Opinion: Sydney Still NYE Capital Of The World But Has Paris Now Overtaken Them For Best Annual Fireworks Display?

That’s right – this is a big call.

For those who remember it, the Millennium was a moment of global unity.

While Rio De Janerio brang the biggest crowds (and they still do), 2 other cities rang in the new Millennium with what were called the best fireworks displays of the night (or the last Millennium). These cities were Sydney and Paris.

Paris was ranked 2nd on the night. The display was done by Groupe F and the countdown of the display replicated a rocket launch with the rocket (or Tower) lifting off at Midnight, taking Paris into the new Millennium (Video below does not feature the fireworks soundtrack):

Sydney’s though will be remembered for an Eternity.

Sydney’s display featured the Sydney Harbour Bridge & Opera House, city buildings, pontoons in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and 4 barges along the Harbour, 2 in the west and 2 in the east. That display was mostly done by Syd Howard Fireworks though the western barges were coordinated by Foti International Fireworks, who have done every Sydney New Year’s Eve (NYE) since.

The display, 25 minutes long, double the length of post-2005 displays, celebrated 2 themes – time and Sydney – in a phrase Sydney’s Millennium. It celebrated humanity’s history, beginning with a big bang of sorts and after the traditional Auld Lang Syne, launched into a History Of Pop, featuring 60 significant songs of the 20th century (in roughly chronological order) as well as moments of Australian & international importance like The Dismissal & Apollo 11. After then, it celebrated Australia with a remix of Down Under and Yothu Yindi songs. Encapsulting the universality of the moment, which is best represented by the iconic ‘Smiley Face’ Bridge Effect,  which was used in most of the show, What A Wonderful World was then played. The rest of the songs represented modern music (Itacycoo Park), time (One Of These Days & History Repeating) & the best fireworks finale ever (Let’s Go Crazy).

Swan Lake then launched the finale. The finale symbolised the dramatic present (the start of a new Millennium) and the future with the iconic rainbow at the end launching the timeline of the display into an Eternity – a word written around Sydney by Arthur Stace from the 1930’s. Bells then rang from St Andrew’s & Mary’s Cathedrals for the 1st time ever on NYE celebrating the new Millennium.

No doubt Sydney’s millennium display was iconic not just for the scale of the fireworks but it’s theming & musical choice.

The Millennium formula, which was tested for nearly 3 years prior, was set in stone and remained how Sydney NYE was done until 2014. In 2015, the iconic Bridge Effect, which had since 1997 taken many forms, disappeared for various reasons. Since then, a light show has taken it’s place, which has been a suitable replacement though it doesn’t have the same anticipation about it.

Efforts to make a theme without a Bridge Effect were made by finding a local artist to do an artwork based around a theme, which was successful and have turned the artworks themselves into something that is deserving & worthy of anticipation.

However, today’s revealing of the updated Sydney NYE website for the 2019 edition revealed an artwork by Garbett Design to be used for the next 3 years. The artwork we can say looks amazing and stunning.

You can expect possibly slight changes in the artwork each year depending on circumstances/outcomes of previous editions with the artwork but most of the artwork will be the same for the next 3 years.

Shows this year's Sydney NYE artwork
Sydney NYE2019 Artwork
Artwork: City Of Sydney/Garbett Design

Sadly, the updated website today confirmed that Sydney NYE is now no longer doing themes –  a critical aspect of the event. This is the 1st time this has happened since 1995. The website said this:


The spontaneous energy of Sydney and its people inspires the event artwork.

Sydney New Year’s Eve is vibrant, raw and energetic. The spirit of the city is demonstrated in the bright, colourful, flexible and optimistic artwork developed by globally awarded, Sydney-based studio Garbett Design.

Inclusive, celebratory and safe

New Year’s Eve marks endings and anticipates new beginnings. Say goodbye to the old and hello to the new at this festive party for everyone.

The City of Sydney’s gift to the people, Sydney New Year’s Eve is a safe, sustainable event, celebrating local artists before the eyes of the world. Everyone can take part in this uniquely Sydney celebration.

While early December used to be the most likely day to reveal the theme, it seems very unlikely now that a theme will be announced in early December as recent years have had the theme revealed on the website a lot earlier.

It is now essentially just a fireworks display for at least 3 years as the light show & same artwork is being used for the next 3 years, the 2020 & 2021 editions have nothing to anticipate for apart from the fireworks soundtrack. The fireworks soundtrack will never go as modern technology ensures it is to stay plus nearly all fireworks displays nowadays have soundtracks. But the theming, which is decided by humans alone, will no longer be. It seems Sydney NYE has moved from being a creative celebration to a government marketing promotion for Sydney and this spells trouble. Events known for their creativity and moving towards a marketing or messaging approach are destined for failure. Like we have mentioned many times before, just look at the Closing Ceremony of the XXIst Commonwealth Games – Gold Coast 2018.

Back to Paris. The Eiffel Tower has remained unused on NYE ever since, though since 2018, the Arc De Triumphe has been used for projections and fireworks. However, that will never beat Sydney. In 2009, to celebrate the Eiffel Tower’s 120th anniversary, the Eiffel Tower was used as part of Paris’s Bastille Day celebrations. They added projections to the show this time and included a little reference to the Millennium display:

The only fault with the display was the Eiffel Tower’s reintroduction was not emotionally powerful. It wasn’t the best display but it utilized Sydney’s strengths as well as the emerging technology of projection mapping, which at this time was making it’s Sydney Opera House debut at the 1st Vivid Sydney. Notable is the strong usage of theming – the display told the history of the Eiffel Tower from 1885 – the year the concept plans of the Eiffel Tower were presented to the Society of Civil Engineers.

Clearly, Paris liked the display so 4 years later, they brought back the Eiffel Tower fully back (partially & briefly for red stationary flares in 2013) and have kept it as part of the fireworks since. The 2014 display, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I, saw Groupe F produce what we think is the greatest pyrotechnic display ever done. It solved all the problems of the 2009 display and it is a display Sydney would be proud of. Sydney’s 2013 International Fleet Review Spectacular probably follows in 2nd place. Their 2014 display, titled War & Peace tells the story of France since 1914 and also features acrobatics & circus acts and brilliant cinematography from France Television:

Groupe F has since produced nearly all future Eiffel Tower displays. Some other companies have done these displays but you can tell the difference in quality. However, all years since 2013 (and maybe even some before then) have had a theme!:

  • 2013 – Freedom, Equality, Fraternity
  • 2014 – War & Peace*
  • 2015 – Paris Welcomes The World*
  • 2016 – Paris Is 1 Party*
  • 2017 – Olympism
  • 2018 – Love*
  • 2019 – Federation Party

*Groupe F show

This makes every Bastille Day distinctly different! Other years are below for your viewing:

The 2018 & 2019 displays have been geoblocked to Australia so we can’t see them. The 2017 display has been made a private video too.  But a documentary was made on how Groupe F produce the 2018 show:

If anyone in France is reading this and can provide us a copy of these displays and/or a full translation into English of the documentary, that would be appreciated.

The Eiffel Tower was also used for fireworks 3 times before the Millennium – for it’s 100th anniversary (1989, where it also featured lasers & acrobatics), the opening (1889) and during construction (Yes, during construction in 1887!).

Paris has never gone to the effort of trying to beat Sydney. Sydney’s local & state governments have just taken NYE for granted now. It’s all about marketing, messaging & money rather than celebration, community & creativity.

Sydney has inspired the USA, China, France & the UK to do similar displays.

In fact, New York (with the Brooklyn Bridge) in 1983 inspired Sydney to use the Sydney Harbour Bridge, who since 2014, have inspired New York to bring back the Brooklyn Bridge into fireworks displays. That’s right – if New York keeps improving their displays, their Macy’s July the 4th Fireworks, which once again feature the Brooklyn Bridge could rival Sydney but New York still needs a lot of improvement (Mind you, we’re not American so maybe their cultural preferences suit their display – It’s their national day after all).

The UK even copied Sydney’s own method of Olympic success by also using their NYE celebrations as a ‘test event’ for the Olympics. With Paris due to host the Olympics in 2024, would Paris capitalise on the Eiffel Tower’s fireworks growth and use it on NYE in a couple of years time as an annual ‘test event’ in the lead up to the Games? Maybe they would use the Eiffel Tower like Sydney used in the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the Closing Ceremony of the 2000 Olympics? If so, they will smash Sydney in NYE stakes as Paris’s annual displays looks distinctly different. Sydney isn’t so much anymore.

