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June 2017

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People are sitting on the steps around Darling Harbour. Clearly, something is going to happen so I decide to stop and sit down. After a minute of waiting, the harbour pool awakens. Dramatuc music echoes from the surrounding buildings and the fountains in the middle of the pool spit water up to several meters. Red white and blue lights colour the moving water pillars creating shapes and stories. The spectacle lasts several minutes. Then the dance stops and the pool is still.

It is the time of the year when Sydney glows. Vivid Sydney has light up the city and filled it with exciting artwork. 98 light installations, 195 music events and 164 presentations or talks which are also marketed as ‘ideas’. This is massive.

Along comes the people of course. Vivid Sydney is being marketed to tourists, and travel operators sell specific Vivid experience trips to Australia. Circular Quay gets busy on weekends even without the festival, but now it is packed. Trying to get to the other side of the harbour is painful. People everywhere. Overwhelming. To avoid the crowds, it might be wise to visit the festival on a weeknight. After all, Vivid Sydney lasts for almost a month and the lights are on and interactive installations open every single night.

Botanical gardens were beautiful and reasonably quiet when I visited on Thursday. A path decorated with light instalments goes through the park. Light up trees, two-meter tall glowing dandelion puffs and sunflowers, lanterns and soundscapes. My favourite was a tree that was used as a canvas for projections which moved and changed colours. It was like the tree was moving. Definitely worth visiting.

Another way to experience the Vivid is to get out of the city and watch the lights from afar. Sydney looks completely different from the sea. The University of Sydney arranged a Vivid Cruise for the exchange and study abroad students so that they could experience the magic of the Vivid. Light up the city, Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Darling Harbour... It was nice to sit on the sun deck and watch the lights float by. However, the cruise lasted several hours so we passed the same lights time after times and it was a bit cold outside. I needed to get inside. On the lower deck, there was a dance floor and a DJ for the people who wanted to party. An assortment of finger food was served during the night and the bar sold decent price drinks. After the cruise, some of us went to the city and took a closer look on Vivid before continuing to the Sydney nightlife.

It is almost silly how much joy a few light installation can generate. If only Sydney was always lit up like this.