When the sun came up on Sunday morning, Andrew Walsh was standing on the Princes Bridge, staring up into the sky at the hot air balloons and singing out a poetic goodbye to the night before. Walsh is the creative director of White Night, and shortly after the bulk of his quantum task was complete, he took a moment to look down Swanston Street at a happy city, tired and ready for bed after a long night.
The final event was called Singing in the Sunrise and, until then, Walsh had barely had the time to take in the event he created. “Ross Irwin and the young people’s choir of Melbourne appeared on the Princes Bridge and sang in the sunrise, a capella,” he says. “They marched off the bridge with the whole audience following them as they did. It was really beautiful and then at seven o’clock the bells at St Paul’s Cathedral and the Federation Bells at Birrarung Marr sounded the close of the event…and it all went off quietly to sleep, really.”
Chatting in the wash-up to the event, Walsh has calm glow of someone who is both exhausted and completely satisfied at the same time. By all accounts, the inaugural White Night was a tremendous success, a night in which Melbourne truly belonged to the people. Everyone involved shared sense that something greater was being achieved – that Melbourne as a place was alive and well.
Statistically speaking, Melbourne’s attitude was terrific: record numbers turned out to the National Gallery of Victoria to see an installation by French artist Michel Blazy, crowds swarmed the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the State Library and Birrarung Marr, forming a peaceful throng of more than 300,000 attendees, with only a handful of arrests.
“It’s extraordinary, isn’t it,” marvels Walsh, elated at the numbers. “It’s a testament to the city. It shows you that when people have joy in their hearts and they are asked to do something in the right spirit, they do it.”
Continuing on, Walsh explains that apart from the thousands who attended the NGV, there were plenty of other highlights. “The projections on the buildings and the lighting in Flinders Lane completely transformed the place from being the mundane city we see everyday to this complete other world…this wonderland. But the vibe we saw on the street was what surprised people the most,” he recalls.
Unwilling to declare a date for next year, Walsh expects that there will be an announcement very soon. But in the meantime, he’s going to remember singing in the sunrise more than anything.
“It was pretty special really – being so warm, after such a warm night. Just that afterglow…the afterglow of an all-night love affair.”