For the record, we are not saying Foti International Fireworks lack creativity. Unlike Paris, Sydney’s fireworks companies have always specialised in just fireworks with other creativity coming from external sources. Groupe F of Paris has expertise in not just fireworks but acrobatics, projections, lights etc. And that’s a major difference. Foti Fireworks still produce brilliant pyrotechnic displays. It’s just their appointers, the City Of Sydney & the NSW Government, are completely using Sydney NYE as a cash cow instead of a creative masterpiece. The overall event will decline in quality rapidly as a result.

Paris is on the rise, Sydney is on the decline. It isn’t Paris’s fault that Sydney isn’t as exciting as it used to be. It is purely Sydney’s own fault.

In other news from the updated website:

  • A disclaimer now appears upon accessing the Vantage Points webpage. No doubt to remove the City Of Sydney from any associations with commercialisation of the event.
  • It might be just us but the ticketed events appear first on the Vantage Points webpage. Hopefully everyone notices there are free vantage points too! (If you are also taken straight to the ticketed events, please let us know so it can be confirmed). However, this shows an increased emphasis on ticketing.
  • East Circular Quay is now free managed access again! YAY! Most likely due to pressure from nearby businesses.
  • Campbell’s Cove has gone from free ticketed to paid ticketed (AUD$10) NAY!
  • A special ‘Events’ webpage, as revealed last week by the City Of Sydney, shows an emphasis on private 3rd-party events to a scale never seen before. The closest was in 2011 when they did ‘After Midnight’ – a list of venues & private 3rd-party events held after the Midnight Fireworks to visit on your way home.
  • Pre-Show Entertainment and the whole event now starts at 6:50pm.  Recent previous editions started at 6pm with an aerial display.

Most of these dot points’ show the events’ purpose is shifting from one of creativity to one of commercialisation. Some improvement, but still as dramatic a decline as last year due to North Sydney now being ticketed as confirmed last month by North Sydney Council.

What do you think? Tell us what you think in our poll. That would truly tell if Sydney has stuffed up NYE.

A New ‘Flagship Sydney Spectacular’ Is Born…

This photograph from Instagram user ‘GLANZPUNKT’ says it all.

A new ‘flagship Sydney Spectacular’ is born…

In a time when the other 2 ‘flagship Sydney Spectaculars’, Sydney New Year’s Eve and Vivid Sydney, are in decline, ‘Australia Day Live’ has grown since 2015 to reach this new level of ‘Sydney Spectacular’.

So we now have each year, in terms of ‘flagship Sydney Spectaculars’:

  • Vivid Sydney (Late May to mid-June)
  • Sydney New Year’s Eve (The 31st of December to the 1st of January)
  • Australia Day Live (The 26th of January)

That photograph above does sum up the event’s new scale but it is missing 1 new event element in the photograph – the Hercules aircraft flare dispense – which started the 1st fireworks display of the night:

Other major new event elements included:

  • Boats on Sydney Harbour, most likely from the Sydney New Year’s Eve 2018 – The Pulse Of Sydney: Harbour Of Light Parade, had a synchronised light show.
  • Overseas Passenger Terminal was used for fireworks
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge had an synchronised light show
  • Sydney Opera House was used for fireworks

If you missed ‘Australia Day Live’, the full 2 hour event can be seen below:

‘Australia Day Live’ is the concluding event of  ‘Australia Day In Sydney’, which is also getting larger. But notably, the overall event will have to for ‘Australia Day Live’ to get any larger.

‘Australia Day Live’ is completely focused on Circular Quay except briefly for the Hercules aircraft flare dispense. For it to break the boundaries of Circular Quay, significant crowds would need to appear at Mrs Macquaries Point, Bradfield Park & Mary Booth Lookout. Just as importantly, more boats would need to be anchored in Farm Cove, near Fort Denision & in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

To allow for larger crowds, crowds need a reason to go there. All these locations are very far from Circular Quay – Mrs Macquaries Point is separated from Circular Quay by the Royal Botanic Gardens, which is closed at night & the other 2 foreshore vantage points are on the other side of the Harbour. People do watch ‘Australia Day Live’ from these locations already but they are not in significant numbers yet. All 3 are, after all, very far away to see anything but fireworks, which mostly happen for 15 minutes at 9:15pm (All times in this article are in Australian Eastern Daylight Time).

Unlike Sydney New Year’s Eve, despite the Sydney Opera House now featuring fireworks for ‘Australia Day Live’, there is no need yet to get there early to get a good spot. Last year’s ‘Australia Day Live’ did reach capacity in Circular Quay but that happened half-way through the concert. As far as we are aware, capacity was not reached this year.

This should signal a drop in attendance. And it is easy to see why. If there is 1 flaw with ‘Australia Day Live’, is that it is a ‘made-for-television’ event. The only good place to see ‘Australia Day Live’ is on television or at the Concert itself (so that means you need a ticket & not just be in the vicinity).

If you are around Circular Quay, most of the 2 hours is spent watching a big screen. You might as well watch it on television. The Circular Quay entertainment is split up into 6 distinct shows:

  1. Welcome/Good Times (7:30pm to 7:39pm)
  2. Tug & Yacht Ballet (7:55pm to 8pm)
  3. Sunset Ceremony (8:20pm to 8:30pm)
  4. Tribute To Opera (8:47pm to 8:50pm)
  5. Circular Quay Party (9:08pm to (9:11pm)
  6. Spectacular (9:15pm to 9:30pm)

That’s about 45 minutes of a 2 hour event spent with actual entertainment in front of you and that is not on a big screen.

You might say ‘What about Sydney New Year’s Eve? There is hours between entertainment for that event’.

The difference is that New Year’s Eve is focused around Midnight. Midnight is the whole point of New Year’s Eve. And since Sydney’s Midnight Fireworks are iconic and world famous, people are willing to wait for not just hours but days to see the 12 minute record-breaking fireworks display.

Australia Day is focused around a day – a whole 24 hours. Since ‘Australia Day Live’, as a Circular Quay event rather than the Concert, is promoted as ‘1 event’ rather than ‘5 separate events followed by 1 major fireworks display at 9:15pm)’, you can’t blame the crowd if they leave because they think it’s either over, repetitive or lengthy & thus, boring. The approximately 20 minute breaks between the entertainment is rather disruptive and given most of the earlier entertainment features fireworks, you can’t blame the crowd if they thought they saw the main fireworks display, thought ‘That’s it???’ and left. The lower attendance might also be because the crowd did the same thing last year but waited until the end of the event that time and thought it wasn’t worth the wait this time (Well, they didn’t know how spectacular it would be).

If you got a ticket and were at the actual Concert, it was fine because you get to watch about 8 live performances over the 2 hours taking place on a stage – not a big screen.

The television/Internet broadcast is the same but also had frequent interviews with Australians & feature pieces on Australians and Australia Day.

Essentially, ‘Australia Day Live’ is made up of 4 parts:

  1. Live musical performances
  2. Interviews
  3. Feature pieces
  4. Circular Quay entertainment

The 1st problem needing to be fixed is the inconsistent Circular Quay entertainment. Either by properly advertising it as 6 events at different times over 2 hours instead of 1 2-hour long event or by shifting all the Circular Quay entertainment into 1 bundle, where possible, near 8:45pm or by adding more Circular Quay entertainment so spectators don’t spend 60% of their time staring at a big screen.

The 2nd problem is only if they want to grow the event. To do this, like we said earlier, they need crowds at vantage points further away from Circular Quay. ‘Australia Day Live’ does not have enough prestige yet to have people wait hours at these locations when a better vantage point still has room right up until the event starts. The only way to get a crowd in these locations to expand the overall ‘Australia Day In Sydney’ event.

‘Australia Day In Sydney’ has several events which have a long & significant history but the day can be broken up into 3 distinct event phases:

  1. WulgulOra Morning Ceremony (7:45am to 8:30am)
  2. Salute To Australia (10:45am to 12:15pm) – This includes the Ferrython, Salute To Australia & Tug & Yacht Ballet
  3. Australia Day Live (6:30pm to 9:30pm)

There is a clear 6 hour gap in notable entertainment. There is entertainment but nothing worth the crowd waiting around for. First is In The Sky, a near 2-hour air show but actually features just 3 flyovers: A half-hour helicopter flag display at around 12:20pm; a Qantas A380 flyover at 1:15pm and the Red Berets parachute display at 2pm.

