Sydney’s festive season officially arrives on Saturday the 25th of November with 2 free concerts in the city centre featuring leading musicians and children’s entertainers, Christmas lights and projections, Santa Claus & fireworks.
The City’s annual Christmas program, including a Christmas concert and the official lighting of the Martin Place Christmas Tree & a family concert in Hyde Park, attracts thousands of families to the city for an evening of live music, carols & Christmas cheer.
Children will get their 1st glimpse of Santa on his new sleigh as he travels from Town Hall to the Hyde Park Christmas On The Green concert before arriving at the Martin Place concert.
“Sydney does Christmas better than anyone else & our events have something for all the family” Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said.
“As well as our city concerts, Sydneysiders & visitors can look forward to an exciting program of events in the city centre & our villages with Christmas lights, projections, carollers & choirs”
The concerts at Martin Place & Hyde Park will run simultaneously from 6:30pm to 8:30pm Australian Eastern Daylight Time, ending with a powerful fireworks display.
Mark Ferguson & Angie Asimus will ‘MC’ the Martin Place concert that includes live performances by Kate Miller-Heidke, Justice Crew, Christine Anu, All Our Exes Live In Texas, The Australian Girls’ Choir & Jay Laga’aia.
Santa & the Lord Mayor will arrive on the sleigh with children from Variety – The Children’s Charity, who will light the 21-metre interactive Christmas Tree when the concert finishes.
Christmas On The Green in Hyde Park will be a more relaxed atmosphere for families. Master Of Ceremonies (‘MC’), Jimmy Giggle, will lead an evening of performances by Bananas In Pyjamas, The Fairies, The Listies & children’s entertainment legend, Peter Combe.
Over the coming weeks, there will be village concerts in Alexandria, Surry Hills, Rushcutters Bay & Rosebery featuring live entertainment, carols, kids craft activities, fireworks & a special visit from Santa.
As part of the Sydney Christmas program, family-friendly ground projections will light up Customs House Square & Martin Place; 80,000 lights will twinkle overhead in Pitt Street Mall’s Boulevard Of Light & shoppers will be entertained by choir performances in Pitt Street Mall and by the Martin Place Christmas Tree.
Have you been wondering all year what this year’s Sydney New Year’s Eve (NYE) theme will be? Wondering when it will be revealed? I wonder if it will be a wonderful theme this year. I wonder if the answer is ‘on the tip of your tongue’?
Ah, good spotting! The theme for Sydney NYE2017 is Wonder!
In recent weeks, the Sydney NYE website has been quietly updated to include the theme & artwork details for this year’s event on their website’s ‘About’ page. As we guessed, the theme is all about Sydney being a true ‘wonder in summer’.
The artwork above, which is part of a “suite of stunning designs” is the work of Nadia Hernández, a multi-disciplinary designer based in Sydney, who is this year’s Sydney NYE ‘creative ambassador’ (Though the creative ambassador role has been reduced significantly since 2015 – it’s more of a ‘local artist’ role now with local fashion designers & paper artists contributing works to the past 2 editions of the event).
Through her unique paper-cut design, she has brought to life the sense of wonder you get during Sydney’s summer whilst capturing the vibrant mood & cultural diversity of the city.
With less than 2 months to go, the Sydney New Year’s Eve 2017 – Wonder coin, produced in partnership by the City Of Sydney & the Royal Australian Mint, has gone on sale!
The Sydney New Year’s Eve 2017 – Wonder coin represents the unbridled wonder, exuberance & hopes of the world on New Year’s Eve. Add it to your Sydney NYE coin collection & treasure it for memories of a precious moment in time.
With a mintage of 5000, this 1/2 an ounce 99.9% silver coin with a diameter of 35.89mm is a fantastic souvenir to keep of this year’s event.
