Vivid Sydney – 18 Day Festival Of Light, Music And Ideas!

Vivid Sydney is one of the most exciting festivals in Australia’s biggest city. The main theme of the festival is the light and it is presented in a few different forms.

For first timers, Vivid Sydney is a unique annual event of light, music and ideas, featuring many of the world’s most important creative industry forums, a mesmerising free public exhibition of outdoor lighting sculptures and installations, a cutting-edge contemporary music program and the spectacular illumination of Sydney’s iconic architecture including the sails of Sydney Opera House but most importantly it is a festival of light. It includes a huge light installations and projections as well as music performances which are display through the city, most notably around the Opera House, Circular Quay and Darling Harbour. First Vivid Sydney festival took place in 2009 and is has since become Sydney’s major festival and definitely the most important festival in winter.

That said, to put things in better perspective for you, Vivid Sydney is where art, technology and commerce intersect. The festival positions Sydney as the creative hub of Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, and delivers both innovative live entertainment and creative inspiration on a grand scale.

The creative people of the world – from industry professionals to aspiring practitioners to the merely curious – are invited to Sydney annually to watch the city transform into a breathtaking canvas of creative expression. For 18 days, creative practitioners, corporate professionals, families and people of all generations take advantage of Sydney’s mild winter weather and engage with a truly spectacular event, Vivid Sydney.


Three Major Components of Vivid Sydney That Sets It Apart from The Rest of Festivals Around The World


The Light

Vivid Sydney Light transforms Sydney into a wonderland of ‘light art’ sculptures, innovative installations and grand-scale projections for all to enjoy – for free. It is a magical celebration of light-design excellence and the world’s largest outdoor ‘art-gallery’: a unique Vivid Sydney experience.



With music a favourite feature of Vivid Sydney, the festival delivers a significantly expanded program featuring a diverse range of cutting edge music, an incredible line-up of contemporary performances and talent from a multitude of genres creating the biggest Vivid Music program seen to date. New venues and more acts usually take Vivid Music into Carriageworks, Seymour Centre, The Basement, Spice Cellar, Home Nightclub at Darling Harbour, and of course The Sydney Opera House with Vivid Live.

Vivid LIVE at Sydney Opera House is a 10-day celebration of ambitious popular music within the city’s annual Vivid Sydney festival of light, music and ideas.

Embraced by the public as a unique contribution to Sydney’s cultural calendar, Vivid LIVE cultivates artist-driven projects including unique collaborations, one-off projects and special events that take over all the venues and spaces of the House, including the iconic Lighting the Sails.



Vivid Ideas is the Asia Pacific’s annual celebration of innovation, creativity and community, building audiences and markets for the creative industries, and offering professional development opportunities across the sector. With over 200 events across the program, from industry conferences to keynote talks, networking sessions to hands-on workshops, Vivid Ideas brings together leaders across the 14 creative industries.


Events At Vivid Sydney Festival

This year, similarly to what happen in previous editions of the festival, the major Sydney Opera House component, Vivid Live, asked a number of different artist to support different events forming the festival and happening around the world’s most famous venue. It has become a tradition that each year a Vivid Live artist is invited to completely change the famous roof of Sydney Opera House with digital light projector technology.

In its first edition, the Vivid Live light projection was curated by British musician composer and producer Brian Eno, known for his collaborations with a number of big bands like U2. Brain Eno organised the music program at Sydney Opera House for the duration of the festival. On top of that he allowed for his artwork to be used on the exterior of the famous building.

This year, Vivid Live curator Stephen Pavlovic, who is also a founder of one Sydney’s record label created what people has called as an amazing selection of local and international artists, representing all kinds of backgrounds. This has resulted in a fantastic selection of events carried out across the city, including concerts and other performances.

For those not wanting to spend any money, there lots of other things on offer. Light projections over Opera House roof is a must see, and the best vintage point to observe this amazing spectacle is from Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay, which is located exactly opposite the Opera House, offering the best views. It’s also worth strolling along the Circular Quay, where many of the regular street furniture has been transformed into light sculptures.

This year there were also light projections over historical Custom House, which is now home to the local library. The theme of this projection was journey through times and it attracted a large number of people.

If you happen to be in Sydney in winder make sure you check out the Vivid Sydney festival. It is truly one of the kind.


Why You Should Visit Sydney This Year During Vivid Festival

Harbour Lights – Sydney Harbour is a magnificent attraction in its own right but for the very first time in Vivid Sydney’s history it will light up like never before. The harbour will be transformed into an aquatic wonderland with ferries, cruise vessels and water taxis brightly illuminated with LED lights that change colour as they cross different parts of the harbour. It’s all achieved using satellite navigation technology. Watch the magical display from the shore or jump on board a Sydney Ferry, Captain Cook Cruise, Sea Sydney Cruise or Matilda Cruise for an up-close experience.


Lighting of the Sails – One of the most anticipated events on the Vivid Sydney calendar is the Lighting of the Sails at the Sydney Opera House which will see the iconic building come alive at night with a spectacular three-dimensional light display by the team behind the London Olympics Opening Ceremony, 59 Productions. Visitors will be taken on a journey through time from the birth of civilisation and architecture to the latest in human and technological achievement.