At 12:45pm, the near-hour long Australia Day Harbour Parade begins.  Similar to Sydney New Year’s Eve’s Harbour Of Light Parade, the only difference is that it doesn’t feature lights – just decorations. A big problem is the lack of exclusion zone (for obvious reasons) which cause the Parade to blend in with other Harbour traffic. Also, as it is a Parade, despite lasting nearly an hour, a spectator only sees it for a few minutes.

At 1pm, there is the Tall Ships Race.This is probably something worthy of waiting around for but unlike the Ferrython, it doesn’t start & finish in the same place so unless you are on a boat, you would see either the start or finish but not both. With the finish being the better option to see and the race concluding at around 1:30pm, the near 75 minute wait after the Salute To Australia phase isn’t seen worth it by spectators particularly if they can see the race from another vantage point. They can be on the go.

Essentially, everything between 12:15pm and 2pm, is just watching boats and (very few) aerial displays.

Between 1:30pm and 2pm, the races of the Australia Day Regatta begin near Shark Island. This is a 3 hour event and takes up most of the time before Australia Day Live, finishing no later than 5pm at Shark Island. The fact the race course heads east of Shark Island means it is very far away from the rest of the ‘Australia Day In Sydney’ events and crowds aren’t willing to travel kilometres from Circular Quay to an event that can’t watch (and back) because the Regatta takes up tens of square kilometres stretching from Shark Island to Manly meaning there is no other land vantage point worthy of watching the event from than Shark Island, the start & finish line of the Regatta (so there is limited capacity). The fact the event has several races and intersecting courses means watching from the land can be confusing unless you are at Shark Island too.

So naturally, this means between 2pm and 6:30pm can be rather empty on Sydney Harbour on Australia Day.

But the International Fleet Review Spectactular had just ‘boats and planes’ in the afternoon and lots of people watched that? Yes but it had an ‘anchor’ event – the Spectacular at 7:40pm, which was the biggest multi-medium event on Sydney Harbour at the time. People were waiting all day for that. It provided momentum to the fireworks. Australia Day Live, as we detailed before, isn’t that prestigious yet that people will wait hours for it particularly if the entertainment in the meantime is far away or ‘just passing’.

In the morning between the WulgulOra Morning Ceremony & the Salute To Australia phases, the 10 Kilometre Wheelchair Race in The Rocks, held at 9am, provides suitable entertainment between those 2 phases as it gives a worthy reason for crowds to travel from Barangaroo Reserve, where the Ceremony is held, to Circular Quay, where the Salute To Australia phase is roughly based, so whilst they wait for that next phase to begin, there is at least some ‘half-time’ entertainment that they can watch for a while as it is held on a circuit.

So ‘Australia Day In Sydney’ between 12:15pm & 2pm is entertainment that can be done whilst ‘roaming’ whilst after 2pm, it is rather easily ignored and after 5pm, well there is definitely no entertainment until 6:30pm.

What ‘Australia Day In Sydney’ needs to do, along with our earlier suggestion, is to reorganise the day’s events to the best of their ability so that it provides momentum to the fireworks. These events, ideally held in the late afternoon (but preferably held consistently &/or where relevant all day. After all, it is Australia DAY) and located near Bradfield Park, Mary Booth Lookout & Mrs Macquaries Point, would give crowds a reason to wait there for the fireworks for hours and if the fireworks are just as spectacular as this year and the Concert is fixed up so that people aren’t staring at screens for an hour, it may become prestigious enough that people will wait there for the fireworks, watching that newly placed entertainment and thus allowing the fireworks display to get bigger since more vantage points are now being utilised.

It will take time. There is nothing wrong with the ideas of the existing events – the overall program just needs reconfiguring to allow future growth and again, this will take time. At least 2 years. But if it is delayed & thus affects ‘Australia Day In Sydney’ 2020, it may temporarily halt the overall growth or worse, reverse the trend of growth in ‘Australia Day In Sydney’. That would be disappointing and just when things were getting Spectacular! At least it gave us hope that the annual ‘Sydney Spectaculars’ aren’t declining like we recently thought.

And do not forget the other 2 major challenges for the event – the domestic target audience & the date. But we detailed that in our last article

Anyway, in other news…

Sydney Lunar Festival

Tonight, the Sydney Lunar Festival starts. Formally called the Sydney Chinese New Year Festival, the Sydney Harbour Bridge will be lit in festive red & pink every night during the Festival from 8:15pm until 1am in celebration of the Lunar New Year & The Year Of The Pig. The Festival’s final night is on February the 10th.

It is expected the Sydney Opera House will be illuminated red again for the Festival as per tradition.

A fireworks display will accompany the illuminations turning on for the 1st time during the 2019 festival. To occur between 8pm & 9pm, mostly likely at 8:15pm, the fireworks display occurs somewhere on Sydney Harbour, most likely in Farm Cove & will feature most likely just a single barge. It will feature aerial shell fireworks up to 150 millimetres in size.


Again, this concludes our posts. We may return in December to post if Australia Day Live 2020 is announced to be similar to this year’s (that is, Sydney Opera House fireworks &/or Sydney Harbour Bridge light show)

In the meantime, we will just be adding future event information as it arrives on our site, which we will be refreshing over time.

Also in the meantime, we will continue to work to turn this site into a ‘museum’ of the ‘Sydney Spectaculars’. A new chapter may have just begun with Australia Day Live

Lastly for your information, here are some known milestones to look forward to this year:

  • Until 10th February – Sydney Lunar Festival (Sydney Harbour Bridge & Opera House red &/or pink illuminations)
  • Mid-March – Vivid Sydney 2019 media launch
  • 8:30pm 30 March – Earth Hour (Lights of landmarks are turned off for 1 hour)
  • 7:30pm, 22 March to 21 April – Handa Opera On Sydney Harbour: West Side Story (A nightly performance on Sydney Harbour complete with fireworks. Tickets on sale now) ***FIRST TIME THEY ARE DOING A MUSICAL***
  • 6 to 12 May – United Nations Global Road Safety Week – Leadership In Road Safety (Yellow Sydney Harbour Bridge illumination)
  • 24 May to 15 June – Vivid Sydney
  • 27 October – Diwali (Yellow-gold Sydney Opera House illumination)
  • 11 November – Remembrance Day (Projections of poppies on the Sydney Opera House)
  • 23 780ikj to 26 December – Sydney Christmas (Christmas-themed projection & light shows with a few fireworks displays)
  • Early December – Sydney New Year’s Eve 2019 Media Launch
  • Mid December – Australia Day In Sydney 2020 Program Announced
  • Late December – Sydney New Year’s Eve 2019 White Bay Media Call
  • 31st December – Sydney New Year’s Eve 2019

The above may change as whilst most are annual events, some have not yet been formally announced as occurring this year.

And remember, nearly every night this year, you can see Badu Gili (a projection show on the Bennelong sail of the Sydney Opera House), a projection show on the Australian National Maritime Museum & a light show on Luna Park Sydney’s Ferris Wheel. There are also occasional simple fireworks displays on Sydney Harbour including the regular Saturday night fireworks in Darling Harbour (Yes, they have returned!).

So until next time, goodbye!

Is ‘Australia Day In Sydney’ On The Verge Of Becoming A ‘Flagship’ ‘Sydney Spectacular’?

That’s right – we are back!

We did not think we will be back so soon to writing full posts.

But alas, this will be temporary as this particular event we are going to discuss in this post only gets attention between December & January…mainly January.

That’s right – it’s the event that will be held tomorrow – Australia Day In Sydney.

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, particularly in our previous post, the ‘Sydney Spectaculars’ (as we like to call them) are in decline. There have been only 2 annual ‘flagship’ Sydney Spectaculars ever:

  • Sydney New Year’s Eve (1976 to 1986 & 1989 to the present) and
  • Vivid Sydney (2009 to the present)

The latter is in decline due to attendance beginning to lower due to well the event looking the same and very large crowds (though the latter will likely reduce as the attendance reduces) whilst the former is in decline due to a sudden increase in commercialisation which will, in the future, threat the financing of the event. The commercialisation of Sydney New Year’s Eve will possibly increase even more in this year’s edition.

Coincidentally, Australia Day In Sydney has been the opposite. It has been growing. Here’s the history of, not the date, but the ‘Sydney Spectacular’ side of the day…

On New Year’s Eve (NYE) 1986, a mass murder occurred in The Rocks. This resulted in the cancellation of Sydney NYE as the violence had been growing over the previous 7 years but until then, no murders had occurred.

The cancellation caught Sydneysiders off guard. Seats on NYE cruises were still being sold despite the cancellation being already announced. Suddenly, Sydney had no massive fireworks display & the City pretty much couldn’t cope (figure of speech).