This latest coin represents the halfway point of the Sydney NYE coin releases. There are 5 coins left to be released, one each year.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation Broadcasts
The duration of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television (TV) & iView broadcasts are unconfirmed still but regarding content of the TV broadcast, whilst no major details have been revealed, this small teaser of details was released recently:
Join ABC in a star-studded evening to count down the biggest night of the year with the New Year’s Eve 2017 spectacular event broadcast. Enjoy an evening jam-packed full of unmissable entertainment, comedy, and music, as well as the Family Fireworks at 9pm, followed by the world-famous Sydney Midnight Fireworks.
Well at least the Midnight Fireworks are now officially confirmed to be part of the TV broadcast! Anyway, that small teaser is too vague for now to confirm if it will be different to or the same as the previous ABC NYE broadcasts of recent years.
But have hope! We believe the ABC is planning a special pre-recorded segment for the TV/iView broadcast on the scientific branch of astronomy from none other than Sydney Observatory!
Whilst we do not know for sure what form this segment will take, an educational segment has not been done in the previous 4 ABC broadcasts which have relied mainly on children’s, music & talk/comedy/game show-style programming. This could indicate a change of direction in the ABC’s production of the NYE TV/iView broadcast. I wonder if this will be the case?
Educational segments have been done before on NYE broadcasts but those were mainly just ‘explainers’ on how fireworks are created (a lesson in chemistry!). Astronomy has little to do with pyrotechnics but in any case, on NYE, everyone is looking at the night sky anyway (well, for fireworks at least – don’t forget the time!) so why not explore the cosmos while you gaze skywards too?
2 city centre concerts featuring top Australian performers will herald the start of a month-long program of Christmas festivities in Sydney.
The simultaneous concerts in Martin Place & Hyde Park on Saturday the 25th of November at 6:30pm Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) will feature performances by Christine Anu, a range of surprise artists & children’s entertainment from Jimmy Giggle, Bananas In Pyjamas and Peter Combe.
The concerts kick-off 30 days of festivities including concerts, light projections & carols to celebrate the Christmas season in the city.
“Christmas is a special time for welcoming everyone to our city, bringing together our diverse community & spreading joy throughout the season” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.
“From the angelic sounds of choirs in Pitt Street Mall & free concerts in our City’s villages to Sydney’s biggest Christmas tree in Martin Place, there is something for everyone in the city this Christmas”
“Sydney sparkles with sunshine at this time of year & with dozens of events in the city and its villages, it is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to enjoy the festive season with friends, neighbours & family”
Sydney Christmas 2017 Highlights:
City Concerts – Saturday The 25th Of November
2 simultaneous concerts in the city will launch the City’s Sydney Christmas celebrations from 6:30pm to 8:30pm AEDT.
Martin Place will feature live performances by Jay Laga’aia, Christine Anu, the Australian Girls’ Choir & other surprise guests. The concert culminates with the arrival of the sleigh bringing Santa & the Lord Mayor to light the tree & start the fireworks finale.
Christmas On The Green at Hyde Park will be packed with free entertainment for the whole family. Performers include Jimmy Giggle, The Listies, Bananas In Pyjamas, The Fairies & children’s entertainment legend, Peter Combe. Stockings filled with goodies will be on offer, Santa will stop by for a visit & fireworks will light up the sky.
Martin Place Christmas Tree
For 46 years, the centrepiece of the City’s Christmas celebrations has been the Martin Place Christmas Tree. Standing more than 21 metres tall, the Tree will be adorned with 60,000 tree lights, 300 baubles of up to half a metre in diameter & an illuminated 1.5 metre treetop star. Visitors can also share a festive message on the Tree for everyone to see.
The General Post Office Dessert Bar next to the Tree will offer festive, mouth-watering gelato, sweets & cakes each day until Christmas Eve.
Lights & Projections
The Boulevard Of Light will immerse Pitt Street Mall in the joy of the season as nearly 80,000 lights twinkle overhead every evening until the 2nd of January.
Family-friendly ground projections will light up Customs House Square & Martin Place from the 25th of November to the 25th of December.
