Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Vivid Sydney - A spectacular Festival of Lights, Music and culture

Recently, on a bit of a whim, I booked a trip to Sydney, Australia, to attend Vivid Sydney, the festival of light, music and culture which runs every year from late May to mid June.

From humble beginnings in 2009, when it started life as a Smart Light festival promoting energy efficiency and sustainability, it has evolved  into a festival that can only be described as spectacular. At night the city becomes a veritable wonderland of lights and light installations. Public buildings, including the harbour bridge and the vast sails of the Opera house, have their whole facades lit in moving images, interactive sculptures are dotted around the city and shops, boats and even houses get into the spirit with all sorts of creative lighting displays.  Artists line up to be involved, this year the display on the opera house featured Australian botanicals and was designed by Los Angeles artist, Andrew Thomas Huang. In 2017  Vivid Sydney brought 2.33 million people to the city and $143 million into the local economy, proving to be the perfect foil to the off season period when tourism numbers thin out for winter.

Left: The light show on a pylon of the harbour bridge honours the lives of the aborigines. 

But Vivid Sydney is not only about lights, wonderful as they are, it is also a festival of public debates, talks and musical performances.  This year it attracted film director, Spike Lee, poet, Omar Musa and author, Sebastian Smee as speakers.  Musicians included The Cure, Paul Kelly and jazz legend, Herbie Hancock.  Art galleries hosted art exhibitions and there were workshops for children.

I booked into a hotel with an expansive view over Darling Harbour, the perfect spot to watch the brightly lit boats coming and going late into the night and to enjoy the light installations along the water's edge.  I wasn't in my room much though, I was out walking.  It was a joy to catch the ferry from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay to view the main action. Even the ferry trip there was a visual feast with dozens of colourfully lit ferries and boats criss-crossing the water.

Botanicals on the Opera House

One evening I walked around the Circular Quay and  Rocks areas, the next night I walked through the Botanical Gardens.   I am a bit of a sucker for lights so was in my element. I was alone but felt perfectly safe amongst the crowd of genial, friendly, family groups, it was so uplifting.  I can assure you I would not walk the botanical gardens at night at any other time!

Many of the light displays were interactive, combining lights and music and I was particularly taken by a whole meadow of tiny hovering lights. It was absolutely magical.

 I was there for the last night  and, to cap off a wonderful few days,  a huge fireworks display marking the end of the festival was held right outside my hotel, on the harbour, the massive explosions of colour at eye level from my 23rd floor room.  What luxury to recline on a settee, glass of wine in hand and be treated to this spectacular display.

I highly recommend a trip to Sydney for Vivid Sydney.  It was way better than I had expected and I know that I will return some time in the future to visit it again.