The cancellation was expected to last a few years. Luckily, the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the 1st Fleet was just over a year away so Stephen Hall, the 1986 Sydney NYE director thought ‘Instead of waiting 2 years, why not have 1 giant display on the 26th January 1988 to celebrate the anniversary?’. And that’s what happened:

This was Sydney’s & Australia’s largest fireworks display at the time. It saw the 1st use of the Sydney Harbour Bridge’s upper arch & whilst, in retrospect, you can the technical standards of the Bridge sequence wasn’t as precise and perfect as today, for the time, it was state of the art & left a memorable imprint of the display in the minds of Sydneysiders to this day. Such a imprint that many Sydneysiders consider that display to be bigger than any current Sydney NYE display (I know, right?).

Australia Day In Sydney wasn’t as big after then. Sydney NYE returned the next year & the Bridge returned in 1990 but as part of the NYE display only. I don’t need to tell you all how the history of Sydney NYE evolved from then onwards.

Australia Day In Sydney‘s fireworks displays spread out across Sydney in 1989 to 3 locations: Parramatta, The Domain & Darling Harbour. The latter one grew into the Australia Day Spectacular which lasted until 2017 & became a ‘Sydney Spectacular’ after The Games Of The XXVIIth Olympiad: Sydney 2000. The former two either became a separate event to Australia Day In Sydney or eventually didn’t exist.

In 2014, Australia Day In Sydney re-introduced fireworks on Sydney Harbour for the 1st time since 1988 as part of the P&O cruise ships appearance. This continued until 2016.

Also in 2016, a new nationally-televised concert titled Australia Day – Live At Sydney Opera House was introduced which featured a fireworks display in Circular Quay at it’s conclusion. This was the 1st nationally-televised Australia Day In Sydney fireworks display since 1988 & the most fireworks displays held as part of Australia Day In Sydney (3 – Darling Harbour, Athol Bay (P&O Cruise Ships) & Circular Quay) since 1989.

2017 saw 2 fireworks displays (Darling Harbour & Circular Quay) & the un-eventuated rumour of green & gold projections on the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons & the Sydney Opera House.

2018 saw just Circular Quay fireworks held across 2 simultaneous events, the Australia Day – Live At The Sydney Opera House concert & the new Live At The Quay!. The latter has been combined with the former for tomorrow’s edition (though this was the case pretty much in 2018) with it now called simply Australia Day Live.

No doubt the trend showed fireworks in Sydney Harbour on Australia Day were going to become a more regular and more major occurrence and now we are here, 2019, and is it about to become the 3rd ‘flagship’ ‘Sydney Spectacular’?

As you all know, there have been 2 major changes already announced. Firstly, a change in television broadcaster. The past 3 years have been Network 10, now it is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. And, secondly, the ‘WugulOra Morning Ceremony’ will be broadcast for the 1st time ever. But here are the newest changes this year that could see it make the ‘flagship’ criteria in the next few years:

Radio Broadcasts Return

That’s right. If you are down by the Harbour, 89.3 FM will broadcast the audio soundtracks of both Australia Day Live (from 6:30pm, concert begins at 7:32pm) and Salute To Australia (from 11:30am). However, there is a chance this will include an audio description and thus, is designed for people with impaired vision. The Australia Day In Sydney website does not make this clear. However, it could signal that the event may be about to get large in the future as radio is accessible from many locations. The event is currently restricted to Circular Quay, which isn’t a large enough space deserving of a radio broadcast (except for people with impaired vision). The audio description service may be there to test the waters for future & more larger non-audio description radio broadcasts. You can listen to the soundtracks & audio description online by clicking here.

Lights Seen On The Sydney Harbour Bridge

Vivid-like lights on the Sydney Harbour Bridge appeared 2 nights ago. They were not there the previous nights nor last night & they are not the Sydney NYE lights. They stayed the same purple colour all night. Why? We can only guess. Australia Day Live will feature a light show but we didn’t expect one on the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

We can confirm clearly there will be no fireworks on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Hercules Flare Dispense

The Royal Australian Air Force has confirmed a flare dispense from a Hercules aircraft will occur above the Sydney Harbour Bridge at 8pm tomorrow night.

Could this be an unofficial ‘reenactment’ of sorts of the iconic F-111 flyover that occurred during The Games Of The XXVIIth Olympiad: Sydney 2000 – Closing Night Harbour Spectacular? The only difference being no fireworks – just a light show?

The last time a flare dispense occurred on Sydney Harbour was in 2013 for the International Fleet Review Spectacular and that was just from Squirrel helicopters!

Don’t know what a Hercules aircraft looks like nor what a flare dispense is?

Well here it is (Flare dispenses are usually done to ensure no heat-seeking weaponry is active and/or will strike the aircraft):

Let’s hope it is just as spectacular!

The Future…

Without a doubt if a light show on the Sydney Harbour Bridge appears tomorrow, Australia Day In Sydney could become a new ‘flagship’ ‘Sydney Spectacular’ in the next few years. The Australia Day Live part of the event will definitely be a ‘flagship’ ‘Sydney Spectacular’ tomorrow if the Sydney Harbour Bridge light show occurs.

TIP: The best vantage point most likely would be the south-western corner of the Sydney Opera House. Thus, allowing you a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay big screen, performances and fireworks & the Concert (located directly behind at the Sydney Opera House’s Southern Forecourt).

The televisual broadcast of the event will need to be improved as the current version of the event does not rate well due to many factors – most notably the fact that Australians are already at their own local Australia Day event. The concert’s line-up is very repetitive due to the fact that most are former singing contest-reality television winners – they have been seen on television too much. They used the same formula during the XXIst Commonwealth Games: Gold Coast 2018 – Closing Ceremony & look how that turned out. It is no wonder that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s NYE concerts have been successful –  it features artists you rarely see on television. The crowds around Circular Quay during the Australia Day Live concert though are large enough for that portion of the event to be rated as a ‘flagship’ ‘Sydney Spectacular’ if the Sydney Harbour Bridge light show occurs during it but not the overall Australia Day In Sydney event …yet.

The overall event still has a low & inconsistent attendance with crowds coming and going throughout the day due to a focus on just the Circular Quay part of Sydney Harbour, events held in many parts of the city and an inconsistent event schedule. You need to always travel when celebrating Australia Day in Sydney. There is no ‘sit down & relax until the fireworks’ like with Sydney NYE which is odd as “sitting down by the Harbour” is quintessentially Australian. Isn’t that what you do on Australia Day then?

Assuming tomorrow’s event is as big as we think it could be, future years could be even bigger. And, if the daytime entertainment is organised in a way that provides momentum to the fireworks, celebrating Australia Day In Sydney may become a ‘must-do’ event.

But there is a problem.

Well, two problems.

Domestic Audience

If the event gets large, it will only be of interest to Australians unless international audiences still just want to see a large fireworks display or light/projection show on Sydney Harbour once in their lives. Sydney NYE is very universal, which is why we at ‘Sydney Spectaculars’ call it ‘The World’s Party’ whilst Australia Day In Sydney is not. It is a very nationalistic event and that is understandable. Australians are likely to be the only ones wanting to attend. However, 1 strength of Australia is that we are the most successful multicultural country on Earth. If the event focuses on Australia’s growing multiculturalism, it may become a more universal event & be more encouraging for international audiences to visit. It is probably a universal truth that Australians produce the best parties (excluding the XXIst Commonwealth Games: Gold Coast 2018 – Closing Ceremony) so we are very confident Australia Day In Sydney could be as successful as Sydney NYE if done correctly.

The Date

As the date of 'Australia Day' is a sensitive issue, if there are any inaccuracies in the section below, just kindly contact us and we will consider your message and rectify anything that we believe makes the below section more historically accurate.

Since 2017, there has been a growing debate on when should Australia Day be held. It is the day when we celebrate Australia. However, there are people who feel the date should be redesignated as it is also the anniversary of when the Indigenous people of the land began to lose their sovereignty due to the arrival of permanent European settlement. We at Sydney Spectaculars pride on historical accuracy so here is the history of the date of Australia Day as far as we are aware.

Since 1901, public holidays in Australia have not been under the control of Australia but the individual Australian states & territories so any change in date must come from each individual state and territory. Australia could place control of public holidays under the Australian Parliament if a constitutional referendum was held to alter the constitution to give the Australian Parliament that power though.

