Vivid Sydney is an annual festival of light, music and ideas, held in Sydney, Australia. It includes outdoor immersive light installations and projections, performances by local and international musicians, and an ideas exchange forum featuring public talks and debates with leading creative thinkers.

Vivid Sydney
Circular Quay during Vivid 2015
Years active13
Most recent24 May 2024 – 15 June 2024
Attendance3.28 million (2023)
Patron(s)City of Sydney

This event takes place over the course of three weeks in May and June. The centrepiece of Vivid Sydney is the light sculptures, multimedia interactive work and building projections that transform various buildings and landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge in and around the Sydney central business district into an outdoor night time canvas of art.[1]

During the 2015 festival, sites of interest were Central Park, Chatswood and the University of Sydney as well as around the CBD, Darling Harbour and The Rocks.


Sydney Opera House during Vivid Sydney 2017
Customs House, Vivid Sydney 2015
Visitors at Vivid Sydney 2015

Vivid began as a concept smart light festival in 2009 for energy efficiency championed by lighting designer Mary-Anne Kyriakou, who was inspired by the Glow Light Festival which was held in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, since 2006 and where she participated in 2009. Carolyn Grant brought the idea of a smart light project to Renato Rispoli then Manager of Cultural events at Events New South Wales. While the project had merit it needed to be broader and the then project team of Smart light led by Mary Ann developed the concept further. As part of that team Renato Rispoli further developed the idea into a broader festival and Vivid was born, headlined by Brian Eno.[2] Eno, in collaboration with lighting designer Bruce Ramus,[3] projected 'light painting' onto both sides of the Opera House. The Festival was championed by Kyriakou,[2] Anthony Bastic,[2] Mike Day, Davina Jackson, Carolyn Grant and Barry Webb.[who?] As of May 2019, it was the biggest festival of lights, music and ideas in the world. It is owned, managed and produced by Destination NSW, the State Government's tourism and events agency.[4] In 2019 a record 2.4 million people attended.[5]

The 2020 event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[5] In 2021 Vivid was first scheduled for 6–28 August,[6] it was then postponed to September due to the Delta outbreak and lockdown in Sydney. It was finally cancelled on 6 August.[7][8]

Commercial success


According to then New South Wales Deputy Premier and government Andrew Stoner, Vivid Sydney 2012 attracted more than 500,000 visitors to the outdoor exhibition and events,[9] generating around $10 million in income for the state,[10] whereas Vivid Sydney 2013 attracted more than 800,000 visitors, contributing more than $20 million to the NSW economy.[11]

In 2014, the festival involved the Sydney Opera House, Walsh Bay, Circular Quay, The Rocks, North Sydney, Darling Harbour, and, joining for the first time, Harbour Lights (the illumination of vessels upon the Harbour), The Star and Carriageworks. A new projection work by London based creative team 59 Productions featured for the Lighting of the Sails of the Sydney Opera House.[12]

In 2015, Vivid Sydney attracted more than 1.7 million visitors to the city.[13] The 2016 Vivid event included an expanded program of multi-genre music, stimulating presentations and Vivid Talks from global presenters and dazzling light projections across the city.[14][15] In 2016, a display was added at Taronga Zoo.[16]

In 2016, Vivid Sydney was extended to 23 nights and was attended by more than 2.3 million people.[17]

In 2017, Vivid Sydney attracted a record 2.33 million attendees and injected over $143 million into NSW's visitor economy.[18][19]

In 2019, the Surry Hill precinct was included with a montage of Heckler's 50 most iconic women being displayed on the famous art deco Hollywood Hotel. Publican and proprietress Doris Goddard was inducted as the 51st icon.[20]

Artistic program


Vivid Sydney produces programming across numerous streams. These include Vivid Light, Vivid Music, Vivid Ideas, Vivid School, The Lighting of the Sails of Sydney Opera House and Vivid Live.

Vivid Light


Along what is known as the Vivid Light Walk,[21] through The Rocks, Circular Quay and Royal Botanic Garden, there are many opportunities for individuals to interact with light installations through such means as unique technologies. This program includes large-scale projection on other historical buildings such as the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney's Customs House, and the historical Cadmans Cottage. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is also illuminated.

Vivid Music


Vivid Music includes a range of contemporary music events take place throughout the Sydney CBD. In recent years Carriageworks has played host to a Vivid Music Events.

Vivid Ideas


Vivid Ideas began in 2012 with founding director Jess Scully,[22] and consists of a range of talks and workshops centred around the business and creative industries.[23][24] The Vivid Ideas Exchange takes place throughout the festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

Vivid Food


Introduced in 2023, Vivid Food is a new pillar incorporating local and international chefs across several venues in Sydney.

