It’s less than a fortnight till Vivid sprawls across Sydney, indulging the city with a program of light, music, ideas and food. And even if the cost-of-living crisis is taking its toll, the festival’s organisers have you sorted with plenty of events costing absolutely nothing, spanning every element of the festival. From big-name artists to wide-ranging thinkers and more, here are the best of the free events to check out at Vivid 2024.

Tumbalong Nights

Across 23 nights during Vivid, Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour will spring to life with big-name musicians from Australia and abroad. Brisbane singer and rapper Mallrat, of Groceries fame, will kick off proceedings on May 24, supported by Western Sydney artist tiffi. The following evening is Jalbu Muna, a celebration of First Nations women of varying cultures and Countries via dance, music and cultural traditions. Artists such as Christine Anu and Kee’ahn will be performing at this vibrant evening.

Heard of K-pop? What about K-indie? On June 7, two of Korea’s top indie acts, Sunwoojunga and Silica Gel, will show off their talents in an Australian one-off.

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June 14 sees First Nations hip-hop supergroup 3% take to the stage to play their upcoming debut album Kill the Dead in full, alongside guest performers from the album including Jessica Mauboy,  Marlon Motlop and Say True God?. On closing night, expect a brilliant show from Bundjalung singer-songwriter Budjerah and indie-pop artist Jem Cassar-Daley.

Spirits of the Hoey

From around 1997 until it closed in 2009, the Hopetoun Hotel – a 150-year-old Surry Hills pub – saw some of Australia’s biggest musical acts hit its stage, as well as a clutch of well-known international bands too. Paul Kelly, Wolfmother, the Hoodoo Gurus, You Am I, Sarah Blasko, Custard and more played its stage, and many others credit the venue for kickstarting their careers. Now a slate of “Hoey” regulars, including Sarah Blasko, Clyde Bramley and Sally Seltmann, will come together to talk about the venue’s legacy and golden years on a free panel.

Vivid Fire Kitchen

Legendary chef Christine Manfield, Californian pitmaster Shalamar Lane, Firedoor’s Lennox Hastie, First Nations chef-restaurateur Mindy Woods and more chefs will host free cooking-over-fire demos at the second annual Vivid Fire Kitchen, at the Goods Line. They’ll offer plenty of insights into cooking with flames. And if you do have a little bit of spare cash, a litany of ace restaurants and food stalls will be popping up to serve dishes cooked over fire – think Ho Jiak, Hoy Pinoy, Ogni and Sharon Kwan Kitchen.

After the Fact

A news and current affairs buff? Every weeknight during Vivid, a rotating group of journalists, politicians and other big thinkers – including journalist Annabel Crabb, The Chaser’s Charles Firth and former City of Sydney lord mayor Lucy Turnbull – will gather at Rekodo in Barangaroo to pull apart the news of the day.

A New Normal

Experience the sustainability of the future in this immersive experience intended to show off the practical ways in which Sydney can evolve into a green city. Technologies such as a sauna heated by leftover food, furniture created from rubbish and a car powered by solar will be on display, shining an optimistic light on how we can be more sustainable.

Say My Name: The Humanity of Names

Jan Fran leads this panel discussion about names: their historical ties, how some names are unfairly dismissed as “too hard”, others are shortened or anglicised, and why correctly pronouncing names is so important to identity and belonging. She’ll be joined by Elaine Laforteza, Sunil Badami, Sanet Du Toit and Mariko Smith.


Of course underpinning the Vivid spectacular is the free light show, which will illuminate an eight-kilometre stretch of Sydney with large-scale projections, installations and interactive displays. Don’t miss the Opera House sails, which will be lit up this year with a reimagination of the Narcissus myth by 2023 Archibald winner Julia Gutman. There’s also a huge circular projection depicting the beauty of the brolga, a native Australian crane, plus the vibrant, surreal creatures of beloved Aussie artist Reg Mombassa will enliven Customs House. There’ll also be a mesmerising laser show at Cockle Bay and lasers will extend 40 kilometres across Sydney from the peak of Sydney Tower.

Vivid Sydney runs from May 24 to June 15.