Australia was formed on January 1st 1901 but it was not until the early 1930’s that the States & territories of the Commonwealth Of Australia, one by one, decided to celebrate ‘Australia Day’, a day that celebrates Australia, on the Monday during a long weekend near the 26th January. This meant a previous public holiday of only the state of New South Wales (NSW), called ‘First Landing Day’ or ‘Anniversary Day’ and which was held on exactly the 26th January would be cancelled. That former public holiday celebrated the landing of the 1st Fleet at what is now called Sydney so a clear linkage to the anniversary of the 1st Fleet’s Arrival remained in regards to ‘Australia Day’. ‘First Landing Day’ or ‘Anniversary Day’ was first celebrated in 1818 but it became an annual celebration in 1838.

The date was chosen with that previous public holiday in mind even though the new public holiday was meant to celebrate solely Australia, whose anniversary of it’s creation is January 1st, over 4 weeks prior.

On the 26th January in 1788, the United Kingdom (UK) via Captain Arthur Phillip of the 1st Fleet took possession of the land, which was already home to many Indigenous peoples. The colony of NSW, which was part of the United Kingdom (UK), was not created by Captain Arthur Phillip for nearly another 2 weeks. Nevertheless, the landing of the 1st Fleet at Sydney marked the beginning of a dramatic change in the environment the Indigenous peoples lived in. A change that is still occurring to this day though improvements have been made to rectify certain things (For example, now there are native title claims).

The UK considered the Indigenous population as already ‘British subjects’ (even though the Indigenous population obviously did not know that nor probably did not want to be considered as such anyway at the time) & wanted to establish friendly relations with them but Captain Arthur Phillip did kidnap a few Indigenous people, most notably Bennalong, to ‘establish relations with the overall Indigenous population’ and conflict between the 2 cultures began in the months after the 1st Fleet’s arrival. The arrival of disease dramatically decreased the Indigenous population too though this was accidental. More conflicts & what was later termed, The Stolen Generations, deepened the rift since then though and have prevented the reconciliation between the Indigenous peoples & Australia and the United Kingdom though an apology to The Stolen Generations on behalf of Australia to the Indigenous peoples was issued in 2008.

In 1938, the Indigenous population of Australia called the 26th January a ‘Day Of Mourning’ (because it was the 150th anniversary of the 1st Fleet’s arrival) and from 1988, ‘Invasion Day’. It should be noted that whilst the United Kingdom and later, Australia, always considered the Indigenous population as one of them (that is, British subjects or Australian citizens, despite the Indigenous population not having full citizen/subject rights until the late 1960’s), the Indigenous peoples were & are still ‘separate’ despite living in the same locations or sharing multiple ‘citizenships’ & cultures. Formal recognition of the Indigenous culture & reconciliation between the Indigenous peoples & Australia and the United Kingdom still has to be realised to this day. The United Kingdom formally separated from Australia in 1986. However, they still share the same Monarch, who holds the title of Queen in each country separately.

If there was any doubt about what the date of ‘Australia Day’ symbolised or what the public holiday was celebrating, it was removed in 1988, when all States and territories decided for just that year that ‘Australia Day’ would be celebrated on exactly the 26th January as 1988 was the Bicentenary of the 1st Fleet’s arrival. So this means that evidence shows that as late as 1988 ‘Australia Day’  was celebrated to commemorate the anniversary of the 1st Fleet’s arrival to Sydney rather than Australia.

In 1994, ‘Australia Day’ was moved to exactly the 26th January permanently, most likely for the same reason as the 1988 date change. The only difference being that it wasn’t the 200th anniversary anymore.

In 2016, debate began about what is the right date to celebrate ‘Australia Day’, a day that celebrates Australia. Local governments & Triple J rescheduled their celebrations to days not on the 26th January. The Federal Government threatened local governments that they will remove the right to host citizenship ceremonies as part of their ‘Australia Day’ celebrations if those celebrations are not held exactly on the 26th January. This is a hypocritical view since ‘Australia Day’, for most of it’s history, has not been held on the 26th January exactly. In 2019, this escalated with the Federal Government announcing new rules for citizenship ceremonies which will be implemented in 2020. This probably signals that as late as mid-2016,  most Australians celebrate ‘Australia Day’ for the 1st Fleet arrival anniversary rather than for Australia.

Nevertheless, the trend of the past 2 and a half years shows that a shift in when ‘Australia Day’ should be held is occurring. However, for now, it is only occurring in certain places and particularly in the youth population.

The date is currently the greatest threat to ‘Australia Day In Sydney’ becoming a ‘flagship’ ‘Sydney Spectacular’ as public opinion is shifting rapidly. It’s hard to organise an event without knowing which date it is on & if anyone will attend anyway.

It’s probably fate that 26th January (or any date between the 20th January & 7th February, the date the colony of NSW was formally created) will not be the date ‘Australia Day’ will be celebrated on some time in the future. Some people may feel that 26th January is significant, some don’t. Dates mean different things to different people. To be united as 1 country on 1 day, we need to all come together. If the day we are meant to be united as 1 country is the day we are disunited as 1 country, then something is clearly out of place. Understanding, recognition, reconciliation and unity will help Australia decide an alternative date between the 2nd February & 19th January. We all just have to try.

This, along with the multiculturalism focus we spoke of earlier, will allow ‘Australia Day In Sydney’ to become a ‘flagship’ ‘Sydney Spectacular’ without any issues. It will take time but it is on the verge.

As the date of 'Australia Day' is a sensitive issue, if there are any inaccuracies in the section above, just kindly contact us and we will consider your message and rectify anything that we believe makes the above section more historically accurate.


‘Sydney Spectaculars’ To End

It is the blog this time.

This blog had to end sometime. We also want to leave on a high.

Over the past 18 months, we have published articles speculating the end of the 2 main ‘Sydney Spectaculars’: Vivid Sydney & Sydney New Year’s Eve (NYE).

We also made a Facebook post questioning the creativity of Sydney New Year’s Eve nowadays.

And who can forget this?

All of these combined make us believe this is the ‘peak’ of Sydney Spectaculars – the 2017 editions of Vivid Sydney & Sydney New Year’s Eve.

Our Vivid Sydney article came true this year with the 1st ever drop of attendance in Vivid’s history. It was less of a drop than we predicted (prediction – about 1,000,000; actual – about 20,000) but nevertheless, it was the first ever attendance drop for Vivid Sydney.

Sydney NYE has also had it’s attendance drop by a million since 2013. However, we believe that was due to reasons not related to the popularity of the event.

As we wrote in our article, with the rapid ticketing of the event this year and the potential ‘full’ ‘commercialisation’ of the event possibly into the next few years, Australian taxpayers & Sydney ratepayers though may question their funding of the event leaving the future of the event in the balance as these people will likely want to be able to enter an event they are funding for.

The media launch of Sydney NYE2018 – The Pulse Of Sydney a few days ago also revealed a massive budget decline for the event. Last year was AUD$7 million, now it is AUD$6 million – a drop of about a million Australian dollars.

Some of that drop can be attributed to the cancellation of the Very Important Person Viewing Area at Hickson Road Reserve this year.

Whilst what we published in our article is concerning for the event’s future, there is a possibility that most Sydneysiders won’t realise what we detailed in the article until the morning of the event prompting anger from Sydneysiders who thought that access to most of the good vantage points were still mostly based on who arrived at the location first – not who reserved tickets first. They might then realise that there are not really any good vantage points left to access (even though there are still vantage points left to access) further accelerating that anger especially since they planned a day of looking a good view.

Some might even just give up and go home and watch it on television or the Internet.

And that anger might mar this year’s event.

In the end, it depends on how many Sydneysiders attend the event on the day and how aware they are of the newly ticketed vantage points.

Regardless of what happens, we do not want to write articles about the slow decline of these 2 major events.

We provided warnings in the form of our 2 articles and it’s up to the City Of Sydney & Destination New South Wales to respond accordingly.

In 2016, we were in the midst of writing a warning about the potential of a crowd crush disaster at Vivid Sydney, when that exact thing occurred. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured. So our warnings should be heeded. We don’t want to write an article every few months stating ‘Vivid & Sydney NYE have problems. Fix them before it’s too late. Don’t know how? Here is our advice’.

Most of all, we don’t want to have to write an article saying ‘The party is cancelled…permanently…again’ or ‘The lights are off…permanently’. That would be a sad day.

But a good reason to stop writing articles is that it frees up room to upload more historical footage of these events.

