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Vivid Sydney Highlights 2018

Home > Sydney > Art | Festivals | Music | Nightlife | Workshops
by Irenke Forsyth (subscribe)
A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at
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This year Vivid celebrates 10 years of creativity over 23 nights and it's sure to once again attract locals and visitors alike in the droves. Light, music and ideas shine with some of the best innovative artists and minds bringing new inspiration.

Vivid Sydney Festival
Mystery Gateau

With so much to enjoy and so many locations, it can be hard to know where to begin so here are some highlights that jump out at me and some tips based on my experiences at this festival over the years.

Circular Quay has to be on the agenda despite the large crowds. There is so much happening here and it can be daunting but picking your time and day can be crucial. The free projections and light sculptures light up from 6pm-11pm each night so it may pay to go later in the evening. If you can, go during the week as Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights are always packed.

My favourite place for the lights in this area is Customs House and sadly it was missed last year with no projections on the facade. I suspect it was due to the light rail construction. Gladly, it will light up again and will be mesmerising as it has been in past years with some great animation.

Children's author May Gibbs gave us Gumnut Babies, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and they will grace the building this year to celebrate 100 years since they dropped out of a gumtree and became heroes as they battled the evil Banksia men. You can expect lots of characters from her books surrounded by Australian flora and fauna.

Vivid Sydney Festival
The much loved Gumnut Babies

The tip for getting good photos here without a crowd of heads in the foreground is to go up to the station platform. There is an open area with great views of the building's facade.

The sails of the Sydney Opera House are not to be missed either. Artist Jonathan Zawada has the job this year of transforming this iconic landmark and will create a series of kinetic digital sculptures and compositions that distort and mutate in motion. It's called Metamathemagical and you can look forward to images of nature, science and culture.

Vivid Sydney Festival
Our iconic landmark - hard to miss

If you don't have an SLR camera where you can set your aperture low then it's best to get up as close as possible to the Opera House for good, non-blurry photos. Else book a dinner cruise or hop on a ferry from the Quay to Darling Harbour as they pause around the Opera House. As long as the water is not too choppy, you'll be right.

Network Ten and MasterChef Australia are joining the 10th anniversary celebrations with Mystery Gateau, a projection on the ASN Co building (Hickson Rd) that has mini construction worker chefs guiding you on a journey of fun and wonder as the MasterChef clock ticks down to a final spectacular surprise. It's only fitting as it is also the 10th season of the cooking show this year.

The light sculpture walk around both sides of the Quay and into The Rocks gives plenty to admire. Looking interesting this time around is Fugu, a colourful glowing pulsating puffer fish that will captivate you as its spiky rotating form expands and contracts; 1000 Cranes, inspired by a Japanese legend that is believed to bring good luck, sees a canopy of hanging origami cranes that light up as visitors walk through them; and Illuminosaurus, a 3m high dinosaur captured in a moment of fierce pursuit with light displays rippling through it, emanating from its teeth and claws and bursting out of its chest and mouth, creating a sense of power.

Vivid Sydney Festival
Fugu, the puffer fish

Nearby at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, there's a festival within the Vivid festival. Last year it was all about desserts. This year it's a Caffeine Festival, celebrating the Espresso Martini, and it's on just for the opening weekend (incl. Friday) of Vivid. Mr Black, along with some of the nation's best roasters and bars, will be brewing up specialty concoctions to give you a 'pick-me-up' after all your walking around. Your coffee connoisseur knowledge will be tested at a raft of martini and cold brew demonstrations and with free tastings aplenty you'll be bouncing out of the Cargo Hall. Food-wise, there'll be antipasto from Salt Meats Cheese, burgers and fried chicken from Johnny Bird, gelato and sweet snacks. Musically, there's a mix of DJ's and live acts that will keep the vibe alive. Tickets are $30 per person, with various 3hr timeslot sessions to choose from.

Caffeine Festival, Vivid Sydney
All things caffeine and then some

Across the harbour, Coney Island at Luna Park will light up for the first time with a projection show aptly named The Spirit of Fun. Celebrating the history and magic of this theme park, there's sure to be carnival antics with plenty of clowns and colourful characters in a world where smiles and laughter rule.

Vivid Sydney Festival
Where fun rules

Further along the water at Darling Harbour, a couple of items are set to have you in awe. The rooftop of the Maritime Museum will project BBC Earth and Sir David Attenborough's Blue Planet II world beneath the waves. It's a journey to the deep at a crucial time in our history and on Friday and Saturday nights you can view it from the special Action Stations Lookout vantage point. The underwater world is further highlighted at Cockle Bay with lights, lasers and water fountain displays we've come to love in past years. This time around the show Fantastic Oceans will highlight the bio-luminescent creatures living deep below the ocean. Water features will come to life in a display of colourful jellyfish, fountains emulating coral and deep sea flora, and lasers emitting bright beams of light piercing the surface like shimmering shards of sunlight.

Vivid Sydney Festival
Fantastic Oceans

Heading north, Skyportal at Chatswood Interchange will transport you to another reality through an interactive video experience. Look up to the giant screen overhead to see yourself mirrored in different scenes that make you feel like you're on holiday. Wander among icebergs, swim in the Great Barrier Reef amongst colourful coral and fish, and negotiate a wetland as you explore these rapidly changing places.

Vivid Sydney Festival
Skyportal - an immersive experience

In Sydney's inner west at Enmore Theatre you'll find Young Hearts Run Free, a Romeo & Juliet-themed masquerade party on 7 June, from 8pm-11pm. It's a ball and rock show with a cast of musicians, performers, artists and special guests that will bring to life the unforgettable moments scored by Radiohead and others in the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann's motion picture starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio. Sing along to popular songs and lock eyes with a potential partner. Tickets start at $59.90.

Lots of other music and musical events are on in the city and its surrounds to suit various tastes. There's plenty of jazz at the City Recital Hall in Angel Place, Everything 90's at the Burdekin Hotel in Darlinghurst and Harrisongs A Tribute to George at Leadbelly Newtown.

The ideas part of this festival is present not only in the light sculptures but in various talks and I'm liking Game Changer: James Cameron, maker of Avatar and Titanic. He's also a marine explorer, NASA advisor and an advocate for protection of the environment. He's an innovator that looks to leverage technologies and introduce the public to new ideas. Listen to him at the City Recital Hall on 27 May, from 5pm-6.30pm, when he talks about bridging science and art as well as documenting marine life and revealing his experiences over the years. Tickets are $30 and include entry to his Challenging the Deep exhibition at the Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour.

Vivid Sydney Festival
Game Changer: James Cameron

Digital Megatrends: Are you ready for the future? is another in the ideas category that sounds interesting. It looks at the trends of the past 10 years the iPhone, people selling houses with Bitcoin, and peer to peer sharing platforms like Airbnb and Uber and what the future 10 years holds. Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, principal scientist at CSIRO's Data61, will share a glimpse of what's in store as well as what we need as digital citizens to navigate our future world. This talk is on at the Museum of Contemporary Art on 16 June, from 12.30pm-2pm. It's a free event but registration is required.

To see all of what's on at this amazing festival, head to the Vivid Sydney website and plan your outings.

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