Tom Oliver talks Wynnum Fringe 2022 – bigger and bolder than ever


Tom Oliver organiser of Wynnum Fringe
Tom Oliver (left) and Wynnum Fringe show Velvet Rewired (right)

Wynnum Fringe, Brisbane’s bayside festival, is returning this year for its biggest and boldest showcasing yet.

Organiser Tom Oliver (above) sat down with QNews to chat about the opportunities (and challenges) of hosting the first Wynnum Fringe since the borders have opened.

Up until 2020, Tom Oliver was touring Australia and New Zealand with legend, icon and powerhouse, Marcia Hines. Then the pandemic happened.

“Pre-COVID, I’d performed at a lot of Fringe Festivals. Whenever I was at Adelaide Fringe or Perth Fringe or other festivals performing, I always thought about bringing one to Wynnum,” he said.

“Although it was a bit grungy, Wynnum had as good, if not better real estate for an event like a Fringe Festival.

“So I’d sort of had that idea two years before COVID hit, but I didn’t really have time, and I had no idea how to put on a festival so I never tried.

“And then when COVID hit, I ended up freeloading with my folks in Wynnum, because I was planning on going to Germany to do a show. So that didn’t happen.

marcia hines performs on stage in velvet rewired ahead of wynnum fringe festival
Image: Dan O’Brien

“I would spend my time just running around Wynnum, until one day I looked down this laneway. And I was like, ‘We could put a stage down there’.

“And then restrictions began easing in Brisbane and all these amazing artists were coming back from overseas.

“I began exploring ways to employ creative people whilst also bringing business to the shops around Wynnum.

“And so Wynnum Fringe Festival begun.”

From little things

Tom Oliver never imagined how rapidly and extensively his project would grow.

“The first Wynnum Fringe in 2020 went from a concept to opening night in two months. We employed 200 artists and had 10,000 people that came to Wynnum.

“Some local businesses said that Wynnum Fringe help them make up for a lot of their COVID losses in that one weekend of trade.”

Then, in 2021, Wynnum would extend from a three-day event, to a week-long event, and double in size.

“We employed 400 artists and 25,000 people came through with them,” Tom says.

“We’re now approaching year three, which is a three week event, and for the first time, the borders are open.

“So we’ve got some some amazing celebrities from interstate like Marcia Hines, Dave Hughes, DIESAL and Cal Wilson coming to town.

Drag queen Dolly Diamond is coming to Wynnum Fringe
Drag queen Dolly Diamond

“And they’re going to mix in with some amazing local performers who have been with us from the start.”

Marcia Hines will take to the Wynnum Fringe stage with Velvet Rewired, a joyous love letter to disco.

Also on the Wynnum Fringe lineup are drag star Dolly Diamond, who’ll be entertaining the whole family with her Story Time in Wynnum.

Head First Acrobats are presenting two shows, including the world-class talents of their All Star Circus.

Meanwhile, stage show Godz (pictured below) dives into the hedonistic lives of the ancient Gods of Mount Olympus with incredible acrobatics, gravity-defying stunts, comic twists – and cheeky nudity.

Not all roses

But Wynnum Fringe organiser Tom Oliver said with new opportunities, comes new challenges.

“I’m slightly more nervous now than I was in Year One, because when you’re the underdog and you’ve got no experience, you’ve really got nothing to lose.

Head First Acrobats perform racy stage show Godz
Head First Acrobats’ racy show Godz. Image: Jacinta Oaten

“In 2020, I just thought, ‘No one expects this to go well, so who cares if it fails?’ Now it’s gone well twice. And we’re expanding, so the pressure’s on.”

“The pandemic really prepared me to be able to pivot quickly. The challenges through COVID were hard, but now we’re faced with new challenges.

“Now that we’re expanding to three weeks, we have to contend with the reality of the unpredictable climate and weather since it’s an outdoor event.” 

But Tom Oliver is no rookie. His steadfast attitude and determination is characteristic of a seasoned professional in show-biz, and it shows.

“The challenges of the first year were like, ‘I don’t know how to do this’. ‘I don’t know how much anything costs, I don’t know how to book a stage, I didn’t know how to market an event’.

“But that was kind of exciting. And now I know how much things cost. I know what I should be doing.”

Wynnum Fringe kicks off on November 16 until December 4, so check out what’s on and grab your tickets at WynnumFringe.com

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Nate Woodall

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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