Viewing historical footage of these events is what most visitors do our blog so we’ve decided to turn our site more into a ‘museum’ of the ‘Sydney Spectaculars’.  For starters, we will slowly move the videos on our YouTube channel (which eventually we will remove) to this website & of course, add this to this website videos of this and future year’s Sydney NYE, Vivid Sydney & other ‘Sydney Spectaculars’. We will update each event edition’s page with new information when it is available instead of posting the media releases in full from now. So, for this year’s Sydney NYE only, we will provide updates on that event edition’s fireworks soundtrack page as well as by posting on Facebook a direct link to the media releases as they arrive. Every other edition of a ‘Sydney Spectacular’ will have updates on their event edition’s page only.

Also, here is some information about this year’s Sydney NYE that you probably missed due to our lack of posts this year:

  • There is a chance there will only be 2 pyrotechnic displays in Sydney NYE for the 1st time since 2007 as fireworks are not mentioned in the descriptions for the Welcome To Country/Indigenous Smoking Ceremony at 7:30pm or the new Calling Country immediately after the 9pm Family Fireworks.
  • There is a high chance the 10 year Royal Australian Mint partnership with Sydney NYE to produce a yearly Sydney NYE coin has ended after 5 years. The coins are usually revealed in early November (except in the 1st year when it was revealed at the event’s media launch). If the coin isn’t revealed on December 31st, that pretty much guarantees these coins have ceased being minted.

There may be more information (which if there is, we will publish here) but we are pretty confident the rest was covered in the media launch a few days ago.

And, for the record, no information about the fireworks soundtracks has been revealed yet.

In the future, we will also still answer all questions that you send to us.

Again, apologies to all our Sydney Spectaculars followers for not posting any stories and responding to queries received over the past 9 months. We will respond to the queries received over the past 9 months shortly.

Lastly, we want to thank all our followers. It is nice to know there is an audience out there who consider Sydney NYE as more than ‘just a fireworks display’. The blog wouldn’t have been worth writing without you all. From 2011, when we began as a YouTube channel display historic footage of Sydney NYE, your requests for information about the next year’s theme, fireworks soundtracks and more led to the creation of this full blog, which coincided with the addition of Vivid Sydney and an expansion of the meaning of what can be considered as a ‘Sydney Spectacular’. This made the blog an all-year exercise. Whilst we know you are all still enthusiastic about the events, we believe the events are about to begin a decline and that’s why we believe it’s a good time to finish blogging. We don’t want to write, over many years, the decline of these events.

If the ‘Sydney Spectaculars’ are on the way up again, the blog may resume in the future…maybe. So we are still hoping things will improve.

To conclude, we hope you all have a happy new year!

A Great Aussie Welcome For 2019

Sydney Harbour will come to life on New Year’s Eve with a five-minute mini-movie animation inspired by the Aussie music anthem, ‘Great Southern Land’.

Created with award-winning Australian pop duo, Client Liaison, the new music moment at 11pm will see the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons illuminated with Australian beach scenes, the outback and a dramatic setting sun.

The original song ‘Great Southern Land’ was a huge early ’80s hit by rock group Icehouse, evoking the Australian landscape, heritage and identity.

‘Client Liaison’ with Lord Mayor Clover Moore Photograph: City Of Sydney

Lord Mayor Clover Moore today announced the theme of New Year’s Eve 2018 – ‘the Pulse of Sydney’.

“Every New Year’s Eve, the world watches as Sydney becomes the first city to ring in the New Year,” the Lord Mayor said.

“No other night reflects the pulse of Sydney quite like New Year’s Eve – with more than one million people coming together around our beautiful Sydney Harbour and more than one billion people celebrating with us worldwide.

“Fireworks Director Fortunato Foti never fails to impress with bigger and brighter fireworks displays and Creative Director Rhoda Roberts has created a new ritual, ‘Calling Country,’ to welcome all to Gadigal land.”

As the animation plays on the bridge, Client Liaison will perform ‘Great Southern Land’ as part of the ABC New Year’s Eve concert, The Night Is Yours, at the Sydney Opera House. This will be broadcast on the ABC and live-streamed on sydneynewyearseve.com.

Client Liaison’s Monte Morgan and Harvey Miller described the Sydney New Year’s Eve collaboration as a creative dream.

“No city on earth does New Year’s Eve like Sydney. To be part of this amazing night as musicians is incredible. To have a creative role as artists is an absolute buzz,” said vocalist Monte Morgan.

“We had so much fun helping create the Australiana animation, and I can’t wait to see our concept beamed on the biggest and most beautiful canvas you could ever hope to have,” said keyboardist Harvey Miller.

Not to be outdone, the fireworks displays at 9pm and midnight will include never-before-seen fireworks effects, with more fireworks than ever before.

This year, more than 8.5 tonnes of fireworks will be used to create dramatic displays across Sydney Harbour – 500kg more than in 2017.

There will be 35,000 shooting comets – 5,000 more than last year – and 13,000 shells lighting up the night with never-before-seen firework effects.

Fireworks director, Fortunato Foti, revealed there will be more than 100,000 individual pyrotechnic effects on the night, with 1,000 more effects shooting from the Harbour Bridge this year.

“Our ‘pulse of Sydney’ theme has inspired new fireworks effects. For the first time we’ve created pulsating fireworks that you’ll see in dramatic new star shapes,” said Mr Foti.

“We’re also introducing wave effect fireworks, where the colour moves across the display rather than the traditional explosion from the centre of the firework.

“And to celebrate summer, we’ve created fireworks featuring new lime and peach colours to brighten the show.”

Sydney New Year’s Eve 2018 – ‘The Pulse Of Sydney’ Media Launch Photograph: City Of Sydney

An age-old Aboriginal tradition of Calling Country will see Sydney mark the International Year of Indigenous languages in 2019.

The Calling Country ritual will welcome all to Sydney and Gadigal land. The ceremony will be captured in a series of stunning animated projections, including water, birds, fish and plants beamed onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons.

Sydney New Year’s Eve creative director, Rhoda Roberts AO, said the cultural protocol “has been updated for the 21st century”, with real significance for the new year.

“UNESCO has named 2019 the International Year of Indigenous languages, so I think it is fitting that we end our new-look welcome in words of the Gadigal we can all embrace,” Ms Roberts said.

The Sydney New Year’s Eve event is included in the scope of greenhouse gas emissions measured and offset by the City as part of its annual assessment.

Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks are manufactured from biodegradable paper and compounds that dissipate after use to minimise the environmental impact. We also draw on improved technology, energy saving LED and low wattage lighting.

The City of Sydney New Year’s Eve event times:

6pm – Air displays start above Sydney Harbour by flying ace Matt Hall and Scott Bretland
7pm – Fire tug presents its water display on Sydney Harbour
7.30pm – Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony on the Sydney Harbour by the Tribal Warrior Association
8pm – Air displays continue above Sydney Harbour
8.30pm – Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon and bridge effects start
9pm – Family fireworks (8 minutes) includes the ABC Design Your Own Firework competition firework display
9.08pm – Calling Country segment honouring Australia’s Indigenous heritage
9.15pm – Harbour of Light Parade starts
11pm – New music moment
12am – Midnight fireworks (12 minutes)
1am – Sydney Harbour Bridge lighting effects end
2am – Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon projections end

Media Release: City Of Sydney

ABC New Year’s Eve 2018…The Night is Yours

ABC ready to rock in the New Year!

ABC is thrilled to announce that once again Charlie Pickering and Zan Rowe will be counting down to 2019 when they host ABC’s New Year’s Eve coverage live from the Sydney Opera House, featuring a star-studded concert. Joining the musical line up will be talented all-rounder Tim Minchin, pop singer Christine Anu and the original Daddy Cool Ross Wilson.

They will star alongside internationally renowned singer-songwriter Ben Folds, Aussie rocker Daryl Braithwaite, Casey Donovan, Isabella Manfredi (Preatures), pop duo Client Liaison, Indigenous Hip Hop artist Baker Boy, soul singer Kaiit and drummer extraordinaire turned solo artist, G Flip.

As well as their favourite songs, our performers will be singing songs from a party playlist that’s been voted for by the Australian public.

With special guests appearing and the sensational midnight fireworks over Sydney Harbour, capping off the night, it’s going to be a night not to be missed.

But before the concert kicks off, Rove McManus is taking over hosting duties of New Year’s Eve: The Early Night Show. Rove will be joined by Hoot and Hootabelle, Jimmy Giggle, Grace Koh, Jemima, Big Ted and the Design Your Own Fireworks Competition winner as well as other special guests. With lots of music, including performances by Zindzi and Dami Im, and the Family Fireworks to look forward to, it promises to be a fun night for the whole family.