Village Christmas Concerts
The village Christmas concerts at Alexandria (2nd of December), Surry Hills (3rd of December), Rushcutters Bay (9th of December) & Roseberry (10th of December) will be packed with children’s entertainment, live music, fireworks & a visit from Santa.
There will be performances from children’s favourites including Jimmy Giggle, Justine Clarke, The Listies, Bananas In Pyjamas, Play School’s Emma Palmer & Splashdance.
Carols & Choirs
The city will swell with the sounds of the festive season with the Choirs In The City program entertaining visitors & shoppers. Carollers will perform every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday evenings in Pitt Street Mall & every evening at the Martin Place Christmas Tree from the 25th of November to the 21st of December. The Salvation Army Band & Choir will perform at the Martin Place Christmas Tree from the 22nd to the 24th of December.
The renowned Christmas At Sydney Town Hall concert on Tuesday the 19th of December will be a memorable night for the whole family. Enjoy traditional carol singing, festive music and readings & the sounds of the magnificent Grand Organ in Centennial Hall.
KIIS Under The Mistletoe
KIIS 106.5 is inviting visitors to the Hyde Park & village concerts to ‘KIIS under the mistletoe’ for a chance to win a AUD$500 shopping spree. Visitors snapped ‘KIISing their Christmas favourite’ under the giant mistletoe can use the #SYDXMAS hashtag to enter the draw. Little ones can also post their letters to Santa at the North Pole at the special Christmas post box.
Variety – The Children’s Charity
The City’s charity partner for Christmas, Variety – The Children’s Charity, will sell merchandise & Santa showbags at all 6 Christmas concerts. The national charity provides funding & support to individuals, organisations & hospitals to improve the lives of children with disabilities & special needs.
Variety will also host the Xmas Walk (3rd of December) at Pyrmont Bay Park.
Vivid Sydney is inviting Expressions Of Interest (EOI) from individuals & organisations across the creative industries spectrum to participate in the world’s largest festival of light, music & ideas in 2018.
Minister For Tourism & Major Events, Adam Marshall, said “Vivid Sydney brings together leading global creative innovators for 23 days & this year, attracted a record 2.33 million attendees from around the world”
“The festival celebrates its 9th anniversary in 2018 & is set to be another spectacular display of art, technology & innovation. It is undoubtedly a grand platform for artists, musicians, creative professionals, educators and businesses to showcase their expertise to local and international audiences & I encourage everyone to submit their EOI and be part of this exceptional event” he said.
The Vivid Sydney EOI invites submissions across the festival’s 3 program pillars – Light, Music & Ideas.
Vivid Light transforms the city into a kaleidoscope of colour with awe-inspiring light sculptures & large-scale architectural projections onto iconic landmarks. Artists, designers, creative industry practitioners, equipment suppliers, businesses & educational institutions are invited to present their ideas, designs, concepts & interest for inclusion in Vivid Light.
Vivid Music features an extensive program of performance, multi-genre musical collaborations, contemporary and experimental music at venues across Sydney & includes the Vivid X|CELERATE program, a partnership with the City Of Sydney which is devoted to celebrating Sydney’s blossoming musical talent by awarding grants & marketing support to venues, artists & promoters with good ideas. Submissions are being sought from across the industry including music venues, producers, promoters, industry associations & innovators interested in being part of Vivid Music.
Vivid Ideas celebrates & champions creativity & innovation; connecting audiences & creative professionals with world-class creators, makers & thinkers, to share cutting-edge insights, market and industry updates & building tools and skills for the future. Events which ignite a national conversation, bring professional practitioners to Sydney for training and development & which actively build networks throughout the Asia-Pacific region are sought for Vivid Ideas.
Applications close at 5pm Australian Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday the 7th of November 2017.
Vivid Sydney is owned, managed & produced by Destination New South Wales (NSW), the NSW Government’s tourism & major events agency. Vivid Sydney will be held from Friday the 25th of May to Saturday the 16th of June 2018.
