Lighting Up Sydney


Lighting Up Sydney
Vivid Sydney is set to transform the city into a kaleidoscope of light and colour. We chat to Creative Director Ignatius Jones about this year's festival.

Can you explain what Vivid Sydney is for someone who hasn’t heard of the event before?

Vivid Sydney (25 May-16 June) is a 23-day festival of light, music and ideas – and is the largest of its kind in the world and the largest event in Australia. Each year Vivid Sydney transforms the city into a colourful canvas of light, music, and ideas, and is a major celebration of the creative industries. The festival celebrates Sydney as the creative hub of the Asia-Pacific with large-scale light installations and projections; free family events; music performances and collaborations; and creative ideas, discussion and debate.
What was the vision behind this year’s Vivid Sydney? Is there a particular theme?
Vivid Sydney is a celebration of creativity, innovation and science, which is showcased throughout the Light, Music and Ideas programs this year. It’s also our 10th anniversary, so we’ve even brought back some great installations from past festivals and upgraded them for a 2018 experience – keep an eye out for Fragmented and Ember in particular.

Lights, people and atmosphere around the harbour at Vivid Sydney Photo: Destination NSW/Anna Warr

Can you walk us through some of the key acts?
Vivid Music: We wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary by upping the ante in 2018, which I believe we’ve absolutely achieved. Highlights including St Vincent’s one-night-only show at Carriageworks and the Innovators in Jazz at City Recital Hall are just some examples of the incredible talent for this year’s program. The X|Celerate partnership with City Of Sydney is something we want to enliven music venues from across town. And Vivid LIVE at the Sydney Opera House has some amazing shows including Solange, Ice Cube, Daniel Johns with Luke Steele and Mazzy Star.

Vivid Ideas: In 2018 the Vivid Ideas program will once again bring together world-class leaders and thinkers across the creative industries. There’s a huge range of public talks, industry seminars, conferences, workshops and debates – all designed to cultivate fresh thinking to drive the creative agenda across tech, design, entertainment and culture.

Game Changers and Creative Catalysts this year include in-conversation events with:

  • James Cameron, film-maker, marine explorer and conservationist
  • Dare Jennings, an Australian global success story as the founder of Mambo Clothing, Phantom Records and Deus ex Machina
  • Jane McGonigal, Futurist and game developer, and
  • Dan Goods, NASA Visual Strategist.

For the first time we’re also presenting a new series of special events and curated evenings such as Vivid Art After Hours at the Art Gallery of NSW – which blends Vivid Ideas and Vivid Music. Over three curated evenings of talks, music and art, we’ll delve into ‘dare to ask topics’ such as:

  • improving the experience of dying
  • finding common ground in conflict, and
  • perceptions around sexuality and pleasure.

In addition, there are some really interesting sessions to feed minds; including “The Ethics of Creativity”, from the Ethics Centre, “What’s your +AQ?” (Positive Ambiguity), and managing technology-induced stress.

Do you have a personal favourite act we should watch out for?
From the Vivid Music program, I’d probably have to say Solange.

Luna Park

How did you begin curating the schedule? Was it about a range?
We wanted to present a contemporary program with local and international artists. Curating this year’s program was all about bringing together bigger line ups with a varied selection of artists from across a number of genres, topics and disciplines.
What have been some of the challenges?
Vivid Sydney started as an initiative to boost tourism in New South Wales during the Winter months and in its first year attracted 225,000 attendees. Last year, the festival attracted a record 2.33 million attendees and contributed an amazing $143 million to the NSW economy. Through a deliberate strategy by Destination NSW who own, manage and produce Vivid Sydney, it is now the world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas and Australia’s biggest event. Year on year, the challenge is to develop a program that’s multi-faceted that appeals to young and old and domestic and international audiences.
And the highlights?

This is the 10th amazing year for Vivid Sydney, and it is incredible to think how much it has grown over the past decade. In 2018, another key icon on Sydney Harbour to join the line-up, for the first time ever will be Luna Park. Our wonderful light installations will also return to Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, The Rocks, Chatswood, Taronga Zoo, and Kings Cross, plus the largest Vivid Sydney footprint yet at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Customs House will return with a gorgeous animation of May Gibbs’ classic characters Snugglepot & Cuddlepie, celebrating their 100th birthday since their stories were first published. In another first, the official residence of the Governor of NSW, Government House, will feature a light projection. TAFE NSW Students studying 3D Animation will be designing the work that will be displayed across the sandstone building.
If you could sum Vivid Sydney 2018 up in three words, what would they be?
Innovation, creativity, art.

Vivi a combination of free and ticketed events. Head to for the full program and all ticketing information. 

‘Metamathemagical’. Artist impression by Jonathan Zawada Bouquet



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