Rove And Hoot Photograph: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

New Year’s Eve: The Early Night Show starts at 8.30pm

ABC New Year’s Eve…The Night is Yours coverage starts at 9.30pm

Media Release: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Sydney New Year’s Eve: SOLD OUT

Now firstly, to be clear, not all the vantage points of Sydney New Year’s Eve (NYE) are sold out or reached capacity already.

Just mostly the good ones.

This year has seen an expansion of ticketed vantage points that now see some of the most iconic views of the event now sold out over a month before the event is held.  These views include areas where you could choose a spot to sit on the morning of the event.

Some of these ticketed areas aren’t paid areas too. That is, it is free of charge but you can still book a ticket.

So, this Sydney NYE, where were you planning to watch the fireworks from?


View From Blues Point Reserve
Photograph: City Of Sydney

Sorry, sold out on the 22nd of November. What about here?:

View From Campbell’s Cove During Sydney NYE. Photograph: City Of Sydney

Sorry, that’s sold out too in early November. What about here?:

View From East Circular Quay. Photograph: City Of Sydney

Yeah, same as that last one – sold out.

Wait!!!! So where can I watch the fireworks????

The remaining spots are either very far away, got poor views, got very limited space of good views or cost heaps for a ticket. This year, 2.5 of the 7 kilometres of Sydney Harbour foreshore that provides a perfect view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge will be non-ticketed.

The 2 remaining spots we can recommend as allowing you to have a fair chance of getting a good view include Mary Booth Lookout… (If you don’t know where that is, here is the view):

View From Mary Booth Lookout. Photograph: City Of Sydney

This location has a capacity of 4500 people and last year, reached capacity at 2pm. Given the lack of good vantage points, this could reach capacity earlier this year.

…and the Sydney Opera House, which has a capacity of 7000 people and last year, reached capacity at 1pm. Like with Mary Booth Lookout, we expect this area to reach capacity earlier this year. This one particularly due to East Circular Quay being sold out already.

View Of The Midnight Fireworks Finale From Sydney Opera House Photograph: Sydney Opera House

So what’s wrong with the other vantage points?

Well, using the Sydney Opera House for starters, the only free sections are in a small corner on the north-western side of the Northern Forecourt and most of the Southern Forecourt.

Despite being a free vantage point, in the past decade, most of the Sydney Opera House has become ticketed.

  • Most of the Northern Forecourt is now home to a paid ticketed concert for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s broadcast of Sydney NYE. However, proceeds from ticketing go to charity.
  • The actual building is used for paid ticketed events.
  • The western side of the Sydney Opera House is mostly home to paid ticketed functions.

And obviously, if you are on the eastern side of the Sydney Opera House, you cannot see the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You will still see 3 barges of pyrotechnics, which whilst it is impressive, it isn’t what you went to the event for. You went for the Bridge.

Ok. So what about Mrs Macquaries Point?

That is mostly covered by trees or facing away from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Again, only a very small portion of that Point has a good view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and that is right on the tip of the point. The whole western side of the Point is now mostly paid ticketed functions & these aren’t covered by trees. Queuing up overnight outside the Art Gallery Of New South Wales (NSW) for this vantage point has happened for a long time but since the paid ticketed functions were introduced, getting a good view at Mrs Macquaries Point is more prized because only a few would get a good view.

Where else then?


  • Dawes Point – Sharp angle of Bridge & very crowded.
  • Hickson Road Reserve – Paid ticketed
  • Bradfield Park – Very sharp angle of Bridge & very crowded.
  • The Rocks – Buildings cover most of view & very crowded.
  • First Fleet Park – Crowded but you can’t see the Bridge at all.
  • Circular Quay Promenade – If you want to see a ferry terminal instead.
  • Cremorne Point – The lower half of the Bridge is blocked by the Kirribilli headland. If you want to see the iconic waterfall effect, don’t go here. From here, you will see most of the fireworks from the Bridge & from a couple of barges though.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens – (Paid) Ticketed and mostly good views. Good view of Bridge only if Sydney Opera House doesn’t block view.

What about the vantage points west of the Bridge?

The eastern side of the Bridge is the ‘show’ side of the Bridge. Most things happen on the eastern side of the Bridge so you’re very likely to miss a lot of entertainment on the western side of the Bridge. This doesn’t mean the fireworks won’t look spectacular – they just won’t be as good as compared to the eastern side.

Given Blues Point Reserve is now paid ticketed, vantage points in the town of East Balmain are now your best free option on the western side of the Bridge. However, they are not as iconic as Blues Point Reserve and have no view of the Sydney Opera House.

Are there more good vantage points on the east of the Bridge?

No…unless you are prepared to pay or want a distant view. The best location far away from the Bridge is Bradley’s Head but all that is paid ticketed. Strickland House has an iconic view (It is used in the television broadcasts). However, it is no longer an official vantage point & to watch the fireworks from there requires a paid ticket.

So, yeah, pretty much every good vantage point is gone. Only about 12,000 lucky people will get a good free vantage point on the day.

Ok. Well, I’m going to Mary Booth Lookout for NYE2019.

Hang on. Sorry, to break the bad news, but North Sydney Council is currently considering making all of it’s vantage points ticketed. So far, it is just Blues Point Reserve this year and that is just a trial. Also, Balls Head Reserve has been closed to the general public this year (NYE2018) due to environmental concerns. Anyway, Mary Booth Lookout is a North Sydney Council vantage point so there is a fair chance that will become ticketed for NYE2019 (and maybe further into the future).

Well, then Sydney Opera House.

Well, it does seem that the Sydney Opera House will be the sole good vantage point of Sydney NYE in the future that will be some what free of charge to enter. However, given the trend, it may seem likely that the Sydney Opera House will follow suit. And that will be that…

The Free Ticketed Vantage Points

However, firstly, remember earlier it was mentioned that some vantage points are ticketed but free of charge. Well, there are 3:

  1. Cahill Expressway
  2. Campbell’s Cove
  3. East Circular Quay

The latter 2 being 2 of the newly ticketed vantage points this year. Cahill Expressway has been free ticketed ever since it was first used as a vantage point in 2005. However, you need to be a NSW resident to enter the ballot for a ticket so there is a barrier to most of the general public but that is reasonable given nearly all NSW residents own the road (The NSW Government’s Roads & Maritime Services own the road). The ballot is also publicised very well every year.

The latter 2, whilst being open to everyone, weren’t publicised well. Despite a Property NSW (owner of those vantage points) spokesperson responding to our queries by saying they will “reach out to key publications for coverage”, their media release webpage shows no media releases publicising these tickets going on sale on the 6th of November, which would show their seriousness in promoting the newly ticketed vantage points. Simply contacting random publications, which could have happened based on that quote, wouldn’t be as serious. To compare, North Sydney Council who controls the now paid ticketed Blues Point Reserve, issued a media release that got reported in a few newspapers. No newspapers have reported East Circular Quay & Campbell’s Cove becoming ticketed.

The Property NSW spokesperson did say though that:

The ticketing will be promoted via the City of Sydney’s New Year’s Eve website. Property NSW will also promote the New Year’s Eve precincts via multiple consumer- facing channels, including The Rocks website, social media and electronic direct mail.

However, these would have reached only 2 major interest groups – tourists & people who have a great general interest in The Rocks and/or Campbell’s Cove and/or East Circular Quay. There is no effort to promote these vantage points becoming ticketed to Sydneysiders in general. You know, the people who are so accustomed to Sydney NYE being a non-ticketed event at East Circular Quay & Campbell’s Cove. At least North Sydney Council made an effort to let Sydneysiders know that Blues Point Reserve will become paid ticketed.

The tickets for Campbell’s Cove & East Circular Quay did sell out quickly and well before Sydneysiders even think about NYE, which is around early December. No doubt those tickets went to tourists due to the free pricing and brilliant views. There is no problem with that. However, Sydneysiders were left unaware of the ticketing. It leaves suspicion that maybe Property NSW might make those vantage points paid ticketing next year & into the future. A Property NSW spokesperson said in response to our queries:

A review of the ticketing system will be undertaken post NYE 2018. No decisions have been made regarding paid ticketing for future events.

The Property NSW spokesperson also said:

These areas have become ticketed to improve customer experience, manage crowd numbers and improve safety.

But that’s the thing. Ticketing doesn’t improve it. For many years, managed access (bag checks) have been done, capacity limits have been enforced and there isn’t anything different about the vantage points themselves on the day than what they will be like this year. All that is different now is that you need to book a ticket 2 months in advance. Why?

You can be the judge of that.

