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JOHN ROZENTALS finds it hard to imagine a Sydney winter without Vivid … yet it’s only been around for 10 years.

June 2, 2018 Headline News, Travel Feature No Comments Email Email

It’s certainly the festival that grew and it’s hard to believe that it is right now celebrating just its 10th anniversary … that it has only been around since 2009, when Brian Eno set the Sydney Opera House sails alight as curator of the first Vivid Sydney.

It’s grown into Sydney’s biggest party after New Year’s Eve, but back then it was mainly a giant light show centred on a display illuminating those sails, with some music thrown in.

The late Lou Reed, who curated the 2010 event in conjunction with his wife and performance artist Laurie Anderson, would be chuffed how the event has grown in its spread and stature to the point where it will attract some two million visitors to Sydney this year.

And it isn’t just Sydney that benefits, with regional NSW and, indeed, Australia feeling a boost.

Iron & Wine … ‘masterful melodic phrasing.’ Image: Prudence Upton.

“Nearly 38,000 visitors to Vivid Sydney last year chose to extend their stay in NSW and travel beyond the fringes of Sydney, staying more than 94,000 nights and injecting over $16 million into the State’s regional economy,” said NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events Adam Marshall.

I was fortunate enough to be a guest a few nights ago Hyatt on the Park, immediately opposite the Sydney Opera House, for the turning on of that light display and what a show it was, focusing on the work of Australian artist Jonathan Zawada and his 3D light sculpture Metamathemagical, which filled the sails of one of the world’s great buildings with fabulously bold designs.

Not just the Sydney Opera House … Vivid at Barangaroo. Image: Steve Christo.

Not that the lightshow is confined to Opera House. In the immediate area, there’s also the Vivid Light Walk, which stretches along the harbour foreshore from the Royal Botanic Gardens, via Circular Quay, under the southern end of the Harbour Bridge, around to Walsh Bay.

The Customs House, a perennial favourite, especially with children, returns this year and the Botanic Gardens is certainly destined to become another favourite with youngsters.

Not just the Sydney Opera House … Vivid at the Sydney Botanical Gardens. Image: Steve Christo.

Other precincts around the water are Darling Harbour and, for the first time, Luna Park.

Outside the CBD, Vivid has spread its colourful tentacles to Kings Cross, Taronga Park and Chatswood.

Yes, indeed, Vivid has grown into the world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas, and now stretches until 16 June. Visit for more information and the discovery of thousands of adventures.

Not just the Sydney Opera House … Vivid at the Customs House. Image: Steve Christo.

Musically, the star attraction on opening night was legendary rapper Ice Cube, who took over the Opera House’s Concert Hall, and performed along side his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr, described as a genuine ‘chip off the old Cube’.

I was happy enough to go along to the House’s Joan Sutherland Theatre for folk legend Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine, backed by a full band, to launch his latest album, Beast Epic.

I can only say, ‘What a great performance.’ And add full support for whoever wrote the publicity blurb: ‘Masterful melodic phrasing … delivers one knockout one-liner after the other.’

The sails of the Opera House … how most visitors will remember Vivid Sydney.

Other musical stars of Vivid include Neil Finn, Cat Power, Mazzy Star and Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Meanwhile, in the Events corner will be the inaugural Mark Colvin Conversation, with various speakers honouring the late, great broadcaster and tossing around the seemingly perennial topic of whether schools and society are fostering or stifling imagination.

Written by John Rozentals

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