Past light installations


Musical Cubes, a light installation, was an interactive activity in the harbour.[when?] In this activity, a group of six individuals would take part in a musical experiment. Each member would be given a three dimensional cube. Each cube represented a different instrument (guitar, piano, etc.) and each side of the cube would represent a different pace (measured in beats per minute). Every member of the group would take their cube, select a side, and place the cube on a table. A computer program would then interpret all the information from the cubes and play the resulting musical beat over loud speakers that surrounded the table. Participants would be allowed to change the tempo of their instrument and as they changed them, the program would react to reflect the change and play the new tune.[citation needed]

In 2015, Heart of the City, was another light installation located in the harbour. This was one of the more popular activities at Vivid due to its immersive nature. Heart of the City resembled a large, solid beanbag chair and was located near the Sydney Opera House. Upon reaching the front of the line, participants would be asked to seat themselves in the middle of the chair. Once seated, they would be instructed by a Vivid Sydney volunteer to insert their finger into a small hole located near the chair. If your finger was inserted correctly, the chair would begin to light up red to match your heartbeat. As participants began to notice this, their heart rate sometimes increased causing the chair to light up more rapidly.[25]

In June 2022, a huge painting called Yarrkalpa — Hunting Ground, painted by Martumili artists in Western Australia, was projected onto the Sydney Opera House as part of the festival, accompanied by the music of electronic music duo Electric Fields and animated by creative technologists Curiious. The design symbolically depicts the area around Parnngurr, showing the seasons, cultural burning practices and Indigenous management of the land and natural resources.[26]

What Lies Beneath is an data visualization project displayed at Vivid Sydney 2023 by Susan Kosti.[27] Set against the backdrop of the data-driven digital age, the project utilizes a distinct visual language derived from data spanning from 2003 to 2023, provided by NASA. Using 3D mapping techniques, the stones of Nawi Cove[28] were transformed into a representation of an underwater habitat, complete with corals and marine entities. Each animated entity within the display altered its form based on specific data sets that corresponded to patterns observed in oceanic behavior. This installation aimed to bridge the gap between data interpretation and visual art, providing viewers with an insight into the multifaceted nature of ocean dynamics.


See also



  1. ^ Willis, Kimberley (17 February 2012). "Top 10 ideas festivals". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Gallasch, Keith (April 2009). "Designs on light". RealTime Arts (90): 12–13. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  3. ^ "Profile/ Sydney Opera House (2009)". Ramus Illumination Pty Ltd. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  4. ^ "WHAT IS VIVID?". Daily Telegraph. 27 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Coronavirus update: Travel restrictions come into effect, Australian cases pass 250, Donald Trump's COVID-19 test is clear". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 14 March 2020. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  6. ^ Gallagher, Alex (15 October 2020). "Vivid Sydney To Return In 2021 With COVID-Safe Format". Music Feeds. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Vivid 2021: Sydney light show cancelled, planning underway for 2022". News Corp Australia. 6 August 2021. Retrieved 7 August 2021.
  8. ^ Vivid Sydney cancelled for second year due to ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19 Nine News Sydney 6 August 2021
  9. ^ Boulton, Martin (27 May 2012). "A vivid idea of a festival". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 8 May 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  10. ^ Taylor, Andrew (21 March 2013). "Vivid Sydney up in lights". The Canberra Times. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 19 February 2014.
  11. ^ "One Week until Sydney goes Wild". Destination NSW. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  12. ^ "Vivid Live - Lighting the Sails 2014". 59 Productions. May 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Vivid Sydney". Destination New South Wales. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Vivid Sydney". Destination New South Wales. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Vivid Sydney Programme". Vivid Sydney. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  16. ^ Vivid Sydney will light Taronga Zoo for the first time Taronga Zoo
  17. ^ Vivid Sydney 2016 smashes visitor record with 2.3 million Destination NSW 27 June 2016.
  19. ^ Record attendance at Vivid Sydney 2017 Australian Leisure Management 26 August 2017
  20. ^ "Heckler brings Vivid to the famous Hollywood Hotel with global icons". Mumbrella. 23 May 2019. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  21. ^ "Vivid Sydney 2023 App - The Light Walk". cyaontheroad. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  22. ^ Holberton, Martine (21 May 2012). "The Best of Vivid Ideas by Festival Director Jess Scully". Broadsheet. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  23. ^ Tan, Monica (19 May 2015). "Vivid, TEDx and Sydney Writers' festivals show city has brains as well as looks". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  24. ^ Larkin, Ross (7 June 2016). "Vivid Ideas target creative jobs of the future". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  25. ^ "Heart of the City". Vivid Sydney. 5 March 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  26. ^ Goerling, Samantha (18 June 2022). "Acclaimed Martumili artists' work lights up the Opera House for Vivid festival". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  27. ^ "SUSAN KOSTI". Hajógyá (in Hungarian). 26 November 2022. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  28. ^ "Nawi Cove | Barangaroo venue hire and permits | Barangaroo". Retrieved 18 September 2023.