the 36th Adelaide Festival and was the fifth Adelaide Festival presented by Joint Artistic Directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy. Neil and Rachel will direct the 2022 and 2023 Adelaide Festival programs, making them the longest serving Artistic Directors.

Related Articles

25th March 2021 – Adelaide Festival Centre announces its Autumn 2021 season

16th March 2021 – 2021 Adelaide Festival beats box office target

18th February 2021 – Adelaide Festival announces new ‘pop-up’ entertainment hub

10th February 2021 – Adelaide Festival Centre’s major performance space to close for up to seven months from mid-July

30th December 2020 – Record-breaking voting sees new stars celebrated on Adelaide Festival Centre’s Walk of Fame

3rd December 2020 – Adelaide Festival Artistic Directors discuss why 36th Adelaide Festival is special

19th November 2020 – South Australian COVID-19 circuit breaker sees Adelaide Festival Centre cancel all performances

20th October 2020 – Adelaide Festival Centre’s OzAsia Talks focus on cultural engagement between Australia and Asia

14th October 2020 – Adelaide Festival Centre reports 77 shows cancelled during Coronavirus shutdown

13th October 2020 – Plan for Adelaide Festival 2021 to be held in outdoor event spaces

12th August 2020 – Adelaide Festival Centre welcomes audiences to newly developed Her Majesty’s Theatre

20th June 2020 – Adelaide Festival Centre trust announces new appointments 

18th March 2020 – Adelaide Festival Centre and Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre announce venue closures

13th October 2019 – Adelaide Festival Centre executive fights back against online ticket scalpers and reseller sites

16th March 2018 – 2018 Adelaide Festival announces biggest ever box office takings

25th January 2016 – South Australian Government reveals Adelaide Festival Plaza plans

10th November 2015 – Adelaide Festival Centre launches 2016 season

14th March 2015 – SA Government backs $610 million Adelaide Festival Plaza upgrade


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