Tag Archives: Format

A Speakeasy with Flammable Exit Signs: Memories of the 2009 Format Festival

People had been enthused about the 2008 Format Festival or, at least, I believed they were enthused. Either way, there was virtually nothing else of interest in my life other than the occasional No Through Road show. So, after Joel left the country, I decided not only to run Format again, but to expand it tenfold.

From this Quixotic moment, Format grew. It was fertilized by three other sources:

  • I’d managed to secure three small grants, totalling $14,000. I’d never seen that much money before in my life, and had a wildly optimistic notion of what it might achieve. The direct outcome of this was the decision to run the festival for two weeks straight which, in retrospect, was foolish
  • Fringe provided in-kind administrative and production support that year, provided by Zillah Morrow (who was sane and rational) and Jillian McKeague (who was not). Jillian secured us the dilapidated 145 Hindley Street site, which had been rejected by another theatre company. The place was utterly unfit for human use. It had no power, no water and a week before we opened the landlord walled up the toilets. Neither Jillian nor we saw this as a problem.
  • I’d begun running weekly ‘programming’ meetings at the Exeter. At one of these Paul Gallasch turned up. At a meeting with Fringe, they suggested we obtain a production manager. Neither of us knew what this was, but Paul decided that would be his job title. His first act on the job was to decide we should obtain a liquor license. He then secured the most immense amounts of free wine.

This was when we first met Jennifer Greer-Holmes, who would later end up as Format’s Chair. She was working as the producer of a show entitled simply ‘Cunts’, featuring several hundred sculptures of vaginas made by a (male) farmer based on life models. This was slated to open in the former ice skating rink directly above us.

A week before Format opened we were told we couldn’t sell alcohol after all because the owner had walled up the toilets. Jillian McKeague initially told us we should simply operate as a toilet-free speakeasy. We’d begun arranging for this. Then Jillian rang us up, begging us not to. Apparently it was highly illegal and would create all sorts of problems.

Paul and I were feeling quite downhearted. We went to the World’s End with Jennifer and offered her the boxes of ‘champagne’ we’d purchased for opening night. She said the Farmer had managed to get some of the toilets working upstairs and told us we could use them. We arranged to have a liquor licensing inspector come through at 7AM on the Friday we were set to open.

Paul and I had never dealt with the liquor licensing inspector before. We had no idea what they looked for, but thought it would be best if the place smelt clean. We stayed up till 2AM the night before, coating everything with bleach. Our license was awarded just in time for opening night.

Here’s a picture of Jillian and Paul opening the 2009 Format Festival:

Launch of 2009 Format FestivalNote the haphazard wiring. The Exit signs were made of cardboard, with ‘Exit’ written on them in brightly coloured pens, right up until the final couple of days, when one of Fringe’s production staff turned up to install proper ones.

Also note you can see Chloe Langford’s illustration in the background of this shot, directly behind Jillian’s head.

I’ll post some more pictures from the 2009 Format Festival tomorrow.

Fear and Weeping: Some Memories of Format’s Pre-History

I’ll be heading back to Adelaide at the end of the week to launch Twenty-One Nights in July at Format’s 2014 zine fair. This is fitting, given the original version was launched at the 2009 zine fair. All the event details are here.

This has set me wandering down memory lane, remembering the early days of Format. I always think of the 2009 festival fondly. I’d decided to ‘direct’ it after virtually everyone I knew left South Australia, including Format’s co-founder Joel Catchlove.

Notably, the zine fair actually pre-dates Format itself. Joel and I had started running it in 2006, with the first one on the roof of the former Madlove Bar, later Tuxedo Cat, and now student apartments. This was so successful a local experimental poet dubbed us a ‘disgrace to the underground’. When we ran the second one (in the laneway behind the Exeter) in 2007 he turned up and began playing bongos until local traders told him to leave. Here’s Joel’s flyer for the 2007 fair:

Zine Fair 2007We’d operated under the title ‘Ministry of Zines’, and our old ‘blogspot’ is still online.

The 2007 fair was also the start of support from the Adelaide Fringe, who arranged for a large supply of trestle tables and allowed us to exploit their staff, beginning with Steve Mayhew and Jane Fuller. Later, the task was assigned to Rino del Zoppo, whose name alone was enough to recommend him.

Joel and I had also run an event called the Academy of DIY. In 2008 Rino asked Joel and I to include both the zine fair and the Academy within a proto-literary festival he was trying to start, under the working title of Format. At some point we simply highjacked it.

I remember Rino falling asleep in some bean bags at one point.

That year, we were in the old Balfour’s factory site. It looked like this:

2007 Zine FairImmediately afterwards, Joel fled to South America and this place was turned into apartments.

Around the same time, my then girlfriend (referred to as the Furniture Removalist in Twenty-One Nights) had moved to Berlin. This began my descent into both attempting to run a festival and trying to write a book about the Tour de France. Both would find form in March 2009, which I’ll document in the next post.