After being cancelled two years in a row, Vivid is making a triumphant, thrilling return – with a celebration of all that makes Sydney great.
This year’s festival is set to have its longest-ever light walk, stretching for eight kilometres. But as ever, there’s so much more to Vivid than pretty lights, with more than 200 events spanning music, feasts, talks, workshops and even dance floors across its three pillars: Vivid Light, Vivid Music and Vivid Ideas. This year also introduces The Vivid Sydney Dinner, where food, music and lights collide.
Vivid’s light program is its most accessible, widely recognised pillar. This year its light walk will stretch a whopping eight kilometres from the Opera House to Central Station. More than 50 installations will be set up along the way, with 12 light projections splashed across landmark buildings, and seven new locations to check out.
The most recognisable element of the festival – the lighting of the Opera House sails – returns with a digital artwork celebrating First Nations culture. Created by the Martu Artists, a collective of Aboriginal women artists based in East Pilbara, it’s brought to life by creative technologists Curiious, and soundtracked by Electric Fields and Martu Artists.
Customs House will be illuminated by For Sydney With Love, a work that sees celebrated Australian artist Ken Done declare his love of the city. A large-scale light installation reading “Endless Love” will perch above Circular Quay station, while Temple, a work by Leila Jeffreys, will pay tribute to Sydney’s birdlife.
More than 200 searchlights will shine across Sydney Harbour, CBD buildings and the Cahill Expressway. And as ever, the MCA will be illuminated – this time with New York Sunday, a work by Australian artist Helen Eager. She’s collaborated with artists Rico and Julian Reinhold of H0rse designers to create the piece, which will be soundtracked by musician Paul Mac.
Over in Cockle Bay, an immense water sculpture will shoot water 80 metres into the sky from 12 dramatically backlit jets. And a 100-metre light walk by Sydney’s Atelier Sisu will float in Walsh Bay, with guests invited to stroll beneath eight-metre-tall bubbles.
This year, Central Station will also be lit up with projections, while the Goods Line tunnel in Ultimo opens to the public for the first time in years, transformed into an otherworldly vortex with light, lasers and smoke effects. And cult Sydney artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran has created Earth Deities, a large-scale sculpture positioned between three Sydney icons – the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Luna Park – positioning itself as a new landmark that reflects the city’s pluralism and diversity.
Carriageworks transforms its cavernous former railway workshops into a festival hub all of its own, and the Eveleigh venue is hosting American indie artist Perfume Genius; Japanese “neo-kawaii” rock band Chai, supported by the Lazy Eyes; Estonian rapper and visual artist Tommy Cash; plus many others.
Major headliner Marcia Hines will showcase a world-premiere show of pure gospel music in St Stephen’s Uniting Church, backed by a 12-piece band and choir. UK space rock band Spiritualized play Luna Park’s Big Top, and indie-rock singer Baxter Dury will make his debut at the Metro Theatre.
Oxford Art Factory will host New York rapper Cakes da Killa – think Lil Nas X but less famous. At Mary’s Underground you’ll find a weekly supper club, featuring cabaret, dance, drag, comedy and more, curated by Trevor Ashley. Darling Harbour’s Tumbalong Park will see an impressive run of free live music, from Donny Benet to Mo’ju.
Unusual stages have become a bit of a theme – Central Station’s Grand Central Concourse will have music most nights. There’ll be live music in The Calyx at Royal Botanic Garden and in the Cell Block Theatre at National Art School. But a place we always expect to go off in the winter festival is Sydney Opera House. Curated by head of contemporary music Ben Marshall, Vivid Live’s line-up features more than 70 Australian and international artists.
Rock royalty Paul Kelly will be joined by Gamilaraay singer-songwriter Thelma Plum under the stars on the Northern Boardwalk. Zambian singer, poet and visual artist Sampa Tembo – better known as Sampa the Great – will debut her long-awaited new show An Afro Future, which was scheduled for last year but cancelled due to the lockdowns.
Producer and composer Nils Frahm will premiere his new live show. African-Australian rapper, singer and producer BLESSED will present Aussie Blackstar, a curated evening of guest performances.
Tkay Maidza will return to the Australian stage for a night of powerful hip-hop and soul. Astral People present a Broadwalk extravaganza featuring Hiatus Kaiyote, BARKAA, Briggs, Arno Faraji and more.
The oft-forgotten Vivid Ideas program is pulling in some big guns for 2022. First up is global superstar Troye Sivan, who’ll talk gender fluidity with journalist Patrick Abboud at Sydney Town Hall.
Another highlight is Oscar and Emmy Award-winning theatre and film director, screenwriter and playwright Aaron Sorkin, known for The West Wing, The Social Network and A Few Good Men, to name a few. Sorkin will chat politics and drama with Leigh Sales at Sydney’s State Theatre.
The woman who inspired Bombshell, broadcast journalist and author Gretchen Carlson, will share her #MeToo advocacy with Lisa Wilkinson. Brigid Delaney and Ben Law will pull apart Sydney’s obsession with the wellness industry. And a host of local legends – Kate McClymont, Leah Purcell, Stephen Page and Sara Mansour – will share tales of the city.
There are 85 talks and ideas workshops all up. Around 60 of those are hosted at the Great Hall at the University of Technology Sydney – including ones with Marc Fennell, Melissa Doyle and Adam Liaw. New this year is a free Vivid Ideas Up Late program at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australian Museum, Powerhouse and National Maritime Museum.
Great food will be brought into the fold this year in a first for Vivid. Actor Justine Clark will host the feast in the Ivy Ballroom, which will be lit up with “love letters to Sydney” by Ken Done and journalist Julia Baird. Ms G’s and Mr Wong chef Dan Hong and Totti’s chef Mike Eggert will combine their considerable talents to create a NSW-inspired feast for guests to enjoy while experiencing performances by the Vivid Sydney Brass Band, James Morrison, Ngaiire, Virginia Gay and Kate Monroe.