Simon Abrahams is recognised as one of Australia's arts and cultural leaders, and since 2015 has served as Creative Director & CEO of Melbourne Fringe. Simon’s work explores the intersection of art and civic participation.
He is a life member of Theatre Network Australia, an organisation he co-founded then Chaired from 2010-2017. Simon has previously served as Head of Programming at the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing & Ideas (2013-14) and as Executive Producer and Co-CEO at Polyglot Theatre (2007-12). Simon regularly works as a facilitator, host, peer assessor, mentor, judge and arts consultant, known for his expertise in inclusive leadership, advocacy, dramaturgy, work for children, and art in public space. Simon's recent creative work includes co-curating The Rest Is Up To You exhibition for State Library Victoria with Kate Rhodes, and conceiving and co-producing the film Multiply (MIFF 2022, SBS 2023) with Stephanie Lake and Rhys Graham. Simon currently sits on the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) Board Programming Committee and is a Trustee for the Betty Amsden Foundation.
Simon’s transformational leadership at Melbourne Fringe has seen an extraordinary growth in size and impact over a decade. Simon's ambitious commissions and presentations have included the Robin Fox laser artwork Sky Light, Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey’s AI musical seesaw sculpture Pivot, Stephanie Lake's Colossus, Field Theory's Icon, the child-led Kids vs Art and The Children’s Party, an international residency by British provocateurs Forest Fringe, Ian Pidd's giant Swing, Matthias Schack-Arnott's extraordinary participatory musical instrument Groundswell as well as Pendulum (with Lucy Guerin). His leadership has focused on increasing diversity, launching the Indigenous commissioning and producer development program Deadly Fringe, a focus program on experimental, contemporary and live art for children called XS, and Radical Access, a game changing access and inclusion programs for people who are Deaf or with disability. Simon spearheaded the opening of the year-round Fringe venue Common Rooms at Trades Hall and secured $1 million to launch a Fringe Fund to directly pay artists to create new work at Melbourne Fringe.
Previously, Simon sat on the and the City of Melbourne's Night Time Economy Activation Taskforce, the Victorian Government's Ministerial Council for Volunteering (2017-19), the Helpmann Awards’ Theatre and Children’s Panels and the Green Room Awards’ Contemporary and Experimental Arts Panel. Simon is a regular Peer Assessor for the City of Melbourne, Creative Victoria and the Australia Council for the Arts/Creative Australia.
In 2013-14, Simon held the position of Head of Programming at the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas, where he conceived, curated and programmed over 250 events annually. He directed The Show Of The Year (with Casey Bennetto), created 20 Questions (with Ian Pidd and Martyn Coutts) and was a regular on-stage host, facilitator, and panellist. He completed a research project with the Australia Council for the Arts investigating theatre for young people in Belgium, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands in 2014.
Simon's much-lauded work as Executive Producer and co-CEO of Polyglot Theatre (2007-12), saw him lead the organisation’s strategic transformation into an internationally renowned creator of experiential work for children, in partnership with irrepressible Artistic Director Sue Giles. He produced seven major works and 17 international tours to the world’s leading arts centres and festivals, including the Kennedy Center in Washington, the Royal National Theatre in London for LIFT, the National Theatre of Korea, Melbourne Festival, as well as a Chinese language co-production which premiered at the Chinese National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Simon also performed in We Built This City across Australia, America, Korea, England, Ireland and Scotland.
Simon was awarded a Margaret Lawrence Bequest Scholarship to attend the Senior Managers' Program at the Melbourne Business School in 2009, and is an alumnus of both the Australia Council for the Arts’ Emerging Leaders' Development Program (2012) and Arts Leaders Program (2016-18), as well as the European Festivals Association’s Atelier for Festival Managers (2016). He also holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Diploma of Arts (Cultural Studies) from Melbourne University, and a Diploma of Creative Arts (Theatre Studies) from the Victorian College of the Arts.
Simon’s work has been awarded with the 2015 Melbourne Award (Melbourne Fringe), 2011 Governor of Victoria Export Award for arts and entertainment (Polyglot), three AbaF Awards, the 2014 CHASS Future Leaders Award, and together with his Polyglot colleague Sue Giles, Simon was named among Arts Hub’s Top Ten Arts Leaders in 2010 and one of F+P Magazine's Movers and Shakers in arts philanthropy in 2019.
In his personal capacity, Simon is a proud foster carer, caring for vulnerable and at-risk children in his home.