Other reasons that make it odd to add more ticketed areas include that the attendance of Sydney NYE has been declining by a million people in the last 5 years and the official organisers of the event, the City Of Sydney, actively try to reduce attendance due to the large crowds the event creates.

Given the trend, which has developed over the past decade, there is a possibility that these 3 vantage points could go from free to paid ticketing next year or sometime further into the future and then that will be that…

You might as well consider Sydney NYE fully ‘commercialised’ if that happens.

If that happened (the Sydney Opera House & those 3 free ticketed vantage points becoming fully paid ticketed vantage points), it will be impossible to get a good view without paying hundreds or thousands of dollars. And if you don’t have to do that, booking a ticket months in advance. And if you miss out on a ticket, expect poor views and/or a very far away vantage point and if you are close to the Harbour Bridge, ultra crowded locations – not just during the fireworks but all day – with limited views.

Can you imagine being squashed in like sardines in the middle of The Rocks all day?

The North Sydney Vantage Points

The main reason why the North Sydney vantage points are planned to become ticketed is because “Many sites are increasingly being ticketed and this is having a flow-on effect to North Sydney”

It’s reasonable to expect then that if North Sydney becomes fully ticketed, the “flow-on effect” will go somewhere else. Highly likely, this could be East Balmain or Dawes Point (the latter of which could also “flow-on” to The Rocks).

Sydney New Year’s Eve, at it’s core, is a City Of Sydney event. An event run by a local government. And not just an event, a community event.

If Sydneysiders have to face a barrier to access an event they are already paying for, this could be the tip of the iceberg.

Sydneysiders may refuse to allow their rates to go towards this event. If the City Of Sydney refuse to pay for this iconic event, things will get problematic.

City Of Sydney holds the rights to the event & even some copyright. They may grant a license to another entity to use their rights for a given period to run the event. This would bring in some extra revenue for the local government.

The most likely entity to pursue the rights are the NSW Government. However, the same problem arises. Why should Australian taxpayers (NSW doesn’t collect taxes – they receive most of their income from the Australian Government, who receive that income as tax from Australian taxpayers) pay for an event that has a barrier to access the event for the people paying for the event?

The next likely entity is a commerical operator. Imagination, the current creative directors of Sydney NYE, could maybe end up organising the event themselves particularly after their work doing the International Fleet Review Spectacular in 2013.

However, the event will have to rely completely on sponsorship unlike currently, where governmental funds make up a fair portion. If sponsors can’t promote their brands to a large community audience, the sponsorship value of the event may plummet and there will be no Sydney NYE anymore.

Last year, we predicted Vivid Sydney will reach a peak this year and that came true with it’s 1st attendance decline ever. We’re now predicting the commercialisation of Sydney NYE will destroy the event in the next few years. ‘Sydney Spectaculars’ (not our blog) is at it’s peak so enjoy it while it lasts. It’s been an amazing 2 decades. The growth of the ‘Sydney Spectaculars’ reminds us of the Roaring Twenties. Maybe we are approaching October 1929?

‘Corporate Box’-Style Seating

If you thought that was a sad idea, then get ready for this: Earlier, we mentioned that North Sydney Council is thinking of implementing paid ticketing at it’s vantage points. As mentioned earlier in our article, Blues Point Reserve has become a paid ticketed vantage point as a trial. Originally, North Sydney Council staff recommended that the Blues Point Reserve ticket price be in order to make a profit (with the profit going to fund the other non-ticketed vantage points of theirs) but North Sydney Councillors (all Independents) said no, the ticket price must be in order to just break-even, which is the price that has been implemented. The Councillors did, though, accept the staff recommendation that Balls Head Reserve should be closed as a vantage point this year due to environmental concerns.

The North Sydney Councillors also resolved to get their staff to develop a community engagement strategy and a report outlining revenue generating opportunities & cost recovery strategies for NYE. This was back in late May this year.

2 months later, the report was received by the Councillors. One of the options outlined was this:

Option 2: Temporary land licensing to corporate organisations

Advantages: This option is suitable for some sites and transfers organisational responsibility to third parties. Under this option, some Council venues would be managed as third party sites following the same principles as other existing third party events such as Spring Cycle and the Sydney Running Festival.

Disadvantages: Council would receive less income than it would from individual ticketing and would have less control over the style and price of event offered. While some organisations may want to lease land to provide a special experience for their customers or staff, it is likely that most would want to run a high-cost ticketed event to cover the cost of land hire and event operations. Council staff would be need to coordinate any NYE third party event as they do for existing third-party events on Council land and the land area outside the venue.

Now, this isn’t the recommended option. That is just plain ticketing. The ticketing option has been taken to community engagement, which finished this month. The Community Engagement Strategy that was requested in May was also delivered with the report mentioned earlier and the community engagement tried to follow that Strategy.

However, what if the North Sydney community reject ticketing of their vantage points? The next preferred option, according to North Sydney staff, is sponsorship and the report doesn’t make it clear whether ‘sponsorship’ can be combined with the option detailed above – the ‘corporate box’ option.

We call it the ‘corporate box’ option because that’s essentially what it is: Vantage points essentially ‘given’ to corporate organisations “to provide a special experience to their…staff”.

Can you imagine Commonwealth Bank at Blues Point Reserve, Facebook at Mary Booth Reserve and Telstra at Bradfield Park?

This may be a step too far especially after last month’s The Everest Barrier Draw controversy.

Even if they don’t use the vantage points for their staff or customers, North Sydney staff believe “it is likely that most would want to run a high-cost ticketed event” instead.

They compare this option with Spring Cycle & the Sydney Running Festival but they are different. Those events are held on the land by the event’s organisers. Sydney NYE is held mostly on and above Sydney Harbour – not in the North Sydney Council vantage points and those vantage points are managed by North Sydney Council – not Sydney NYE’s organiser, the City Of Sydney.

An exception to this is North Sydney Council’s Bradfield Park & Mary Booth Lookout, which are home to the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon projection towers for the northern pylons.

This option should only be implemented in those 2 vantage points mentioned above and applicable to only corporate organisations who are sponsoring the projections on the northern pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

We contacted North Sydney Council with a few queries about the ‘corporate box’-style vantage points and they just responded to all queries with:

Community feedback to the New Years Eve consultation is currently being collated. A report on the future of ticketing will be provided to Council in early 2019. The feedback will be included in the report.

So I guess we will have to wait & see.

Sydney NYE is, though, sadly become less of a public COMMUNITY event and more of a paid ticketed private CORPORATE/COMMERCIAL event.

It should be remembered that most of the Sydney Harbour foreshore has houses on it and they are very valuable, most likely owned by millionaires.

If you live in NSW and want Sydney NYE vantage points on public land or in publicly-owned venues around Sydney Harbour to remain free of charge, contact your local councillor (if your local government borders with Sydney Harbour) and/or your member of NSW parliament and/or the NSW Minister For Local Government and/or The Environment.

Did you mention Hickson Road Reserve earlier? Isn’t that the Sydney NYE Very Important Person (VIP) Viewing Area?

Yes and it was. Similar to last year’s cancellation of the Sydney NYE Lord Mayor’s Party, the City Of Sydney have decided to cancel the VIP Viewing Area for reasons unknown but highly likely because priorities lie elsewhere, like with the Lord Mayor’s Party cancellation. This leaves only the Lord Mayor’s Picnic of the Royal Botanic Gardens as the only original official event function left of Sydney NYE.

The owners of Hickson Road Reserve, Property NSW, have decided to replicate the VIP Viewing Area with 1 major difference – tickets are no longer free. You have to pay (though the pricing is just to break-even and not to make a profit).

This decision makes not much difference to Sydney NYE as Hickson Road Reserve has been an invitation-only ticketed area since 1996 and is one of the 1st few ticketed areas ever organised for the event. This ticketed area, since it was introduced to last year, was also different from all other ticketed vantage points – it was a ticketed vantage point of the official organiser of Sydney NYE, the City Of Sydney.

However, now it is paid ticketed, it adds to concerns about the commercialisation of Sydney NYE.

UPDATE – 3rd December 2018, 4:11pm AEDT:

The City Of Sydney, official organiser of Sydney New Year’s Eve, have tweeted this post today:

UPDATE – 11th December 2018, 4:11pm AEDT:

The event guides for Sydney NYE2018 – ‘The Pulse Of Sydney’ were released online recently. A notable thing to point out about this year’s event guides is the vantage point map – very high profile vantage points are left off the map. Why? Because they are sold out at the time of publication of the event guides. There are large gaps in the map as a result.