Sydney sings in summer – but January is made even better with Sydney Festival, a mainstay of the city's cultural calendar. And the 2024 line-up – spanning more than 1000 artists and 150 events – is heaving with precinct takeovers, local and international artists and performers, inspiring First Nations programming and unusual performance spaces.
In 2024, Sydney Harbour will be the hub around – and on – which the festival is staged and designed. Puccini's Il Tabarro will be performed onboard a lightship, while multimedia experimental duo's Arka Kinari's ship is both the pair's mode of transportation and its stage.
Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour will host music festival-within-a-festival Summerground, with acts including "the James Brown of Cuba" Cimafunk, APY Lands rap group Dem Mob, electro-pop duo Electric Fields, Melbourne blues-rock stars The Teskey Brothers and London-born acid-jazz group The Brand New Heavies, who will perform alongside the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Other musical performers across other precincts include Grammy-nominated sitar player and musician Anoushka Shankar, singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett, Latin-jazz pianist Harold López-Nussa, and Irish songman David Keenan.
Bananaland, a musical comedy by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall and director Simon Phillips, about a punk-protest band that accidentally finds fame as a kids' music group, will be staged at Parramatta's Riverside Theatre. And Cambodia's heritage will shine in White Gold, by Cambodian circus group Phare, at the Seymour Centre.
As ever, First Nations programming is a centrepiece of the festival. In 2024 expect Big Name, No Blankets, a tribute to pioneering group Warumpi Band by Ilbijerri Theatre Company. The Vigil – the annual observance at Barangaroo Headland on the night before January 26 – will return for its sixth year. Other First Nations highlights include theatrical production Tiddas and circus show Camp Culture.
The Hungry Mile in Walsh Bay – where workers would vie for work on the docks each day during the Depression – will be reimagined as The Thirsty Mile during the festival, with theatres, bars, exhibition spaces and a club. Moonshine Bar, a pop-up speakeasy, will host late-night club nights, cabaret sessions, bands, circus and drag, and a 45-metre-long sculpture by British sculptor Michael Shaw will "strangle" Walsh Bay wharf. And electronic acts like Astral People, Wayvland and Finely Tuned will keep spirits high late into the evenings.
Melbourne-based Palestinian artist, activist and theatre-maker Aseel Tayah's event A’amar brings together food, song, storytelling and poetry from her family's homeland, and the Multicultural Comedy Gala is returning to Western Sydney once again.
Dance-lovers should beeline for Jerusalem-born choreographer Sharon Eyal’s work Saaba, which pulls inspiration from the catwalk and clubs for a mesmerising work featuring dancers wearing flesh-coloured body suits by Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri. And Aussie band Hiatus Kaiyote and sound artist Byron J Scullin have teamed up with directors Amber Haines and Kyle Page for Wayfinder, a dance work with Dancenorth Australia.
Cabaret, family-friendly shows, art exhibitions and livestreams round out the festival line-up, across venues including City Recital Hall, Sydney Opera House, Luna Park and more.
Tickets on sale midday October 26.