There’s a lot to process when Vivid Sydney reveals its program for the annual festival of light, music, ideas and food.

That final pillar has proven to be one of its most universal drawcards, and this year will see the second iteration of its big winter barbeque, Vivid Fire Kitchen. Last year’s event took place at Barangaroo and this year it’s heading to the Goods Line – the elevated walkway between UTS’s Dr Chau Chak Wing Building and Powerhouse Ultimo.

One of the most memorable moments of 2023’s Vivid Food program was the two-week-long pop-up from three-Michelin-starred New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park. Though there aren’t any big international names dropped in this first announcement, Vivid Sydney festival director Gill Minervini has hinted in a statement to watch this space.

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The umbrella theme for 2024’s program is humanity, and the Vivid Food events will explore how eating is often at the core of the human experience, says Minervini. Local chefs Danielle Alvarez, Mitch Orr, Christine Manfield, Darren Robertson and Peter Gilmore are all involved, and the program includes a series of exclusive dinners at Refettorio OzHarvest, a 10-course degustation at Kyiv Social, a bespoke snack and cocktail bar at Bennelong, and a night market hub connecting Sydney Place and Bulletin Place laneways.

The three big spectacles under the Vivid Light banner include Archibald Prize winner Julia Gutman, whose patchwork artworks will be digitally transformed to map the sails of the Opera House; a Reg Mombassa reimagining of a classic Aussie road trip to take over Customs House; and work by US artist Yvette Mattern, who has created a 40-kilometre laser show of rainbow colours to be beamed from Sydney Tower.

Vivid Live’s musical performances usually sell out well ahead of the festival. This year’s big hitters include French duo Air, American singer-songwriter Sky Ferreira, UK techno duo Underworld, and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Devonté Hynes. Club nights featuring House of Mince, Mad Racket and Astral People also return to Sydney Opera House, a time-honoured tradition for Vivid Live.

The broader music program features Mos Def, Electric Fields, Yves Tumor, Tirzah and X Club at Carriageworks. There’ll be 12 nights of free performances at Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour, with artists such as Mallrat, Grentperez, 3% and Budjerah – plus an Australian exclusive by Korean indie singer-songwriter Sunwoo Jung-a and rock band Silica Gel.

For the first time, the Machine Hall Precinct – a former substation that’s been transformed into a cultural centre – will be used as a venue, hosting shows from singer-songwriter Jen Cloher, US indie rockers Deerhoof, hyperpop artist Underscores and First Nations band No Fixed Address.

And Mary’s Underground will set the stage for multi-talented personalities Mo’Ju, Montaigne, Luke McGregor, Annabel Crabb, Julia Zemiro and Ewen Leslie as part of Vivid Sydney Supper Club, this year curated by Rhys Nicholson and Georgia Mooney.

Finally, the talks and ideas part of the program, which last year brought us the blockbuster chat from White Lotus collaborators Mike White and Jennifer Coolidge, will pivot from “talking heads” to including less traditional formats such as walking tours, one-on-one experiences and meditations.

One of the less traditional styles is A Thousand Ways, which pairs you with a stranger in a private “performance”. You’ll have the opportunity to stickybeak into people’s lives in a work called Window Dressing where you can peer into the windows of a Frank Gehry building on the Goods Line. Golden Age Cinema in Surry Hills will host talks from Kylie Kwong, Kate McClymont and other influential Australians on the topic of humanity. And there’ll be an event looking at the sex work industry of Kings Cross and Darlinghurst.

More will be announced in the coming weeks.

Vivid Sydney runs from May 24 to June 15. Tickets are on sale now.