The updated website does not confirm the event’s theme. In fact, it gives no signal to a theme at all. Given there are no more Bridge Effects, there is a chance they could decide to stop doing themes and make the event ‘just a fireworks display’. They are, though, still trying to give the event some sort of creative touch as we’ve seen through the release of the logo in July.
For now, there is no reason to worry about the event’s theme as most years the theme isn’t confirmed until early December. It is usually just small clues revealed until then.
And the release of the logo in July did have one possible clue – 5 words placed within the logo, ‘Dance!, Radiate!, Wonder!, Hope! & Together!’. These words seem to capture the pondering of what the upcoming year will gives us when we celebrate NYE at a party in Sydney’s summer, which has been the general narrative of the event’s creatives in recent years. This interpretation of those 5 words may be incorrect – we will just have to wait & see.
But The Daily Telegraph last month revealed a small clue to this year’s theme by revealing this year’s theme to the Dawes Point Very Important Person (VIP) Viewing Area as Sunset. That event is also being styled to a beach-house. Previous years of that event have featured lanterns, deckchairs & give-away thongs so this beach-house ‘style’ could be nothing new particularly when Central Sydney implied back in May that that event will be downsized as “the large scale catering and entertainment will not be a part of the (VIP Viewing Area) plan”.
The website also confirms the event program, which is identical to last year’s, with the Sydney Opera House still a part of the Midnight Fireworks. It’s been 5 years since they re-introduced it in 2013 as part of the Sydney Opera House’s ‘decade of renewal’ so it’s likely now it will remain in the Midnight Fireworks for another 5 years at least.
A light show is confirmed to be on the Sydney Harbour Bridge again at least during the Welcome To Country but it is highly likely it will feature during the 9pm Family & Midnight Fireworks too. But what will this light show look like? Again, we’ll have to wait & see.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon projections are returning but so far, with no new changes – even no sign of the theme being projected onto them in different languages (though messages will still be shown in different languages).
There is also a new Ticketed Events webpage on the website for those wanting to get the once-in-a-lifetime experience of Sydney NYE they have always imagined.
Sydney NYE is also trialling new accessibility orientation sessions in the 4 days before the event. These sessions, led by an information booth volunteer, will guide individuals/groups along preferred routes from public transport to vantage points & back. This will allow for familarisation of the route by guests with the volunteer pointing out any event day-only changes. Bookings are essential as spaces are limited. Click here for more information.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) television coverage will be on ABC1, starting at 8:35pm and will feature closed captions, while internet streaming will be done via ABC iView, the ABC TV Facebook page, the ABC Australia YouTube channel & Sydney NYE’s website. The latter, will be global, so no need to worry about geoblocking this year.
Apart from ABC iView, all internet streams will be of the Welcome To Country, 9pm Family & Midnight Fireworks only.
Let’s hope organisers have solved copyright issues so the non-Australian audience can listen to the proper fireworks soundtracks live again. The displays are not the same without them.
On Tuesday, Vivid Sydney revealed this year’s attendance figures – a record 2.33 million people over the event’s 23 days but this also represented the slowest growth in the event’s history at 1% up on the previous year. In other words, just an extra 20,000 visitors.
Attendance growth has been declining since after 2014 – the year after the Sydney Harbour Bridge was introduced into the event – and by this trend, should mean future editions of the event would have smaller crowds than in previous editions which has never happened before. This is because next year could see Vivid entering negative growth for the 1st time.
The only good news is that interstate & international visitation, at 247,712 visitors, is still growing at 35% up on last year. This should signal that the Sydney/New South Wales (NSW) market for Vivid has reached it’s peak. In regards to Sydneysiders and NSW residents, this means the number of first-time visitors to Vivid Sydney is now being outweighed by the number of visitors who think the event is no longer worth visiting.
