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 is a life member of Theatre Network Australia, an organisation he co-founded then Chaired from 2010-2017. He is an arts advocate, programmer, creative producer, performer and cultural consultant and his work is driven by a commitment to cultural democracy.
Simon currently sits on the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) Board Programming Committee and the City of Melbourne's Night Time Economy Activation Taskforce, and is a Trustee for the Betty Amsden Foundation. He is a poplar facilitator, host, peer assessor, mentor, judge and arts consultant, known for his expertise in inclusive leadership, advocacy, dramaturgy, work for children, fundraising, and art in public space.
Since joining Melbourne Fringe in 2015, Simon’s leadership has driven the organisation's focus on cultural democracy, delivering the largest festivals in its history, reaching over 350 000 people at 450+ events each year. Simon has commissioned some of the most ambitious creative programs in the organisation’s history, including the Robin Fox laser artwork Sky Light, Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey’s artificially intelligent interactive musical seesaw sculpture Pivot, Stephanie Lake's Colossus and Multiply, Field Theory's Icon, an international residency by British provocateurs Forest Fringe, and the child-led Kids vs Art and The Children’s Party. 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 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.
Simon sat on the Victorian Government's Ministerial Council for Volunteering (2017-19). 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 is well known for his transformative work as Executive Producer and co-CEO of Polyglot Theatre (2007-12), where he led 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.
As a performer, Simon has most recently appeared Bron Batten’s The Dad Show (2015-16). In 2012-13, Simon and long-time collaborator Lachlan Macleod created the original comedy cabaret show Saturn Returns, performing a sold out season at The Butterfly Club, touring to the Brisbane Cabaret Festival, performed as support for Tripod and received a string of four star reviews at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. He worked extensively with Melinda Hetzel’s Peepshow Inc (Mysteries of the Convent, The Peepshow of Lost Puppets and Hansel and Gretel), and also performed in Emergency Exits (directed by Adena Jacobs) at the New York International Fringe Festival and A Superhero Story at the Fun4Kids Festival. For Polyglot, he 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. Simon was hilariously and inexplicably named as one of Fairfax publication Executive Style’s Best Dressed Men in Australia in 2016.
In his personal capacity, Simon is a proud foster carer, caring for vulnerable and at-risk children in his home.