Illuminating Adelaide

Lee Cumberlidge has always liked throwing parties but never thought he would do it for a living.

One of the first graduates from Flinders University’s Cultural Tourism degree (now Tourism and Events), Lee Cumberlidge (BCulT ’00) has thrown one of the brightest public parties Adelaide has ever seen – illuminating the city during winter as co-founder and creative director of Illuminate Adelaide.

‘By transforming the city with light installations at night, we created a magical place that people least expected and spread through several precincts across the city, to make a really big artistic statement,’ says Lee.

‘It’s an idea that came through wanting to create a brand new event for Adelaide, and winter seemed to provide a window of opportunity to do something unique.’

Despite being temporarily impacted by a COVID-19 lockdown, the incredible event saw 40 free illuminated installations and more than 200 events across Adelaide delight thousands of people during July and August this year.

The event was part of a continuing success story for a producer and curator who has scaled the heights of Australia’s most famous cultural events over the past two decades.



Lee produced the Cultural Festival for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and co-founded and produced Mona’s Festival of Music and Art (MONA FOMA) in Hobart from 2009 to 2021.

He is now a Director of Arts Projects Australia (responsible for WOMADelaide and many national touring productions), a Director of Insite Arts, and a Director of the Illuminate Adelaide Foundation – which presented Illuminate Adelaide.


Lee says his education at Flinders University set him on the path to success. Combining arts, business and tourism, Lee’s Flinders degree gave him the confidence to pursue a career in the arts.

‘Before I studied at Flinders, I wasn’t aware that directing arts events was even a viable possibility, as I have never been an artist myself,’ he says.

After graduating, Lee worked for Arts Projects Australia on WOMADelaide, and toured international productions to Australia.

‘What I learned at Uni was quickly put into action, and I found that I really enjoyed the creative process. I came to understand the depth of the industry – where business and creativity work together to create strong, sustainable events that benefit so many different stakeholders.’


Lee says making ideas come to life through events is incredibly satisfying, as they have an empowering effect for those who are experiencing artistic presentations for the first time.

‘I’ve become so passionate about nurturing new audiences for arts events. By creating interesting events, we can share the amazing work that is happening in South Australia across many creative areas – from performance to technology,’ he says.


‘We deliberately designed Illuminate Adelaide to be a huge event from the outset. I believe you must start an event as you intend it to continue – not to grow into it slowly. We were determined to show its full potential immediately.’

Illuminate Adelaide has three years of guaranteed seed funding from the SA Government, but Lee is determined to push his creative energies further, to foster more great events.

‘I want to make Illuminate Adelaide part of the city’s DNA, but I also want to continue the great work of Arts Projects Australia with my co-director and mentor Ian Scobie,’ says Lee.

‘There are many exciting days ahead.’

Lee Cumberlidge was awarded a 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award for his distinguished leadership, creativity and commitment to arts management and artists, and for bringing innovative projects to life for audiences to enjoy. Read more on the Flinders University Alumni Awards

This article is from the 2021 Encounter magazine: Read more

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