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Vivid Sydney's 2023 Program of Lights, Installations, Tunes, Dinners, Venue Takeovers and Talks Is Here

More than 300 activations and events are coming to Sydney, including Cat Power performing Bob Dylan, a dining pop-up on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and 50-plus light installations.
By Ben Hansen and Sarah Ward
April 30, 2023
By Ben Hansen and Sarah Ward
April 30, 2023

Whenever Vivid takes over Sydney to kick off winter, the city instantly gets brighter. Unleashing a huge festival of lights and vibrant installations, live music, food and talks will do that, of course. Mark Friday, May 26–Saturday, June 17 in your calendars for 2023, with the annual festival returning — and with its just-announced program featuring more than 300 activations and events across its 23 days.

Lights-wise, more than 50 installations will be bringing bursts of colour to the Harbour City, with public installations, 3D projections and ticketed events all part of the lineup. The Vivid Light Walk is back with free public works inspired by nature popping up from over 100 light collaborators and 26 international light artists from 13 countries. First Light will also return, celebrating Australia's original custodians and opening the festival with a performance from Yolngu supergroup Yothu Yindi.

Other notable installations include Written in the Stars, which will see over 1000 drones like up the night sky; projections on the Sydney Opera House's sails from John Olsen; and a huge Tumbalong Park activation called Dance Together, which will have you shaking your hips underneath three giant floating rings suspended above your head.

Plus, the previously announced Lightscape will also be a part of the program. The after-dark light festival will be taking over the Royal Botanic Garden from 5.30pm each night. Prepare to see the garden illuminated by immersive and large-scale installations scattered along a 2.1-kilometre route, including sparkling trees, luminous walkways and bursts of colour that look like fireworks. A big highlight: large-scale works like giant flowers and glowing tunnels, both of which will make you feel like you're being bathed in radiance.

Vivid 2022 marked the first time food was given its own spot on the lineup with the inaugural Vivid Dinner, and this year the festival's gone one better with a full-sized food program celebrating Sydney's hospitality scene. Standout moments from this portion of the festival include the return of the Vivid Dinner, this time with chefs Ben Greeno and Danielle Alvarez at the helm; and a revamp of Luke Mangan's restaurant on top of a Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon that will give guests the chance to take in the lights from atop the bridge accompanied by wine and snacks from the acclaimed chef.

The Vivid Fire Kitchen will bring smoked meats and barbecues to Barangaroo's The Cutaway, the Carriageworks Night Markets will also make a one-off comeback during the festival, and a series of residencies will see Barangaroo House and Mary's underground taken over with a mix of food, wine, music and art.

Beyond the official Vivd Food program is a heap of special activities planned across a huge number of vendors within the CBD including a special limited edition Vivid-only creation from Black Star Pastry in The Galeries — the yuzu and raspberry flavoured 'glonut' finished with icing designed with vibrant orange and pink polka dots (only available Saturday until 17th June).

Meanwhile at the QVB, for those wanting to indulge in a more sophisticated culinary experience, Manon Brasserie is inviting guests to unwind, Paris-style, on the street-side tables and take in the special happy hour menu conceived just for Vivid crowds.

And if you really want to elevate your happy options, Golden Hour at Reign will be serving drinks special and bar snacks for champagne aficionados including $20 Mumm 'Grand Cordon' Champagne (a real bargain, trust us) from 5pm to 7pm every Wednesday to Sunday throughout the festival.

Destination NSW

Music is always a huge component of the festival, and this year's lineup does not disappoint. The Sydney Opera House has rolled out a predictably showstopping and diverse mix of artists, starting with Devonté Hynes (also known as Blood Orange) performing selected classical works with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. The bill also features José González celebrating the 20th anniversary of his album Veneer, Cat Power recreating and reinterpreting a 1966 performance by Bob Dylan, and appearances from the likes of Thundercat, Yaeji, Ella Mai, Weyes Blood, Hiatus Kaiyote, Ethel Cain, Sleaford Mods, Squarepusher, Iceage, Kimbra and Budjerah.

The Opera House's studio parties are also making a return, with party collectives Mad Racket, Picnic, Future Classic and House of Mince all bringing the tunes to the venue's artist studios until the early hours.

Outside of the Sydney Opera House, Vivid's music lineup will include A Bend in the River: A Celebration of the Life & Music of Archie Roach at the Sydney Town hall with Paul Kelly, Emma Donovan, Dan Sultan, Kutcha Edwards and Becca Hatch among the friends, collaborators and contemporaries that will perform during the tribute.

Archie Roach, Lisa Businovski

Tumbalong Park will again host 12 nights of free live music featuring Yothu Yindi, Hatchie, Kaiit, A.Girl, Ziggy Ramo, Cornelius and a celebration of 15 years of triple j's Unearthed High competition. And, Carriageworks has curated a genre-spanning lineup with the like soft Desire Marea, Flying Lotus, Molchat Doma, Liv.e, Floodlights and Soft Centre.

Rounding out the lineup is Vivid Ideas, which will feature 60 talks and workshops spanning love, community, authenticity, body positivity and sustainability. World-renowned British author Jeanette Winterson will be in the country for her talk LIFE AND MARS: The Future of Human; Could the Ocean be the Solution? will explore how technology is helping to clean up the world's oceans; and Melbourne-based artists have created NOCTURNE, an immersive journey through The Rocks.

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of the program, you can head to the Vivid Sydney website. Yes, you'd best clear your calendar for the end of May and the first few weeks of June — Vivid is about to keep you mighty busy.

Vivid Sydney 2023 will run from Friday, May 26–Saturday, June 17. For further information and tickets, head to the event's website.

Published on April 30, 2023 by Ben Hansen
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