Vivid Sydney is a major festival event held in late autumn/winter each year. It features large scale light installations and projections (Vivid Light); music performances and collaborations (Vivid Music including Vivid LIVE at the Sydney Opera House); and creative ideas, discussion and debate (Vivid Ideas).
Vivid Sydney is now in its seventh year, and for at least the last couple of years, the opening night of Vivid Sydney has coincided with my weekend in Sydney for the Sydney Writers’ Festival (this year’s dates are 22 May to 8 June 2015). So, after a day of reveling in the ideas and words of SWF, my good friend, M and I hit the streets of Sydney city to discover some of the features of Vivid Sydney.
Vivid Sydney is recognised as the largest event of its kind in the world combining music, light and ideas, and it’s owned and managed by Destination NSW, the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency.
All of the Vivid Light Walk exhibits/installations/features (I’m not sure exactly how to describe Vivid happenings) are totally free-of-charge; as are many of the Vivid Ideas events. The remainder of the Ideas events and the Music events are ticketed. (You can check out the full program and find information on how to buy Ideas tickets for at vividsydney.com/ideas and Music tickets at vividsydney.com/music.)
Vivid Light is the part that appeals to us, and that part of the program features large (and smaller) scale light installations and projections dotted throughout the city which are switched on at 6pm each night and turned off at midnight. These can be found at locations including, Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House, Martin Place, Darling Harbour, Walsh Bay, Pyrmont and The Star, Chippendale, Carriageworks, Seymour Centre, Sydney University and on the actual Harbour.
M and I had a quick walk through part of the Circular Quay and Walsh Bay area on the opening night, but as it was raining (Vivid goes on regardless of the weather), and we started late, we didn’t stay long that night.
We returned on the Saturday night around 7 pm, and the crowds were much larger than our previous experience. Lots of families were out and about enjoying the extravaganza. Vivid is busiest on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, so if you’re planning a trip for future Vivid years, include some mid-week nights to enjoy it without the shuffle-shuffle pace of elbow-room-only crowds around Circular Quay.
We started our Vivid Light walk from our hotel at Walsh Bay (Pier One Sydney Harbour), walked under the Harbour Bridge, along the western side of Circular Quay, down George Street, through Angel Place to Pitt Street, along Martin Place, and then back up Elizabeth and Phillip Streets to Customs House to see the amazing illuminations there. Then we wandered through The Rocks via First Fleet Park and Cadman’s Cottage.
In you’re staying in Sydney during Vivid, keep in mind that there will be extensive road closures throughout the CBD, The Rocks and Walsh Bay each night – which is great for pedestrian safety. If, however, you’re trying to get someone other than Vivid, it can make a relatively short taxi journey an extremely long one by the time the driver takes the long way around.
The light features of Vivid Sydney are quite mesmerising. Crowds stand in awe of the changing colour and light on icons such as the Opera House or harbour ferries, and the smaller, quieter installations are a delight to find. There’s a real pleasure in being a part of a crowd which is openly joyful about the experience.
Vivid Sydney is very spectacular, and I’d even go so far as to say it’s worth a special trip to Sydney just to see it. But, if you can combine it with something you’re already going to (i.e. Sydney Writers’ Festival) it is a wonderful bonus.
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