Play Me – Electro-pop artists The Presets and the Australian Chamber Orchestra will unite at Vivid Sydney. Electro-pop artists The Presets and the Australian Chamber Orchestra will unite at Vivid Live.

In another spectacular display, the sandstone facade of Customs House lights up this year with a series of “musical sculptures” that can be “played” by visitors in real time. Cutting-edge technology has been used by design team Danny Rose to create this unique experience combining light, colour and sound. “How does it work?”, you ask. Well, after selecting one of the musical sculptures on a touch screen, visitors will hop on to a platform in front of Customs House and “play” the sculpture as if it were a real instrument.


Gamma World – MCA Original Facade – The light installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art promises to take viewers on an abstract, emotional and playful journey through constantly changing worlds.

Using isometric designs, old-school gaming and pop-up books for inspiration, artist Jess Johnson brings the old sandstone building to life by adapting its appearance and sometimes seeming to change its entire structure. Before the flick of the on switch, you can ponder the works of 20 artists featured in the 19th Biennale of Sydney by day (or until 9pm on Thursdays).

Spread across two floors, the artworks draw on the elements of air and water as well as the realms of the imaginative and surreal. It is surely a Vivid Sydney experience you would not want to miss!


Aquatic Nights – If you have a special place in your heart for the underwater world and marine life, especially whales, the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour is the place for you during Vivid Sydney. During daylight hours, visit two exhibitions inspired by that majestic creature of the deep. Beautiful Whales features incredible life-size photographs of whales by US photographer Bryant Green – the only person in the world producing such work. The international exhibition Amazing Whales uncovers their diversity, origins and adaptation and is presented by the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. At night, watch as the rooftop lights up in a celebration of the underwater world.


Vivid Live – Vivid Sydney is not all about the lights of course. It features an equally exciting music program, the highlight being Vivid Live at the Sydney Opera House.

Among the range of events are exclusive performances by US indie-rock luminaries the Pixies, Britain’s renegade 50-piece Heritage Orchestra and Grammy-winning disco legend Giorgio Moroder.

In another exclusive, the Australian Chamber Orchestra will unite with electro-pop artists The Presets to playfully take audiences through a history of music spanning thousands of years, with 230 songs over two hours. Watch out for late-night music around the venue too.


Modulations – Leads Phoebe Panaretos as Fran and Thomas Lacey as Scott in Strictly Ballroom the Musical Leads Phoebe Panaretos as Fran and Thomas Lacey as Scott in Strictly Ballroom the Musical.

Modulations is headlined by British electro-pop stars the Pet Shop Boys in their only Australian performance of their Electric world tour, and also features renowned and emerging DJs and bands. A series of talks by music industry professionals and artists will accompany the live performances along with installations inspired by music, fashion and art.


Sydney Film Festival – You don’t have to be a film buff to find something that will appeal to your particular movie-going tastes at the Sydney Film Festival.

As one of the world’s longest-running film festivals, the 12-day event screens 190 feature films, documentaries, short films, restorations and animations from more than 50 countries around the world including Australia.

Keep things casual with free events at the festival hub at Lower Town Hall or go all out for a world premiere or red carpet gala at various venues across the city. Sydney Film Festival kicks off during the last weekend of Vivid Sydney.


Strictly Ballroom, The Musical – There is so much to do in Sydney you will want to plan your itinerary well in advance to avoid being overwhelmed by the number of sites to see, places to go and things to do.

One event coinciding with Vivid Sydney includes Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated stage version of his hit movie Strictly Ballroom at the Sydney Lyric Theatre. With set and costume designs by Oscar-winner Catherine Martin, the musical tells the story of a championship ballroom dancer who defies the rules to follow his heart.


The sheer spectacle – Vivid Sydney turns the city into one giant, visual spectacular. After exploring the city by foot you might like to head to the rooftop bar on level 36 of the swanky Shangri-La Hotel. The New York-inspired Blu Bar offers a fine selection of alcohol and liquors so you can kick up your heels as the winter sun sets and take in the views of Darling Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and the Vivid spectacle.


Getting To Vivid Sydney


By Train

Extra trains will be running throughout the 18 days of the event and all Vivid Sydney precincts are within walking distance of train stations. The best train stations for access include stations on the City Circle, North Sydney, Milsons Point and Redfern. Plan your trip at


By Bus

Extra buses will be running, Sydney Buses has an extensive network of public buses. Sydney Buses services provide direct cross city and cross-harbour links to a wide range of locations in and around Sydney. Plan your trip at


By Ferry

Harbour City Ferries, Matilda Cruises and Captain Cook Cruises operate ferries on Sydney Harbour and the closest wharves to Vivid Sydney events are at Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, Milsons Point and McMahons Point. Ferry services are expected to be very busy and running at full capacity during the weekends, make sure you have a plan B. To discover Sydney Harbour’s best kept secrets go to Plan your trip at


On Foot

Circular Quay, Sydney Opera House, Walsh Bay, The Rocks, Martin Place and Darling Harbour are within walking distance of each other. Walk across the Harbour Bridge to North Sydney (and back). Carriageworks is a short walk from Redfern Station.

Visit information about festivals section to explore a full list of festivals happening around the world yearly!