This could be the result of several effects:
The crowds have been increasing year on year particularly in the ‘iconic’ area of Vivid Sydney – Circular Quay. Due to a combination of a rare East Coast Low & poor crowd control for the increased attendance after that weather event, last year’s event saw near-crowd crushes occur. Organisers have since improved their crowd management arrangements and had the fortune of no significant weather events this year too. On weekends, crowds around Circular Quay have reached uncomfortable levels resulting in the weekend visitors not returning as regularly as they should due to the experience, particularly as their availability to visit on other nights is more limited due to work and school etc. even if they are local. This is no doubt a contributing factor.
Whilst the least likeliest of the reasons to be contributing, the pedestrian nature of Vivid Sydney combined with the road closures & very high crowd levels, in today’s environment, may be enough to put people off particularly once they have visited the event for the 1st time, knowing they have experienced it once in their lives, they don’t have to risk it again.
Vivid Sydney consists of 3 parts – Light, Music & Ideas. The latter two only make up approximately 14% of the event’s visitation. This is partly because they are ticketed niche events in limited capacity venues. Vivid Light, therefore, is the main attraction. It is a free mainstream event & in venues without capacity limits (though if crowds do increase any further, capacity limits may be needed. Good thing they already implement crowd controls on the busy nights!). No wonder it makes up 86% of Vivid’s visitation!
Vivid Music & Ideas are easy to give people reasons to return to. A new, rather than repeating, line-up of musicians & talkers always allows new audiences to experience these parts of the festival as long as the line-up participants are popular enough to sell significant amounts of tickets. They also increase the possibility of returning visitors as they already know the event’s standard.
Vivid Light, though, is more difficult. To most people, it is just lights & patterns. This is despite new narratives being told via light each year & organisers giving new artists the opportunity to shine. After all, lighting artists aren’t exactly the most well-known type of artists.
This is probably Vivid Sydney‘s biggest problem particularly when combined with the crowd levels. Why return, to suffer in the crowds, when it looks the same as last year? If they want NSW visitors to return, they need to revitalize Vivid Light. Organisers have done this in previous years with the introduction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour in 2013 (to great effect) & Taronga Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens in 2016 (both proving popular).
But once introduced though, they don’t visually innovate which sees audiences leaving as they ‘have seen it all before’. For example, the Lighting Of The Sails (Sydney Opera House projection show) was introduced when the event started in 2009 as a projection show of patterns. 8 years later, despite incorporating new narratives, themes & artists to the show annually, still ‘looks the same’ to the everyday person.
Making things look different would help but it will be a great challenge. If this is not solved, Sydney/NSW visitation to Vivid will decline. So let’s assume they don’t visually innovate as the case has been since 2009…
The usual strategy of expanding the event by making ‘major-mini Vivids‘ (complete with their own projection show) in new locations to solve this problem won’t work (though it will solve crowd problems to an extent if they are to iconic locations such as Bondi Beach & Manly) as, unless they visually innovate regularly, it will lead them back to where they are. It would give a brief one-off attendance boost though.
Given the event is a government event (run by the NSW Government), governments are mainly focused on:
Publicity (e.g. social media) – this allows them to promote Sydney to future visitors of Sydney.
Revenue (e.g. Music/Ideas ticketing & NSW Government-run public transport) – this goes towards event costs as well as other NSW Government expenditure.
Economic Benefits (e.g. gross domestic product growth etc.) – visitors to Vivid increase revenue of businesses such as accommodation, restaurants, airlines etc. which, in turn, raises revenue for other businesses along the supply chain that, again in turn, helps pay their employees & lastly in turn, raises revenue for the NSW Government through taxes etc. to spend on community services (such as Vivid & public transport), which brings the economic cycle back to full circle.
Vivid Sydney currently brings AUD$143 million to the NSW economy.
If organisers decide to focus on interstate/international visitation from now on, given it’s continued growth & increasing economic impact, a reasonable strategy would be to reduce the Vivid Light Walk to it’s 7 ‘must-sees’:
The Lighting Of The Sails (Sydney Opera House projection show)
32 Hundred Lighting’s annual Sydney Harbour Bridge & city buildings interactive light display
Bangarra Dance Theatre’s annual projection show on the south-eastern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Plus the other 2 ‘must-sees’:
A Light For The Wild (Taronga Zoo)
Darling Harbour’s multimedia show
This means all the smaller light exhibits (about 50 in total) along the Vivid Light Walk would disappear, allowing more focus on the internationally iconic light displays & more space for crowds to flow. These smaller light exhibits are targeted more towards Sydneysiders so if organisers want Sydney/NSW visitation to be stable in the short term, another reasonable strategy would be to give these smaller light exhibits new homes in the Sydney suburbs. Chatswood would be a great place to start to test this out but it could be expanded to include certain ferry wharves along Sydney Harbour with it’s nearby parks/public spaces:
Having them near ferry wharves allows them to be linked to the central Vivid hub of Circular Quay by Harbour Lights. In the end, it depends which Sydneysiders like Vivid the most – is it the ones who live on the Sydney Harbour foreshore, the ones who live in the eastern suburbs or the ones who live in the western suburbs? If they are in places far away from Sydney Harbour like in Campbelltown, maybe they can incorporate Vivid into the rail services with a Light Express or Light Rail (pun intended)? Connecting railway stations could be decorated with lights & maybe some train carriages could be spruced up with special lights for the occasion. Other locations that could accommodate the small light exhibits could include:
Other Sydney Harbour Islands
Barangaroo Reserve, Barangaroo
We said earlier that moving to new locations would not work but just to emphasize what we said earlier, that is only if they do not visually innovate those locations each year so if they move the smaller light exhibits to the above locations, it should work as long as new small light exhibits that look completely different from previous years’ exhibits are put on display each year.
Given it is a NSW Government event, smaller crowds can provide incredible political ammunition particularly when the event is spectacular, extravagant & expensive (Vivid costs nearly AUD$8 million – slightly more expensive than Sydney New Year’s Eve). It also does not help when climate change, electricity prices & economic downturns are political issues as they increase the motivation for political opponents to attack the NSW Government for producing an event that less and less people attend.
As long as Vivid Sydney attracts sufficient positive publicity & produces a profit or economic growth that outweighs the event’s costs, the NSW Government is going to support it even if attendance declines. If Vivid does not do one of them or crowds begin to decline, political opponents will begin to argue that:
The NSW Government mismanages events or;
People have forgotten or are going to forgot it’s existence hence argument 4 (below) or;
People do not care about it anymore hence argument 4 (below) or;
It is a waste of taxpayers money.
If crowds begin to decline next year, political debate could begin. Of course, like I said earlier, visual innovation is key here & could allow all that to be avoided. But if the status quo remains unchanged, crowds will decline, likely to result in major changes that do not help the event regrow (such as less lights) especially if interstate/international visitation declines too. The latter would guarantee all the arguments to be thrown at the NSW Government as it allows the failure of all key factors for government events. The NSW Government, unless they visually innovate the event, would, as a result of growing pressure, withdraw Vivid‘s funds resulting in it’s obvious cancellation.
At the current rate, Vivid may cease to exist in 4 years. We hope not. So if you are not from Australia or from interstate & wish to experience Vivid Sydney in all it’s glory, it’s probably time for you to check it out. Just in case the lights switch off…permanently.
And if you are from Sydney or NSW, try & support Vivid by attending next year (particularly if you have never been) or encourage your friends/family members who haven’t been before to go & see it for the 1st time. It is a truly iconic Australian event, a Sydney Spectacular. Otherwise, you must be over Vivid so prepare for a eventual return to Sydney’s dim & empty winters unless, of course, organisers revitalize the event beyond our wildest dreams leaving us no choice but to visit again!
So Sydney, are you really over Vivid? It seems like you are.
If you are from Sydney or NSW, tell us what would bring you back to Vivid. Is it more security, better crowd management or just something new and worthy of seeing? Tell us in the feedback form below: